Slovakia pushes ahead with ERTMS overlay

Slovakia’s state-owned rail operator Železnice Slovenskej Republiky (ŽSR) has awarded a €20 million for the rollout of ERTMS on a 250-kilometre route between Bratislava and the Czech border.

Kapsch CarrierCom and AŽD Praha have been awarded contracts to install the GSM-R system and ETCS Level 2 signalling system respectively, both of which should be live by the end of 2015..

Kari Kapsch, chief executive of Kapsch CarrierCom, said: “This project is a particular reference for us given that due to the transit corridor running through Slovakia, the implementation of ERTMS in that country is an important element in achieving a modern rail network across Europe.”

Eurotunnel to reduce track access charges

Eurotunnel is to freeze some track access charges and reduce others in a bid to double the number of trains using the Channel Tunnel over the next four years.

Freight charges will remain unchanged until 2018 and off-peak freight access charges will be reduced by 25 per cent under the proposals.

The measures are an extension of the Eurotunnel Incentive for Capacity Additions (ETICA) programme which was put in place in May 2013. They will take effect from June 2014 following a consultation with the Intergovernmental Commission.

Other incentives include a reduction in the charges for access during maintenance periods from three nights a week to two.

Eurotunnel will also remove a surcharge introduced by the French infrastructure manager Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) for security at the terminal in Fréthun.

Although freight traffic has continued to rise through the Channel Tunnel in the first quarter of 2014, Eurotunnel believes there are further steps that could boost traffic through the fixed link.

Eurotunnel said its aims could be achieved more easily “if the other involved parties, amongst whom the principals are RFF and Network Rail supported the creation of a European Freight Corridor between Continental Europe and the United Kingdom and helped to remove the barriers which limit interoperability between networks”.

First Régiolis enters service

A ceremony has been held at Vaugirard station in Paris to celebrate the commissioning of the first of hundreds of new Régiolis trains ordered for the French regions.

Alstom, which has marketed the Régiolis as France’s next-generation regional train, has so far sold 182 units to 12 regions – all of which will be operated and maintained by SNCF.

Orders to date represent an investment of €1.4 billion.

Frédéric Cuvillier, the French Minister for Transport, Alain Rousset, president of the association of French regions (ARF) and President of the Aquitaine region, Jacques Auxiette, President of the Pays de la Loire region, Guillaume Pepy, president of SNCF and Henri Poupart-Lafarge, president of Alstom Transport, attended the event on April 29.

The Regiolis trains, which are based on Alstom’s Coradia Polyvalent platform, come in both dual mode and electric models. The vehicles are being delivered in three, four and six-car formations, with the longest having a capacity of over 1,000 passengers.

In total, 216 Coradia Polyvalent trainsets have been purchased by SNCF and the French regions, with 182 Régiolis sets ordered for regional TER services and 34 Coradia Liner vehicles procured for the renewal of SNCF Intercity trains.

Delivery of the new trains will continue until 2017.

Stadler in new GTW train order in US

Stadler is to supply eight  GTW trains for Californian mass transit operator BART.

The $58 million order will see San Francisco operating the same model of diesel multiple unit currently in use in Texas and New Jersey.

Built in Switzerland, the new vehicles will run BART’s extended  services to East Contra Costa County.

New Crossrail programme director appointed

Network Rail’s Simon Wright has been appointed by Crossrail as the project’s new programme director.

Simon, who was previously director of infrastructure and utilities with the Olympic Delivery Authority, will join the Crossrail team in the summer.

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail chief executive said: “Simon Wright is an outstanding candidate who successfully led the delivery and commissioning of the infrastructure for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games; Crossrail will benefit enormously from his knowledge and expertise.

“The Crossrail programme is now over halfway to completion with the end of major civils in sight and a team fully engaged on delivering stations fit-out and the transition to an operational railway.

“Simon will lead the delivery team during this important second half as we move closer to realising this critically important project for London and the UK.”

