Toll NZ is considering plans to assemble locomotives in New Zealand and to develop its wagon construction business there. Local assembly of motive power would be cheaper and cut lead times, according to Chairman Mark Rowsthorn.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki announced on December 12 that the Nepad alliance had agreed to fund a feasibility study for a standard-gauge ’high speed’ railway to connect Mombasa with the proposed network linking southern Sudan, northern Kenya and Uganda (RG 9.04 p507).

The Philippines National Economic & Development Authority has endorsed proposals to rehabilitate and extend PNR’s Main Line South. Phase 1 covers refurbishment of the 422 km Calamba - Legaspi section at a cost of US$628m. The US$304m Phase 2 would add a 112 km extension to Matnog and Sorsogon connecting with ferries to Mindanao.

Shaanxi’s Provincial Development & Reform Commission plans to seek up to 4·9bn yuan in private-sector funding for construction of the 386 km Xi’an - Pingliang heavy-haul coal railway in 2006-09. The route is one of 10 new lines totalling 50bn yuan to be built in the Chinese province under the Ministry of Railways’ 2006-10 five-year plan.

On November 11 Russian Transport Minister Igor Lewitin and his Ukrainian counterpart Georgi Kerpan signed a memorandum of understanding for introduction of faster passenger trains between Moscow and Kyiv with effect from August 1 2005.

As part of the Trans-Asean project, the governments of China and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding in November under which China will help finance construction of a 232 km cross-border line from Lashio to Muse, linking MR with the CR network in Yunnan.

Transport Ministers in the Gulf Co-operation Council are to call bids shortly for a one-year feasibility study for a 1984 km railway from Kuwait to Qatar and Oman along the south of the Gulf; construction would take six years at a cost of US$4bn.

French Transport Minister Gilles de Robien signed an accord with his counterparts Karla Peijs (Netherlands), Renaat Landuyt (Belgium) and Lucien Lux (Luxembourg) on December 9 covering development of a new Rotterdam - Lyon rail freight axis over the next five years.

Zambia’s private-sector Northwest Railway Co has announced plans to build a 175 km line from ZR’s railhead at Chingola to Solwezi. The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa has offered to help fund the US$55m line, which would carry 74000 tonnes of freight per year.