THREE-MONTH ‘NO DEAL’ BREXIT EXEMPTION FOR CHANNEL TUNNEL
The European Commission published draft legislation in mid-February that will allow existing passenger and freight operations through the Channel Tunnel to continue in the event of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement on 29 March (the so-called ‘no deal’ situation).
The temporary waiver involving mutual recognition of pre-existing operator and train driver licences will apply for three months and only if the UK does nothing in that time to change rules concerning international rail operations. Similar arrangements have been proposed by the European Union to deal with road and air transport in the event of a ‘no deal’ exit by the UK. The proposed EU rules will also enable the continued uninterrupted operation of the Belfast to Dublin ‘Enterprise’ service if a ‘no deal’ Brexit situation transpires.
The UK government has already said it would seek urgent new bi-lateral agreements with France, Ireland and other countries to maintain international rail services and that it will accept all EU-issued licences for at least two years in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit; the EU proposal is of much shorter duration and is designed to cover the period whilst new longer-term arrangements are quickly agreed.
Whilst railway operations may be relatively unhindered by the immediate impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, it is not clear that passenger movements will be as simple, with The Times revealing a leaked UK government report in late February suggesting queues at St Pancras could be over a mile long as French immigration officials would have to question all passengers rather than, as now, simply record passport details for the majority.
PLZEŇ ORDERS ŠKODA AS DOES OSTRAVA
Tram operator PMDP in the western Czech city of Plzeň, home to Škoda Transportation, has awarded a contract worth CZK1.2 billion (£41 million) to Škoda for up to 22 three-section 100% low-floor trams based on the ForCity Smart platform. This design of light rail vehicle (LRV) was added to the Škoda range when it acquired Finnish manufacturer Transtech (which formerly marketed the vehicle as the ‘Arctic’). The Plzeň vehicles will be delivered between 2020 and 2023.
Škoda Transportation also offered the only compliant bid for 40 new two-car trams for the eastern Czech city of Ostrava in September 2018, again with the ForCity Smart. The contract to build the new trams, which will be fitted with Wi-Fi, USB sockets and air conditioning, is worth CZK1.9 billion (£64 million). The first of the new vehicles should enter service in 2022. Ostrava tram operator DPO is currently introducing a fleet of 30 new Stadler-built ‘Tango NF2’ two-car LRVs ordered in 2017 at a cost of CZK1.4 billion (£47 million).
NEW LIFE FOR BELGIAN ELECTRIC LOCOS
Czech loco rebuild specialist CZ Loko bought all 12 former Belgian Railways (SNCB) Class 12 electric locos after they were withdrawn in 2013. The dual-voltage (3kV DC/25kV AC) locos, dating from 1986, had been used by SNCB for cross-border services into France. CZ Loko and partner ČMŽO Přerov are now rebuilding them at the Přerov site, which specialises in overhauling electric locos and EMUs. The combination of 3kV DC and 25kV AC makes them suitable for use in most central European countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and much of the Balkans). The rebuilt locos are designed for freight use, with a maximum speed of 120km/h instead of the original 160km/h. New traction equipment is fitted, although the original traction motors are retained.
Four locos have been rebuilt so far and are in use with Czech private operator IDS and CER Slovakia. CZ Loko is offering the locos to potential operators at a significant discount compared to the cost of buying or leasing a modern multi-system loco.
FEDERAL AUDITOR CALLS FOR CHANGE AT DB
In mid-January the German federal Bundesrechnungshof (independent National Audit Office) presented its review of national rail operator Deutsche Bahn and government railway policy to the German Parliament, calling for DB to sell subsidiaries Arriva and DB Schenker (logistics) to improve its focus on the German market and its finances. The report says both companies are profitable, but that the profits are almost entirely reinvested in DB’s business outside Germany, thereby adding little value to the German public, which both owns DB via the government and is the main user of its services (trains and infrastructure). The Bundesrechnungshof believes sale of the two companies would generate a substantial cash inflow, enabling DB to reduce its overall debt levels. Privatisation of other DB subsidiaries in the future is also identified as an option to enable the organisation to focus on running the railway.
The report calls for a much clearer separation of infrastructure management from rail operations, something DB has long opposed, with national infrastructure manager DB Netze being an integrated part of the overall DB group. The report says the key objectives of the German rail reforms of the mid-1990s have not been achieved; traffic has not switched from road in any quantity and the new DB AG, which combined West German Deutsche Bundesbahn and East German Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1994, is now heavily indebted; the predecessor companies had no debt at the time of the merger.
