Transdev secures €1.5bn contract to operate Hannover rail network

8 November 2018

Transport operator Transdev Group has secured a contract worth more than €1.5bn to operate the 385km-long regional rail network in Hannover, the capital city of the German state of Lower Saxony.

The contract was jointly awarded by the Hannover Region (RH), Lower Saxony State Transit Authority (LNVG) and Westfalia-Lippe Local Transit (NWL) following a Europe-wide tender process.

Transdev will operate the city’s regional rail network through its NordWestBahn subsidiary from December 2021 to June 2034.

Staff from the previous operator of the regional rail network will also transfer to Transdev.

Transdev Group chairman and CEO Thierry Mallet said: “This award will be an exceptional accomplishment for our group, and one of the largest contracts in our Group’s history.

“In this respect, we are strengthening our position as the second largest rail operator in Germany.

“We will be delivering on our promise for improved municipal rail services and will fulfil our commitments to make this critical project a success for both our clients and customers.”

Transdev will offer services using a fleet of 13 existing and 64 new Stadler trains. It also plans to order Stadler FLIRT 160 trains capable of operating at a top speed of 160 km/h carrying 397 passengers.

The company is expected to invest nearly €300m for the acquisition of new rolling stock.

RB Rail to start design procurement stage for Rail Baltica line

6 November 2018

Rail Baltica joint venture (JV) RB Rail is set to commence the second stage of design procurement for a 56km-long section of the mainline.

The tender involves selecting a contractor to develop a master design, value engineering studies, spatial planning solutions and detailed technical design over two years.

Comprising five municipalities, the section passes through one of the most densely populated urban areas. It also features the only tunnel on the Rail Baltica route.

The section will also provide connectivity between the Rail Baltica International Passenger Stations in Riga Central Station and Riga International Airport.

Preliminary plans estimate that the work will include designing 12 road viaducts, 16 rail viaducts, 13 segregated pedestrian crossings and five bridges.

It also includes designing the second part of the railway overpass in Riga Airport and the tunnel.

RB Rail acting CEO Ignas Degutis said: “The selected designer will play the key role in defining technical solutions in cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders, while also providing solutions to address the expectations of the surrounding communities such as visual integration of the railway in the landscape, as well as tackling noise pollution.”

Six applicants who were shortlisted by RB Rail earlier this year will be able to submit their proposals. The deadline for proposal submissions is 22 January.

The Rail Baltica line will connect the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to European rail network and is divided into 11 sections.

Procurement is currently underway for six of these 11 sections, with a detailed technical design for the entire line expected by the end of 2021.

Indian Railways introduces unreserved mobile ticketing facility

5 November 2018

Indian Railways has introduced unreserved mobile ticketing services across the country in a bid to promote digital transactions and customer convenience.

Customers can now purchase unreserved tickets including season tickets and platform tickets through the Utsonmobile app.

Developed by the Ministry of Railways’ Centre for Railway Information Systems, the app is available for Android, IOS and Windows platforms.

Besides encouraging cashless payments and contactless ticketing, the introduction of the unreserved mobile ticketing facility is expected to eliminate long queues to buy tickets.

In December 2014, Indian Railways started a pilot project for booking unreserved tickets through mobile phones at selected stations on Central Railway zone.

Mobile ticketing was expanded to major suburban sections in metropolitan cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Secunderabad.

Since 2015, the average number of tickets sold through the app has increased from 1,900 to 83,000 per day.

Customers can book the unreserved tickets while within the ticketing zone and outside the geofenced area (customers cannot book tickets within the station premises or on train routes).

Currently, all payments need to be carried out through R-Wallet, but digital modes of payment including e-wallets will be gradually introduced.

In May, Indian Railways introduced a user interface for e-ticketing systems as part of its digitalisation drive.

The interface enables smooth navigation and expedites the ticket-purchase process.

Taiwan train crash: Nippon Sharyo finds design defects in derailed train

2 November 2018

Japanese rolling stock manufacturer Nippon Sharyo has identified design defects in the train that derailed in Taiwan last month, reported Reuters.

Nippon Sharyo official Naoki Sato told the news agency that an internal investigation on the Taiwan train crash found a flaw in the wiring blueprint between the train’s automatic train protection (ATP) safety system and the control station.

Sato further added that the same flawed blueprint was used to manufacture all 19 train sets delivered to Taiwan.

The defect prevented the train from alerting the central control system, which would have activated the automatic safety feature.

The speed control system is designed to automatically slow the train down when it exceeds the speed limit.

The train in questions was travelling at nearly 149 kmph, twice the permitted limit, when it was derailed in Yilan on 21 October.

Four carriages were overturned in the train crash, causing 18 fatalities and injuring 187 others.

Following the disclosure by Nippon Sharyo, the Taiwan Railways Administration sought a detailed explanation from the company about the design flaws.

During court trials last month, the driver of the train You Zhen-zhong said that he manually switched off the speed-control system in order to increase its power.

He failed to switch it back on when the train was travelling around a curve as he was communicating with the coordinators to address other speed issues of the vehicle.

UK’s ORR approves Network Rail’s £35bn railway improvement plan

1 November 2018

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) in the UK has approved Network Rail’s £35bn plan to improve and modernise the railway system.

The approval followed consultation with all major industry stakeholders, including consumer groups and Network Rail.

