Rail Gourmet has acquired 40% of SSG Speisewagen AG, the rail catering business of Passaggio Holding, which has long-term contracts with SBB and other Swiss railways, creating a new company Passaggio Rail AG. Passaggio will start to replace SSG as a brand name when SBB’s new Bistro cars are introduced to the IC2000 double-deck fleet later this year. Bistro customers will be offered table service or take-away food, while minibars will be replaced by the Railbar concept offering a wider range of fresh food, such as salads.

In preparation for opening of TGV Méditerranée in June 2001, SNCF is to spend Fr100m on renovation of Gare de Lyon in Paris, where passenger numbers are expected to rise 20% to 90 million a year. Cleaning of the façade will be accompanied by an increase in circulating space and provision of better shopping facilities. This is the initial stage of a more substantial redevelopment to be carried out over the next four years in partnership with developer Ségécé at a cost of Fr400m. Marseille St Charles, also undergoing renovation, is to be transformed into a major bus/rail interchange.

New South Wales Countrylink has withdrawn its weekly loco-hauled trains from Sydney to Broken Hill and Griffith, introduced in 1996 to honour a political commitment to restore passenger service over the two routes. Griffith will now be served by a two-car Xplorer DMU, while Broken Hill passengers will be able to use Great Southern Railway’s Ghan and Indian Pacific. From May 21 most XPT and Xplorer services were decelerated to improve reliability.

The first stage of reconstruction has been completed at Samara’s main station, where developer Volgatransstroi has built a hotel and a new concourse with atrium, and provided improved ticketing and waiting facilities.

Deutsche Bahn has opened a new British telesales office to cope with increased demand for its Europe-wide ticket sales service.

Great North Eastern Railway has extended its StandardPlus service for full-fare standard class passengers after a two-year trial on trains between London and Leeds. Peak-hour London trains to and from Newcastle and Hull will now have a StandardPlus coach with reserved seats, complimentary newspapers and refreshments, and at-seat meal service. Virgin Trains has introduced a Business Saver fare offering a 40% discount on standard class, but limited to departures after 08.50.