DB currently has nearly €20 billion of debt and according to the report is unable to generate enough money to fund necessary investment in new trains or infrastructure without either more debt or additional sources of funds. The auditors do not place all the blame on DB, making it clear that successive governments have failed to determine what they want DB or the railway industry to achieve. The report stresses the government should create a coherent national intermodal transport strategy to remove some of the current distortions caused by infrastructure payments (or lack of them) and taxation differences between differing modes of transport.
DB PROMISES ACTION ON PERFORMANCE
DB presented a five-point plan to improve reliability and performance to the Federal Transport Minister and wider public in mid-January. The company has suffered declining profitability in much of its German domestic operations due to competitive pressures, especially for regional train operation (with major contracts lost) and long-distance services (where passenger numbers are up but lower yields from fares mean relative profitability is declining). Rail freight subsidiary DB Cargo continues to make losses. Overall, DB group profitability declined in the first half of 2018, and is forecast to deteriorate further, despite increasing turnover (€21.6 billion for DB group in first six months of 2018, up 2.3% on the same period in 2017). It was reported in mid-December that DB was planning an increase in its debt ceiling to €24 billion (from the €20.4 billion previously agreed with government).
Improving poor punctuality, especially for long-distance services, leads the five-point plan, with an improvement of 1.6% targeted to an average 76.5% of long-distance trains being on time in 2019. This target, which requires improvement on 2018 performance, is realistic; the actual target in 2018 (set back in 2016) was 90%, whereas performance was 74.9%! However, in December 2018 76.9% of DB long-distance trains were recorded as on time – meeting the new target. DB defines a train as on time if it arrives within 5min 59sec of its scheduled arrival; on this measure rounded to whole minutes (within six minutes of scheduled time), data for December suggests DB actually performs better than many UK long-distance operators.
DB plans to improve rolling stock reliability in 2019, with 200 more staff being employed at the key ICE depots in Köln and Hamburg, and work is underway to increase capacity at DB’s Krefeld works, which overhauls many long-distance trains. DB is aiming to have 225 ICE trains available daily in 2019, an increase of 5% compared to 2018, in part by retaining older trains as new ICE4 trains enter the fleet throughout the year and partly due to better maintenance increasing availability.
DB’s performance operating regional and city S-Bahn services is consistently much more punctual than long-distance services, with 94% ‘on time’. Despite this, according to local media DB is paying around €500 million a year in penalty payments to regional transport authorities for failing to meet performance targets on multiple contracts; the reports suggest these payments will rise to over €650 million by 2023.
The other four key priorities as set out by DB are a mix of activities that both DB and the government can take credit for such as ‘investing in the network’. DB and the Government will spend €10.7 billion (€1.3 billion more than in 2018), which DB describes as ‘an unprecedented level of investment’ to make the rail network more effective and reliable. Of this, around €1.1 billion will be spent on the rollout of ‘digital railway’ technology such as European Train Control System.
DB also says ‘turning around the rail freight business DB Cargo’ is a priority; few politicians will argue with the concept, although some of the company’s problems in recent years were self-inflicted due to cost reduction schemes that lost key personnel. DB plans to reverse the cuts of recent years by recruiting more personnel and additional investment in sales people and new locomotives (more Vectron locos were ordered recently – p81, last month). The other priorities set out by DB were rather more prosaic – ‘providing passengers with better information and service’ by expanding the existing digital passenger information/retail platforms and upgrading information systems at major stations.
DB also said it would ‘widen its offer’, with 4% more seat kilometres added to its long-distance network since the December timetable change, although in practice this largely refers to the long-planned introduction of new ICE4 and IC2 trains (15 Class 412 ICE4s and 10 IC2s with Class 147.5 Traxx locos entered service in December).
DB BUYS TALGO INTERCITY TRAINS
DB has ordered 23 new long-distance trains from Spanish manufacturer Talgo to replace older Intercity trains in use with subsidiary DB Fernverkehr. The initial order is worth €550 million, and the master agreement includes options for up to 79 more trains.
The first of the new trains, which will comprise an electric locomotive and Talgo coaches, will enter service in 2023. The trains will be used on the Berlin – Amsterdam international route (which requires 220km/h running on the Hanover to Berlin high-speed line) and the Köln – Westerland (Sylt) and Hamburg – Oberstdorf domestic routes, both of which will require diesel traction as well as electric as neither Itzehoe to Westerland (Sylt) or Ulm/Augsburg to Oberstdorf are electrified.