The five-year plan known as Control Period 6 (CP6) will commence on 1 April next year and aims to increase the reliability of railway services.

ORR chief executive John Larkinson said: “Today’s decisions mean that Network Rail, its routes and its system operator can now press forward with their plans to deliver a service which passengers and freight customers rightly demand and deserve.

“These plans are focused on improving performance for passengers and freight operators by getting the basics right; ensuring that the railway is properly maintained and renewed and improving the daily operation of the railway.”

Network Rail has allocated £31bn for rail works in England and Wales and £4bn in Scotland. In Great Britain, around £24.3bn will be utilised to maintain (£7.7bn) and refurbish (£16.6bn) the existing railway systems.

The investment is expected to reduce operational delays due to infrastructure failures such as track defects.

ORR has also increased the Performance Innovation Fund from £10m to £40m in order to encourage the implementation of innovations that will increase the punctuality of services.

A £245m research and development fund will be made available over five years to support the development of technology to manage growing passenger numbers and improve service efficiency.

The agency also approved Network Rail’s plans to increase funding in timetabling and planning functions from £145m in CP5 to more than £270m in CP6.

KiwiRail to receive government funding to upgrade electric trains

31 October 2018

KiwiRail is set to receive NZD35m ($23m) in funding from the Government of New Zealand to modernise 15 of its electric trains that operate between Hamilton and Palmerston North.

Funding will be provided over a period of four years, in addition to the NZD4bn ($2.6bn) investment in the public transport and rail sector under the government’s National Land Transport Programme.

Train and electric control system upgrades are expected to help the government meet its long-term emissions goals and will extend the work life of the electric locomotives (EFs) by ten years.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said: “We’re making the right decision for the long-term. Replacing electric locomotives with diesel would be a step backwards.

“By refurbishing these locomotives here, we’re creating jobs in KiwiRail’s Hutt Workshop and supporting our local rail industry. It just makes sense.”

According to KiwiRail acting chief executive Todd Moyle, its EF fleet break down every 30,000km on average, which is below the company’s fleet target of 50,000km. Only eight of the 15 EFs are in usable condition.

Moyle said: “With this funding, KiwiRail will be able to refurbish the 15 locos, including working with a supplier to upgrade their electronic control systems at our Hutt Workshops over the next three to four years.

“We expect between four and eight new jobs will be created refurbishing the locomotives and the team which maintains and operates the electric locos will be increased back to its full staffing level.”

In 2016, KiwiRail decided to retire the entire EF fleet due to lack of funding. However, the latest investment will help the company to continue to operate the trains.

India to trial indigenously developed engineless train

29 October 2018

India is set to test Train 18 (T18), its first indigenously developed engineless train.

The trial is expected to run for three to four days outside the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, India. ICF manufactured the energy-efficient, self-propelled train in 18 months.

According to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report, ICF general manager Sudhanshu Mani stated that T18 will be delivered to India’s Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) for further trials once the latest test is completed.

Manufactured as part of the Make in India project, the train was developed with an investment of Rs1bn ($14m). T18 is designed to replace the country’s 30-year-old Shatabdi Express.

The fully air-conditioned train will be equipped with 16 coach prototypes and able to transport 1,128 passengers.

It will also include closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras for passenger safety, as well as automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment units, GPS-based passenger information system and diffused lighting.

T18 is also equipped with two executive compartments with 52 seats each, as well as several trailer coaches with 78 seats each.

With the ability to travel up to 160km/h, the train is expected to reduce the travel time by around 15%.

The train is nearly 15%-20% energy-efficient and likely to travel between Indian cities of Delhi and Bhopal.

ARTC issues RoI for Inland Rail project in Queensland, Australia

5 October​​​​​​​ 2018

Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has issued a registration of interest (RoI) to form a public-private partnership (PPP) to build a section of Inland Rail in Queensland.

The planned Inland Rail PPP section will run from Gowrie near Toowoomba to Kagaru near Brisbane.

Once built, Inland Rail project is expected to contribute A$7.3bn ($5.1bn) in gross state product to Queensland during construction and in the first 50 years of operation.

The project is also expected to create 7,000 new jobs in Queensland during peak construction, with nearly 190 people already started working in Brisbane, including 40 on the PPP section.

With the new RoI, ARTC seeks to engage private sector entities in the design, construction, finance and maintenance of Inland Rail’s PPP section.

ARTC CEO Richard Wankmuller said: “The PPP enables ARTC to access major Australian and multi-national builders and engineers to harness innovative design solutions and more efficient construction methodologies.

“This is a programme of national significance and ARTC is seeking a partner to deliver the most technically challenging section comprising approximately 130km of dual gauge rail, significant earthworks and complicated tunnels and bridges through the Toowoomba, Little Liverpool and Teviot ranges.”

The RoI was issued in line with the latest market practices for large infrastructure projects such as Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail PPP.

Wankmuller further added: “The RoI process allows ARTC to confirm the likely bidding field for the PPP while also signalling to the market that we are making progress on the procurement process ahead of the formal expressions of interest process in early 2019.

“This will allow those companies interested in the project to progress discussions with contractors, financiers, and advisers.”

In addition, the RoI is set to result in a planned market sounding process in the last quarter of this year.

Results from the market sounding process are expected to help ARTC to develop its procurement approach.