On September 6 SRO President Khaled Alyahya confirmed that nine consortia had submitted applications to prequalify for the Saudi Landbridge project (RG 3.05 p134). ’The consortia include leading Saudi and international companies with activities in construction, shipping, investment, logistics and railways’, he said. International bidders include Bouygues, Siemens, Mitsui, Halliburton KBR and SNC-Lavalin.

Eng Makrem Obeid from the Syrian Ministry of Transport signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UIC Chief Executive Luc Aliadière on September 1, under which UIC will provide technical assistance to CFS for train operations, maintenance and research over the next four years. UIC will also undertake studies for the development of international rail corridors in the Middle East and connecting routes to neighbouring regions.

Ceremonies were held at Tokyo’s Akihabara station on August 24 to mark the opening of the 58·3 km Tsukuba Express line running north to the new satellite town of Tsukuba in Ibaraki province (RG 6.03 p391). Dual-system six-car trainsets running at up to 130 km/h offer a 45 min journey time

Photo:Kazumiki Miura

Final bids for the operation of the Thameslink/Great Northern franchise in London were submitted to the UK Department for Transport on September 6. The five shortlisted bidders are: National Express Group; FirstGroup; Stagecoach Holdings; John Laing with Hong Kong’s MTR Corp; and the Capital Trains partnership of Denmark’s DSB International with freight operator EWS. Four bids for the Integrated Kent Franchise were submitted in August by FirstGroup, GNER with MTR Corp, Govia, and DSB International with Stagecoach.

The Iranian parliament has approved in principle the concept of open access to the RAI network, calling for increased private sector involvement to increase rail’s market share. As well as opening the state-owned network to on-rail competition, the intention is to contract out the provision of many support services including maintenance, engineering and communications systems.

UK Transport Secretary Alistair Darling (inset) joined Chiltern Railways Chairman Adrian Shooter on September 7 to open a £20m maintenance depot at Wembley. Able to hold 58 DMUs, it has freed space for two new platforms at London Marylebone as part of Chiltern’s Evergreen II capacity expansion project (RG 2.05 p60)