King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has approved plans to build the 300 km/h Makkah - Jeddah - Madinah rail link using local financing, Transport Minister Dr Jabara Al-Suraisry announced in February. The minister said this would speed up the implementation of the project, which will begin this year and is now costed at 20bn riyals (RG 3.08 p124).

On February 28 the lower house of the federal congress in Argentina passed a government bill to create two state-owned companies under the control of the Ministry of Federal Planning. One will manage railway infrastructure and the second will operate freight and passenger services (RG 8.07 p504).

DB Schenker launched a Duisberg - Manchester freight service on March 4, running daily from Tuesday to Saturday. Further intermodal services linking Britain to key European hubs through the Channel Tunnel will be launched later in the year.

At the end of February Central Japan Railway began preliminary tunnelling in Yamanashi prefecture as part of geological surveys for the proposed 290 km Tokyo - Nagoya maglev, which could be completed by 2025 (RG 2.08 p76).

DB tested the operation of 835 m long freight trains between Maschen near Hamburg and Ringsted in Denmark during March. Trains in Germany are currently limited to 700 m, but DB is investigating the potential for 1 000 m trains for transit and port traffic as part of the government-backed GZ 1000 project.

At a cost of 12bn roubles, Russian Railways is to roll out its Asokupe fare collection and ticket gating equipment at a further 240 suburban stations. The aim is to have 85% of passenger boardings covered by the system.Last month the European Commission approved Deutsche Bahn's acquisition of a majority stake in Transfesa (RG 7.07 p418). Further shares in the Spanish logistics firm are held by RENFE and SNCF.

On March 3 Norfolk Southern opened the $68·5m Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal on a 71 ha site near Columbus, Ohio. Six trains a day serve the site, which will be on the Heartland Corridor double-stack route between the east coast and Midwest.

Construction of the 35 km Lim - Pha Lai section of Vietnam National Railways' planned line from Yen Vien near Hanoi to the port of Cai Lan was formally launched on February 24.