US URBAN rail operator Sound Transit ran its first commuter rail service between Everett and Seattle on December 21 carrying spectators to a Seattle Seahawks game. A regular daily train in each direction began the following day.

The launch followed lengthy negotiations between ST and BNSF. On December 17 ST Chairman Ron Sims revealed that agreement had been reached for expanding Sounder services north from Seattle to Everett and south from Tacoma to Lakewood.

ST will pay $290m to BNSF over seven years, of which $258m will go on track and signalling improvements to expand capacity on the Everett route. A second trip each way will start next year, and two more in 2007. Only four trains will be run each way per day, because of heavy freight traffic. The trains are already calling at Edmonds, and will serve Mukilteo when a station is built.

The rest of the funding covers purchase of the line between Tacoma and Nisqually, south of Lakewood, for future expansion. n