n Best and final offers from shortlisted bidders for the US$400m build-operate-transfer LRT project in Jerusalem will be due within two weeks of publication of the tender documents, expected before the end of July. Contract signing would take place within 12 months, allowing work to start early in 2003.

n With the aim of reducing the transit time from Mombasa to three days, Kenya Railways locomotives will work to Jinja in Uganda once track strengthening work is completed in September. URC locos will run to Eldoret in Kenya.

n During talks with Russian Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko, President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan signalled his support for the 355 km rail link from Astara to Qazvin in Iran. It is expected that Azerbaijan would participate in the Russian component of the project.

n The government of Ghana is examining the feasibility of introducing commuter services in the cities of Accra and Kumasi, although funding has yet to be finalised. Studies have recommend private-sector operation, but Ghana Railway Corp hopes to introduce an Accra - Tema service.

n Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has expressed his support for the re-opening of the Hedjaz Railway between Haifa and the border with Jordan. A scheme dating back to 1997 for restoring the 70 km route at a cost of US$200m has recently been reviewed.

n Following the launch of direct passenger services to Yeuyang, the journey time from Shenzhen to Beijing is to be cut by 6h. Services to Guangzhou are also to be accelerated, with the frequency doubled to four trains/h.

n The Ministry of Railways in Iraq is reported to have received bids for a turnkey contract to build a 112 km belt railway around Baghdad, based on designs prepared by Italian consultancy Sotecni (RG 5.83 p326).The project also includes an 11 km four-track route from the belt line to Baghdad Central.

n With local consultation in progress along the route, civil works on the first section of the TGV Est européen high speed line (RG 6.00 p379) are now due to start in April 2002.

n The government of China’s Hebei province is seeking foreign investment for infrastructure projects including the Beijing - Baotou and Handan - Jinan railways.

n Rejecting privatisation, the government is to restructure Kazakhstan Railways into passenger, freight, traction, rolling stock maintenance and infrastructure business units. A development plan foresees some US$4bn invested in the KTZ network by 2015, with the network opened up to private operators.

n Freight operators TFM and Ferromex have expressed concern at plans to revive inter-city passenger services in Mexico. The Secretariat of Transport & Communications is planning to invite bids for passenger operating franchises.

n Following its approval by the US House of Representatives, the transport appropriations bill for the 2001 financial year was due to be considered by the Senate last month. The bill contains $6·75bn for the federal transit programme, up by $486m on TEA 21 and including $2·9bn for capital investment such as new systems, extensions and rolling stock.

n The governments of Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have expressed their support for a new line between Kasese in Uganda and Kapiri M’poshi in Zambia.

n The Dutch transport ministry has abandoned plans to quadruple the Utrecht - Arnhem - Emmerich route for high speed services, citing recent studies that have concluded that a less costly package of flyovers and passing loops will suffice to accommodate demand over the next 20 years. Direct negotiations have now begun with the KLM/NS/National Express consortium selected as preferred bidder for the HSL-Zuid operating concession.

n GrainCorp Ltd of Australia has signalled its intention to acquire its own locomotives and rolling stock. Rather than wait for the privatisation of FreightCorp of New South Wales, the company is considering purchasing up to 80 wagons for A$20m.

n Prime Minister A Vajpayee authorised on July 2 a Rs17000bn fund for Indian Railways to invest in safety improvements over the next five years. The scheme will cover track upgrading, resignalling, bridge renewal and rolling stock replacement.

n Look for SNCF to order up to 600 more Alstom freight locos following an agreement reached between Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot and Finance Minister Laurent Fabius on July 18. It is already committed to orders for 300 locos (p497).

n Montevideo Mayor Mariano Arana and Transport Minister Lucio C