ILLINOIS Department of Transportation has signed a $3·75m contract with Gateway Western Railroad to build a cut-off line parallel to the Mississippi River, eliminating many conflicts between passenger and freight trains on the approach to St Louis. The link through East St Louis will cut 20 min off the timings of Amtrak’s Chicago - St Louis trains. The new connection will enable Amtrak services to use the MacArthur Bridge to cross the Mississippi and run directly into the St. Louis station area, rather than crossing the Merchants Bridge as at present and then using a busy freight route with numerous speed restrictions.

Meanwhile, plans are moving ahead to upgrade track in Illinois to allow passenger trains to run at a top speed of 145 km/h, 18 km/h faster than at present. Using a $20m grant from the Association of American Railroads, the 198 km from just north of Springfield to Mazonia will be equipped with PTS signalling and satellite train location for trials over the next four years. IDoT’s ultimate goal is to cut Chicago - St Louis schedules by 2 hr from the 5 hr 30 min currently required. This is costed at around $400m to $500m and will require some private sector funding. o