EUROPE: We hear that broad-gauge trains are running again on the 1 520 mm-gauge cross-border line between Uzhgorod and Matovce, which carries iron ore and coal from Russia and Ukraine to the US Steel plant at Kosice.

Up to 12 trains each way cross the border per day, but Ukrainian Railways had threatened to stop all services to Slovakia, alleging the irradiation of locomotive drivers.

Slovakia had promised to impose strict security on its eastern border with Ukraine before entering the Schengen area in December 2007, in order to support the fight against organised crime, illegal migration and smuggling. A Chinese-built stationary X-ray scanner was installed to inspect freight trains arriving from the east.

After several drivers began reporting health problems, UZ lodged an objection to the scanner, claiming that the radiation entering the locomotive cabs was up to six times the permitted level. It requested that the X-ray checks be stopped or protection be provided for the train crews.

The Slovak authorities strongly denied the accusations, pointing out that the X-ray scanner had been fully certified by EU authorities. Nevertheless, the scanner was reportedly turned off on the evening of August 20 so that cross-border traffic could resume.

There are suspicions that the affair may have been provoked by Ukrainian tobacco interests, who would like the border controls to be loosened in order to facilitate the smuggling of cigarettes into the EU.