TENDERING is expected to start within the next three months for a fleet of around 130 tilting trainsets to operate international services between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, at an estimated cost of DM3bn. Due to enter service in 2005, the trains are to be ordered and operated by a tripartite joint venture, known as TEE Rail Alliance. This was officially launched on June 7, when German Railway Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn, Swiss Federal Railways President Benedikt Weibel and Austrian Federal Railway Director-General Helmut Draxler signed an agreement in München. One major objective of the move is to strengthen rail’s competitive position in the face of increasing deregulation of the European air travel market.

The alliance intends to ’harmonise operating and purchasing processes to identify and harness potential cost savings.’ Mehdorn said that the three railways wanted to ’present their customers with a single transport service and particularly an integrated offer for international passenger services.’ Weibel suggested that ’TEE Rail Alliance will meet various objectives, with improved services, an attractive product and competitive pricing.’ Draxler’s view was that the move ’would strengthen rail’s position in this market sector.’

By the end of this year, the three railways expect to have defined in detail the limits and key factors covered by the alliance, and the co-operation arrangements for determining marketing, timetabling and pricing. TEE services would be operated directly by the three railways, and not under open access conditions.

Ironically, the ’new TEE’ services will largely supersede the EuroCity trains which replaced the last of the classic TEE routes in 1987. The first routes would link München, Zürich and Wien every two hours, and a Frankfurt - Basel - Milano corridor is envisaged which would require dual-system units; from 2007 this would run via the L