DB is yet to release any more detailed information about the design or layout of the new trains. It is unclear if this order will replace previous plans announced by Dutch operator NS to hire 12 Vectron electric locomotives to operate the Amsterdam to Berlin inter-city services from December 2019.
GO-AHEAD AND TRANSDEV SHARE AUGSBURG CONTRACTS
Go-Ahead has won its fifth German operating contract, although it has yet to start operating any of them! The first Go-Ahead contracts go live in the Stuttgart area in June.
Go-Ahead Verkehrsgesellschaft Deutschland has been awarded the contract to run services on the following electrified lines serving Augsburg, west of Munich, from December 2022 for 12 years: n Ulm – Augsburg – Munich;
■ Würzburg – Ansbach – Treuchtlingen – Donauwörth – Augsburg;
■ Aalen – Nördlingen – Donauwörth.
These services are currently operated by DB Regio using a fleet of 2008/09-vintage Alstom Coradia Continental DB Class 440 EMUs ordered for the Augsburg network. Go-Ahead has ordered 56 new EMUs from Siemens at a cost of €400 million to operate the services – 12 five-car part double deck Desiro HC units seating 538 passengers, and 44 three-car Mireo single deck articulated EMUs seating 216 passengers. The new units can interwork with each other; two Mireo EMUs can work in multiple with a Desiro HC and the Desiro HC EMUs can operate in 10-car pairs, whilst the Mireo can operate with up to four trains in multiple (12 cars).
The second part of the Augsburg network contracts awarded by Bavarian state rail tendering body BEG has been retained by Transdev subsidiary Bayerische Regiobahn (BRB) to operate non-electrified routes from Augsburg serving Schongau, Ingolstadt and Langenneufnach (the latter following the reopening of the Gessertshausen to Langenneufnach line from December 2022), plus the Eichstätt Stadt branch line.
PASSENGER RECORD BROKEN FOR IÉ
2018 was Iarnród Éireann’s (IÉ) busiest ever year, with overall passenger growth of 5.25% from 45.5 million in 2017 to 47.9 million in 2018. Growth occurred across all three service sectors, however the 8.5% growth on inter-city services (to 12.4 million journeys) was unexpected and has caused capacity issues on some routes. Commuter services saw an increase of 4.5% to 14.6 million journeys. The new ‘cross city’ services in Dublin from Hazelhatch via the Phoenix Park tunnel line to Grand Canal Dock proved very popular, adding to the commuter sector total. DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) services carried 20.5 million passengers, an increase of 4.3%. Additional carriages for the inter-city DMUs have been ordered to provide increased capacity and new DART trains (including bi-mode) are to be ordered soon.
IÉ’s current Public Service Contract expires in December 2019 and negotiations are currently underway with the National Transport Authority (NTA) concerning the new contract, including relevant performance and reliability metrics for it. Possible service enhancements are likely to include hourly services from Sligo and two-hourly services from Westport to Dublin, plus additional daytime services on the Dublin – Rosslare line.
Negotiations are also taking place with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTaS) to develop a five-year multi-annual contract for infrastructure funding. DTTaS is reviewing the previous five years’ expenditure to form a view on requirements for the new contract, which may include enhancements to the network. The delayed five-month DTTaS investigation regarding reopening the Athenry to Claremorris (via Tuam) section of the Western Rail Corridor is also expected to begin shortly. Tim Casterton
FREIGHT TO RETURN TO SLIGO?
Pulpwood trains operated by IÉ for Irish forestry company Coillte from Sligo are expected to resume during 2019. The trains would serve Waterford to supply the Medite building materials factory. Should services recommence, it is expected that loading will take place at Sligo Quay yard, which is currently mothballed, with the steeply graded branch out of use (except the first few hundred metres, which are used as a stabling siding). Pulpwood trains are currently operated from both Ballina and Westport to Waterford, however a large volume of timber is supplied from the forests located around Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal, involving around a 180km round trip for the HGVs carrying the timber to the current loading points.
Until December 2008 the pulpwood trains had operated from Sligo twice-weekly. Tim Casterton
BETUWEROUTE TRAFFIC DECLINES
The dedicated freight-only Betuweroute between Rotterdam and the German border saw a 12% decline in train kilometres operated in 2018. This was chiefly due to long-running engineering works to increase freight capacity by adding a third track between Zevenaar on the Dutch/German border and Oberhausen in Germany; freight traffic was diverted via the classic network instead. The work in the Netherlands is complete, although the work in Germany will continue for several more years.
