n Australian aluminium producer Alcoa, one of Westrail’s biggest customers, is to put its rail transport out to tender, a move which could affect bids for the purchase of Westrail’s freight business.

n Completion of the long-planned line across the Malawi-Zambia border between Mchinji and Chipata (40 km) is under discussion by the two governments. Zambia is also once again considering construction of the 220 km line from Chipata to join Tazara at Kanona, along with a Tazara extension to the Lake Tanganiyka port of Mpulungu, whence rail freight could reach Rwanda and Burundi by riverboat. In related developments, Rwanda is looking at a line from Kigali to link with Tanzanian Railways at Isaka in western Tanzania, and Spoornet is planning investment in Uganda.

n Hard-pressed because of traffic lost to the Beitbridge-Bulawayo line opened last year, Botswana Railways has proposed building a direct line into Zambia to restore its competitive advantage for through freight from South Africa to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

n Light rail is the preferred option for a 60 km commuter link from Auckland to the expanding satellite town of Helensville. Dual-mode LRVs would use existing tracks under diesel power, switching to electric traction at Swanson for on-street access to central Auckland.

n Look for Bretagne regional council to confirm investment of Fr10bn over 10 years on infrastructure projects allied to extension of TGV-Atlantique to Rennes. Schemes include upgrading routes from Rennes to Brest and Quimper to bring both within 3h of Paris; electrification of Rennes-St Malo and Brest-Quimper; and purchase of 13 EMU cars for local services.

n The Indonesian government is to permit foreign investors to hold the majority share in new lines planned for areas not currently served by Indonesian Railways. Investors must work in joint venture with the government, which would retain a golden share.

n Kuala Lumpur airport rail link concessionaire Express Rail Link is seeking government approval for a proposed high-speed line linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore at a cost of 10bn ringgits. Construction would follow completion of the airport line in April 2002.

n Hungarian State Railways is to divest its freight business as a separate company next year, prior to privatisation.

n Following earlier studies, the Israeli municipality of Haifa is to call bids for preparation of a light rail development plan. The city has decided to create a network serving the metropolitan area, which now has a population of 1 million.