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Sidetrack

01 Jul 1999

INTRO: Barak building bridges

OVER the last few years Israel Railways has recorded a marked increase in patronage, which has been attributed in part to the risks of terrorist attacks on buses in the region. Following the election of a new Labour government in May, IR General Manager Uzani is hoping for increased rail investment, including the long-planned upgrading of the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem line.

Incoming Prime Minister Ehud Barak certainly sees rail as a way of diffusing tensions between the Israeli and Palestinian communities, but his innovative proposals look set to benefit the Arabs first. At the end of June he put forward plans for an elevated link connecting the Gaza Strip and West Bank, so that Palestinians could travel freely between the two enclaves without 'entering' Israel. Echoing the former safe corridors toWest Berlin, the 47 km viaduct would run from Beit Hanoun near Gaza City to Dura near Hebron, carrying a high-capacity railway, road, water pipes and communications links.

INTRO: Coming back home

JUNE 20 was due to see the arrival of Barge PB001 at the White Pass & Yukon Railway's dock in Skagway, Alaska, after an 8850 km 38-day trip from Santa Marta via the Panama Canal. On board are five of the line's Alco DL535 diesel locos, built by Montreal Loco Works in 1969. Following closure of the WP&Y, the 914 mm gauge locos were sold to the Sociedad Colombiana de Transporte Ferroviario in 1992. Reopened to carry tourists, the railway is now handling over 250000 passengers a year. To boost capacity for its centenary celebrations, WP&Y has ordered 10 new coaches and bought the locos back.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Railways has reserved the first steam loco built by the People's Republic for preservation in the Beijing Locomotive Museum. Completed at Sifang in July 1952, JF2102 was taken out of service from Shanghai Railway Administration's Huainan depot on May 30 1992.