Avanti granted new long-term contract
UK rail operator Avanti West Coast has been awarded a new long-term contract by the Department for Transport (DfT) after months of short-term contracts following concerns over service and reliability.
The decision comes after the operator reportedly managed to reduce cancellations to just 1.1% over the past year, down from nearly 25% in August 2022, with the department saying that a long-term contract was needed to allow Avanti to plan for the future.
The rail operator, which is owned by FirstGroup and Trenitalia, was initially placed on a short-term contract in October 2022 after high numbers of cancellations and operational issues such as a shortage of drivers on the West Coast Main Line.
A 6-month extension was then granted in March after the DfT said Avanti had made “significant improvements” to its services and developed a recovery plan to address the poor performance but the newest move by the department marks a significant moment of confidence for the operator.
Progress Rail launches anti-trust legal case against Wabtec
Progress Rail, Caterpillar’s rail division, has begun legal proceedings against its rival Wabtec over its acquisition of General Electric Co. Transportation.
Progress alleged that this acquisition was an anti-competitive move that would allow Wabtec to effectively control parts of the US rail freight market. Wabtec has denied the claims and called the legal proceedings an “unsupported attack”.
Wabtec has “profited and continues to profit, from its unlawful, exclusionary conduct… [that] will make the freight locomotives that drive this country’s economy more expensive, less safe and worse for the environment,” according to lawyers representing Progress.
In a statement, Wabtec said it will “aggressively defend the case in court”.
“We believe that Progress Rail’s recent complaint against Wabtec at its core is an unsupported attack on the merger of Wabtec and GE Transportation, which was completed over four years ago."
The aim of the lawsuit is to force Wabtec to divest from GE Transportation and reverse the $11bn deal signed in 2019. Progress Rail has also asked for damages to be paid.
France looks to launch €49 unlimited rail travel pass
France will launch its own version of a discounted monthly rail pass after the success of a similar scheme in Germany to encourage more sustainable travel habits.
Transport Minister Clément Beaune revealed the plans during an interview with national TV channel France 2 after President Emmanuel Macron had earlier announced the French Government's intention to introduce the idea.
The pass, which will cost €49 ($52.5) a month, will allow travellers of any age to access unlimited travel on the TER regional trains and intercity trains, in the style of Germany's Deutschlandticket and may also include local travel by bus, metro and trams.
The move to encourage rail travel follows France's ambitious ban on all domestic flight routes where an alternative rail journey is possible in under two and a half hours, which was part of the country's citizens' climate convention.
Tickets like the one available in Germany have also been praised for their climate-friendly thinking, with climate charity Greenpeace calling for wider implementation of the idea “at the right price level”.
Network Rail admits to failings around fatal Stonehaven derailment in court
Network Rail has admitted several health and safety failings around the derailment of a train near Stonehaven that led to the deaths of three people in 2020 during a High Court trial in Scotland.
The UK’s railway network owner admitted to a charge, split into five parts, covering the exposure of staff to the risk of serious injury and death and a failure to impose an emergency speed restriction at the time of the crash.
Though the accident took place in August 2020, the charge covers an almost decade-long period between 1 May 2011 and 12 August 2020, by going back to the construction of a drainage asset by the tracks, which Network Rail admitted it had failed to ensure had been constructed properly.
During the appearance at the Aberdeen High Court, Network Rail admitted to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and that it had not had a suitable training and quality system in place to assess weather forecasts, which meant the organisation did not hold an emergency meeting on the day of the accident to discuss the extreme weather conditions.
SSB states damage at Gotthard tunnel "will take months to repair"
Switzerland’s national railway Swiss Federal Railways (SSB) has provided an update on the substantial clearing and rescue operation at the accident site in the western tube following a freight derailment, stating that the damage will take several months to rectify.
The removal procedure is in succession and, according to SSB, is “extensive”, with individuals working in two shifts seven days a week, with work to last until the end of September.
SSB has reported that freight travel has continued through the tunnel but with restrictions: “Currently, around 90 of a maximum possible 100 freight trains run through the Gotthard Base Tunnel per day.
The incident, which occurred at approximately 12:50 CET, featured a dual-locomotive train consisting of 30 freight cars “of various types” that deserted the lines at or near Faido.
According to the train operator, 22 of the 30 railcars were taken from the tunnel, with several sustaining such severe damage that they had to be deconstructed in the tunnel before they could be hauled away.