Financial close for €4bn South African train order

PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) and the Alstom-led Gibela consortium have reached financial close on a €4 billion order for new commuter trains.

Alstom, in partnership with Ubumbano Rail and New Africa Rail, is building 600 new X’Ttrapolis Mega trains for South Africa.

The €4 billion includes the construction of a new manufacturing facility in Dunnottar and an 18-year maintenance contract.

The first 20 trains will be built at Alstom’s Lapa plant in Brazil before the new site takes over production.

€200m to be spent upgrading Bordeaux Saint-Jean station

RFF and SNCF have launched a joint €200 million scheme to renovate Bordeaux Saint-Jean station ready for the inauguration of the Tours-Bordeaux TGV in 2017.

The three-year programme is made up of 14 separate projects designed to improve reliability of rail services in the Aquitaine region and allow the station to accommodate the additional seven million passengers expected to use the it from 2017.

As well as extending the station itself and modernising the current interior, money will be spent renewing track and building new maintenance facilities for TGV and TER vehicles.

The 302-kilometre Tours-Bordeaux HSL will reduce journey times between the cities to just over two hours.

RFF has already awarded the Vinci-led LISEA consortium a 50-year concession to maintain and renew the €7.8 billion route. The agreement requires SNCF to pay LISEA a fee to use the line.

Strong backing for HS2

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said he hopes to see construction begin on Britain’s new high-speed rail network in 2017 after the HS2 hybrid bill was passed in the Commons.

MPs voted 452 to 41 in favour of the bill during its second reading yesterday (April 28).

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “By voting in favour of the hybrid Bill, Parliament has made a clear commitment to a key part of the government’s long term economic plan. HS2 is a once in a generation opportunity to create jobs and develop skills, provide the extra space we need on our rail network for commuters and freight and better connect our biggest cities.

“I am aware of the concerns some who live very close to the HS2 route have. I am ‎confident however that by working together we can ensure this vital new north-south railway is designed in the right way, and we will have spades in the ground in 2017 as planned.”

UPDATE: Siemens joins GE in Alstom approach

Siemens has said it now plans to make an offer to Alstom as it looks to develop a new strategic partnership with the French engineering giant.

Siemens had previously announced that it was to meet with the French president to discuss future opportunities between the German rail manufacturer and Alstom.

In a brief announcement, Siemens said it would be meeting with ‘high-ranking’ political leaders after writing a letter to Alstom’s board ‘to signal its willingness to discuss future strategic opportunities’.

Siemens has now said it will make Alstom an offer as long as the company “agrees to give Siemens access to the company’s data room and permission to interview the management during a period of four weeks” to enable Siemens to carry out due diligence.

The approach follows reports that General Electric (GE) was set to buy Alstom for €13 billion – rumours that Alstom denied any knowledge of.

Yesterday (April 28), GE confirmed that its chief executive, Jeff Immelt, had met with President Francois Hollande to discuss the company’s French investments.

“The dialogue was open, friendly and productive,” said Immelt.

“It was important to hear in person President Hollande’s perspective and to discuss our plans, our successful track record of investing in France, and our long-term commitment to the country. We understand and value his perspective, and we are committed to work together.”

Thales pre-qualifies for SSL signalling contract

Thales has been invited to tender for London Underground’s Sub-Surface railway signalling contract.

The contract, which will see capacity increased markedly on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines, the District line and Metropolitan line, had previously been let to Bombardier.

In December 2013, LU and Bombardier announced that they had mutually agreed to re-let the contract.

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, said: “This is an important step in ensuring that the delivery of this vital upgrade remains on course.

“The signalling system on these lines is some of the oldest in use anywhere in the world, with some of it dating back to the 1930s. The modernisation work will mean more frequent, more reliable and less crowded journeys for our customers and will help us meet rapidly growing customer demand.

“We will only enter in to a contract if I am absolutely certain that Londoners are getting value for money and if I have absolute confidence in the delivery schedule.”

The new contract is expected to be awarded this summer.