Virgin Hyperloop One to build first hyperloop system in India

19 February 2018

Virgin Hyperloop One and the Indian state of Maharashtra have signed an agreement to build the country’s first hyperloop system between Pune and Mumbai.

The 100% electrically operated hyperloop route is slated to connect central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport and Mumbai with a 25-minute journey time.

According to an initial pre-feasibility study completed by Virgin Hyperloop One, the Pune-Mumbai route could also result in up to $55bn in socio-economic benefits over 30 years of operation.

It is expected to support 150 million passenger trips annually and assist in the rapid movement of palletised freight and light cargo between the Port of Mumbai and Pune.

Additionally, the hyperloop system will help to reduce traffic congestion on expressways and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by up to 150,000t annually.

Virgin Hyperloop One chairman Richard Branson said: “The Pune-Mumbai route is an ideal first corridor as part of a national hyperloop network that could dramatically reduce travel times between India’s major cities to as little as two hours.”

A six-month, in-depth feasibility study of the project is set to be carried out to analyse and define the alignment of the planned route.

The study will also evaluate the environmental impact, regulatory framework, and cost and funding model, as well as highlight the economic and commercial aspects of the route.

Following the completion of the feasibility study, the project will enter a procurement stage in order to determine the public-private partnership structure.

The construction of the hyperloop system will then commence, which will be completed in two phases.

EU to co-finance rail upgrade project in Kosovo

16 February 2018

The European Union (EU), via the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), has agreed to co-finance a rail modernisation project in Kosovo that is being funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The EU is set to provide a €38.5m grant for the three-stage modernisation of Kosovo’s railway infrastructure under the agreement.

EBRD previously awarded a senior loan of €39.9m for the project in 2015. The development currently serves as Kosovo’s only international rail link.

Kosovo Minister of Finance Bedri Hamza said: “We are grateful for the significant contribution the EU is making through the Western Balkans Investment Framework to this crucial project for our country.

“This is not only important financially but also a signal of the trust, commitment and confidence the EU, the EBRD and our international partners are putting in us.”

The rail project is expected to improve connectivity between Kosovo’s railway infrastructure and the wider European network via the Pan-European Corridor VIII and Corridor X.

The grant will cover the southern section of Kosovo’s rail route 10, connecting Fushë Kosovë near the capital Pristina with the Macedonian border.

In addition, the project also features a Fushë Kosovë to Mitrovicë segment and a northern section, which spans from Mitrovicë to the Serbian border.

The Kosovo rail route 10 project forms part of the core Western Balkans railway network and also serves as an extension of the Trans-European Transport Networks, which aim to improve transport connectivity across the Western Balkans.

EBRD’s original loan provided funding for the upgrade of the 148km line and was awarded to national railway infrastructure company Infrastruktura e Hekurudhave të Kosovës (Infrakos).

Network Rail unveils £47bn five-year plan

15 February 2018

The UK’s Network Rail has published its five-year plan from 2019 to 2024 (Control Period 6, CP6), which will see the company spend up to £47bn to improve railway services across the country.

The total expenditure proposed under the plan marks a 25% increase over the amount outlined for the previous CP5 (2014-2019).

An additional £10bn railway enhancement fund has also been allocated by the government, which will be made available to Network Rail and other companies to finance different railway projects.

The new Strategic Business Plan (SBP) includes route-by-route plans and covers Network Rail’s planned expenditure regarding operations, maintenance and renewals.

The Office of Rail and Road will now assess the plan to determine Network Rail’s funding requirements.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “Passengers journeys will be transformed in the next few years as thousands of new trains enter service.

“By 2021 there will be almost 350,000 more services per year than today, an average of an extra 1,000 services a day, better connecting communities and driving economic growth across the country.

“This plan builds on these improvements and sets out how we will make the railway more reliable and cost-efficient, and how we accelerate the technological transformation of our railway into the digital age.”

Hydrogen-powered train expected in UK by 2020

13 February 2018

The UK Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) is working with French railway company Alstom to pilot a hydrogen fuel cell-powered train in the UK by late 2019 or early 2020.

RSSB chief executive Mark Phillips made the comments in response to a speech made by Transport Minister Jo Johnson, who said that he ‘would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040.’ Johnson also referred to the Alstom iLint, a train which runs in Germany and ‘only emits steam and condensed water, yet is capable of 140km/h and a range of up to 800km,’ according to Johnson.

“We welcome the Minister’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions from the railways,” said Phillips. “In 2015, we co-funded a £7 million pilot of a battery-powered train with industry partners, and we are working with Alstom to pilot a hydrogen-powered train.”

The iLint combines hydrogen and oxygen drawn from the surrounding environment to produce an electrical current, and only release water vapour as a waste product. The trains also use lithium-ion batteries to efficiently store and release excess electrical energy, and a smart management system to effectively deploy energy. Fourteen iLint trains are scheduled to begin carrying passengers in Lower Saxony in Germany this year, and could provide a blueprint for similar projects in the UK.

The Department for Transport has called hydrogen-powered trains ‘potentially a solution’ for modernising regional rail transport in the UK. Lines in the west of the country, such as those around Bristol and Gloucester, have not yet been electrified, and could now instead be the recipients of the country’s first hydrogen-powered trains.

Alstom gets €130m deal for 30 locomotives to ONCF

12 February 2018

Alstom signed a €130m contract to supply 30 electric Prima M4 locomotives to Morocco’s national railway operator, ONCF. The deal was awarded to Alstom following an international tender process, which was originally launched by ONCF in March last year.

