WITH German Railway exercising an option for 400 freight locos on July 10 (p499), French National Railways clearly did not wish to be left behind. On July 21 it announced an Ecu272m order for 120 units to be built by Alstom for delivery from 2001; 90 will be dual-voltage (25 kV 50Hz and 1·5 kV DC) and 30 tri-voltage. Options exist for a further 180 locos.

In contrast to recent loco builds such as Sybic and Astride, these 4·2MW units are specifically for freight. They will enter service about the same time as a proposed new fleet of lightweight intermodal wagons, the first three prototypes of which are on test at Vitry. A total of 19 wagons of three types is being built.

Meanwhile, we note that four Class 36000 Astride locomotives are in revenue-earning service, and one of them was due to visit Italy last month for trials under 3 kV DC catenary. Astride deliveries are now running at one a week, helping to alleviate a shortage of modern traction for freight traffic, which is currently booming to the point where SNCF is having trouble meeting demand. o