DECEMBER 17 saw the formal opening of the 13 km automated peoplemover network serving JFK International Airport. The date had been selected to mark the centenary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Airtrain provides a link between the various airline terminals, together with external connections to Howard Beach subway station and the Long Island Rail Road interchange at Jamaica, which will also connect with subway and bus routes.

’We are truly excited’, said New York Governor George Pataki, announcing the opening date on December 8. He added that riders would ’soar over the traffic ... saving countless hours while making an invaluable contribution to our quality of life.’

The $1·9bn project has taken five years to build, and is opening around one year late due to a fatal derailment during test running in 2002, when a manually-driven train entered a curve at excessive speed. The line has been funded by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey through a $3 tax on airport users. The main E&M contractor is Bombardier, which has supplied the rolling stock and automatic train control equipment.

Travel between the airline terminals will be free, but passengers will pay $5 per single trip to either Howard Beach or Jamaica. Monthly passes aimed primarily at airport staff will be priced at $40. Initial daily ridership is expected to be around 34000.