The contracted locomotives are set to be manufactured in Alstom’s Belfort plant, while the company’s Moroccan team will be responsible for providing after-sales service and maintenance. Alstom Morocco managing director Brahim Soua said: “We are delighted that ONCF has renewed its confidence in our company and our products.

“Thanks to a consolidated and historical partnership based on mutual trust and a real teamwork spirit with our customer, 20 Prima locomotives have been successfully in service in Morocco since 2011 and today, with this new contract, our journey continues and we are proud to contribute to the development of the Moroccan railway infrastructure.”

The 30 electric locomotives are expected to have a nominal power of 5.5MW and will operate under 3KV DC voltages. The vehicles are capable of operating at a maximum speed of 160km/h and can also be equipped with ETCS level one.

Alstom’s six France-based facilities in Belfort, Le Creusot, Ornans, Tarbes, Petit-Quevilly and Villeurbanne will be involved in the production of the 30 Prima new trains.

Alstom has previously been engaged in multiple projects in Morocco, including the delivery of Citadis trams to the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, as well as 12 Avelia Euroduplex trains for the Tangier-Casablanca high-speed line.

The company has sold more than 3,000 Prima-range locomotives over the last 20 years.

Eurostar to introduce London-Amsterdam rail service in April

12 February 2018

The high-speed railway service connecting UK and mainland Europe, Eurostar, announced plans to introduce a new direct route from London to Amsterdam in April. The new route is expected to enable passengers to travel from St Pancras railway station in London to the Netherlands in three hours.

Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic said: “The launch of our service to the Netherlands represents an exciting advance in cross-Channel travel and heralds a new era in international high-speed rail.

“With direct services from the UK to The Netherlands, France and Belgium, we are transforming the links between the UK and three of Europe’s top trading nations.”

Eurostar opted to commence the new services from 4 April following a comprehensive programme of testing along the Dutch high-speed network, as well as the completion of its terminals in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

“Our new route marks the culmination of the extensive investment in high-speed rail on both sides of the Channel,” Petrovic added. “With £1bn investment in our new state-of-the-art trains and enhanced connectivity on the European network, passengers can now enjoy fast, seamless rail connections between the UK and mainland Europe, and a transformed travel experience.”

Passengers are slated to travel directly from London to Amsterdam and Rotterdam; however, the return journey will temporarily be connected via Brussels, where security screening and passport checks will be conducted.

Passport checks will later be carried out in the Netherlands once the governments of both countries have signed an agreement to enable direct journeys in both directions, which will allow the connecting stop to be removed from the route. The agreement is expected to be finalised by the end of 2019.

Motorola to supply TETRA network for Malaysian rail project

12 February 2018

The UK Government has announced plans to phase out the usage of diesel-only trains by 2040 as part of an initiative to reduce carbon emissions.

UK Railway Minister Jo Johnson is expected to make a speech calling on the industry to devise plans to phase out diesel-only trains, reported The Financial Times. Approximately 29% of the UK locomotive fleet currently runs of diesel.

Last year, it was announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be prohibited in the country from 2040 in order to address growing air pollution. The usage of petroleum-based combustion engines within the rail sector is noted to be one of the primary contributors to rising air pollution rates.

Railway Industry Association (RIA) technical director David Clarke welcomed the announcement to terminate the usage of diesel-only trains by 2040.

Clarke said: “We welcome this announcement, as it will ensure that the rail industry continues to be one of the most environmentally friendly modes of travel and it sets an ambitious target, which will require significant innovation from the industry.

“Currently 29% of the fleet on the UK’s rail network is diesel. To replace these, we will need to install overhead power lines for electrification, or use on-board energy storage from technology such as batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, or a combination of both. This is therefore a big challenge for the industry, but one which I think it can and will look forward to meeting.”

RIA is the representative body for UK-based suppliers and currently comprises a membership of around 200 companies.

CDPQ Infra awards contracts for Montreal’s $5bn REM project

09 February 2018

Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec Infra (CDPQ Infra) awarded two contracts related to the development of Montreal’s nearly $5bn Metropolitan Electric Network (REM) project.

The infrastructure engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) deal was awarded to the Groupe NouvLR consortium, while the provision of rolling stock and systems, as well as the operation and maintenance contract was secured by Groupe des Partenaires pour la Mobilité des Montréalais (PMM).

Groupe NouvLR comprises SNC Lavalin Grands Projets, Dragados Canada, Groupe Aecon Québec Ltée, Pomerleau and EBC, while participants in the NouvLR Conception include SNC Lavalin and Aecom Consultants. The PMM consortium consists of Alstom Transport Canada and SNC-Lavalin O&M.

CDPQ president and CEO Michael Sabia said: “Since the very start of the project less than two years ago, we have been meeting with the public, municipalities, transportation companies and other stakeholders.

“We listened to their ideas and suggestions, which turned into innovative solutions and continuously improved our project. Through hard work with the consortia, we met our objectives for the REM. The network will provide frequent and fast service, making the day-to-day easier for Greater Montréal.”

Both consortia are now expected to harmonise their respective proposals to finalise the details of their work schedules over the next few months. Construction of the REM is set to begin in April following the consolidation of the work schedules.

Initial testing will be conducted at the end of 2020, while the first branch of the REM is expected to become operational in 2021. The whole project is expected to cost C$6.3bn ($5bn), which represents a nearly 5% variation from the initial estimate.