Netherlands Railways' subsidiary NS Cargo is planning to launch next year an international network of services to Frankfurt-am-Main, Zürich, Basel, Paris and Milano for 'just-in-time' air freight traffic. Wheeled containers would speed loading and unloading.

The British government is considering a partial privatisation of London Underground to raise funds for modernisation; ministers confirmed on September 17 that they were looking at the possible creation and sale of two or three infrastructure companies, with operations to be retained in the public sector or franchised.

Shares in Hong Kong based Hopewell Holdings recovered in mid-September following suggestions that Thai or Chinese investers might take an 80% stake in the troubled Berts elevated road and rail project in Bangkok. Civil Engineering contractor Philipp Holzmann (Thai) Co confirmed on August 18 that it had suspended work because of unpaid bills (RG 9.97 p613).

Look for São Paulo Metro to issue an information memorandum this month for work on the first phase of Line 4 between Vila Sonia and Paulista. Final bids are to be called in the first quarter of 1998.

Slovak Republic Railways plans to modernise its rolling stock fleet over the next three years at a cost of DM600m. Almost half of the money will go on refurbishment or replacement of 500 coaches; many of ZSR's 2150 vehicles are more than 20 years old.

This month is expected to see the go-ahead for construction of the long-planned road and rail link across Italy's Messina Straits linking Reggio Calabria with Sicily. A 3·4 km suspension bridge will carry 10 road lanes and a double-track railway 64m above the strait. The 8000bn lire project is to start in 1999 and will take seven years.

Albania is negotiating for EU funding to help complete the planned rail links from Pogradec to Ohrid in Macedonia and Florina in Greece, following the approval of Ecu 350000 in Phare funds to help with management restructuring. Work on the related link from Kumanovo in Macedonia to Gyueshevo in Bulgaria has been suspended because of cost over-runs and a shortage of funding.

China's Fujiang province is seeking international funding for construction of six rail links with neighbouring provinces by 2010, the aim being to become a gateway for traffic to and from Taiwan.

Expect another formal go-ahead soon for construction of France's TGV Est from Paris to Strasbourg. Cabinet minister and Mayor of Strasbourg Catherine Trautmann said on September 5 that 'this grand infrastructure' would be launched shortly with full technical and financial details.

The Iranian parliament has approved plans for a second rail link with Turkmenistan, serving the northwest of the country. Turkmenistan Railways was expected to reach agreement last month with Japan's Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund for a ´4·5bn loan to fund upgrading and expansion of the rail network.

The government of Nicaragua has endorsed plans to build a 340 km trans-isthmus freight railway at a cost of US$1·5bn. Canal Interoceanico de Nicaragua hopes to have fast container trains running by 2002 as a landbridge rival to the Panama Canal.