Overall, freight movements in the Netherlands measured by train kilometres increased by 4% according to national infrastructure manager ProRail, with the long hot summer leading to traffic diverting from barges to trains as low water levels in rivers such as the Rhine imposed major restrictions on the amount of freight that could be transported by water.
AUTONOMOUS TRAIN ON TEST
In late December Dutch rail freight operator Rotterdam Rail Feeding worked with national infrastructure manager ProRail and Alstom to operate a self-driving autonomous train on the Betuweroute freight route. The test train comprised a modernised ex-East German Class 202 diesel loco equipped with Automatic Train Operation (ATO) by Alstom and operating with Grade of Automation level 2 (GoA2), meaning that whilst the system controlled the loco a driver was still present to supervise the system. The test run was for 100km in each direction from Rotterdam.
HYUNDAI ROTEM WINS BIG LIGHT RAIL ORDER
South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Rotem has won an order for up to 213 low-floor trams from Warsaw urban transport operator ZTM. The new vehicles will be used to replace older Konstal-built trams dating from the 1980s. Offers from Polish-based manufacturers were rejected; that from Pesa as it exceeded the budget available, and the tender from Stadler/Solaris as it could not meet the required delivery schedule.
The firm PLN1.85 billion (£370 million) order is for 123 new vehicles, split into two batches of 33-metre-long trams; 85 with cabs at both ends and 18 uni-directional trams. In addition, 20 shorter 24-metre-long uni-directional trams have been ordered. The contract includes options for another 90 33-metre-long trams.
This was the second attempt to procure the replacement tram fleet, as a previous tender in 2017 in which Czech manufacturer Škoda Transportation was the lowest bidder was terminated as the price tendered exceeded the budget available. The largescale renewal of the ZTM fleet is being part-funded by the European Union, and the initial 123 vehicles must be delivered by October 2022 to qualify for the funding.
OVER 3,000 NEW COACHES FOR RUSSIAN LONG-DISTANCE SERVICES
Russian Railways (RZD) long-distance subsidiary Federal Passenger Company has awarded a contract worth $3.5 billion to Transmashholding subsidiary Tver Carriage Works (TVZ) for up to 3,730 new passenger coaches between 2019 and 2025. A firm order for 2,644 vehicles has been placed with an option for up to 1,086 coaches. The contract foresees the development of several new series of coaches to be designated Wagon-2019, Wagon-2020 and Wagon-2023.
These will include both single and double deck vehicles of various types. The contract will ensure TVZ has a stable order book for the next five years.
HEAVIER TRAINS FOR ARCTIC IRON ORE LINE
Following infrastructure improvements, mining company LKAB began operating heavier trains in mid-February. The work included construction of three new 1.067km-long passing loops, resignalling and new overhead line equipment and was undertaken by Swedish infrastructure manager Trafikverket and its Norwegian counterpart Bane Nor. The trains carrying iron ore to the Norwegian port of Narvik have increased in maximum weight to 9,180 tonnes through introduction of 32.5-tonne axle loadings rather than the 30 tonnes (and 8,500-tonne train weight) previously permitted.
Initially two trains a day will take advantage of the new maximum weight on a trial basis as the wagons used have been modified with new wheelsets. The line between Kiruna and Narvik was upgraded around a decade ago to permit introduction of 30-tonne axle loadings, with structures and embankments strengthened. Monitoring equipment has been installed to establish the effect of the new 32.5-tonne limit on the infrastructure.
The largely single-track line is used by up to 14 pairs of iron ore trains daily, plus several passenger and other freight trains. Forecasted growth in iron ore production could see the number of freight trains double in the next decade, especially if plans to transport ore mined in Finland via the ice-free port of Narvik come to fruition. Plans for a new 450km-long railway in the Arctic connecting the port of Kirkenes in northern Norway with Rovaniemi in Finland have been proposed in recent years, but a feasibility study published in February suggested the project is not viable.
The LKAB trains already had the heaviest axle loadings in Europe and the new 32.5-tonne axle limit is equal to the heaviest in use in North America. However, operators in the Pilbara region of northern Australia, also transporting iron ore, have taken heavy haul to another level; Fortescue Metals Group operates trains weighing up to 40,000 tonnes with 42-tonne axle loadings (and plans to raise that to 43.5 tonnes), whilst BHP and Roy Hill achieve 37.5 and 40 tonnes respectively.