Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:11:31 AM EST
This week's themes: litter in Zurich, UK electrification escapes austerity, monorail swansong in Sydney.
Railway Gazette: Waging war on litter
SWITZERLAND: Three days' worth of litter was collected by staff at Zürich Hauptbahnhof and put on public display to mark the launch of SBB's campaign to keep the network tidy.
Railway Gazette: Amey awarded Great Western electrification contract
UK: Network Rail has awarded Amey a five-year contract to install 25 kV 50 Hz electrification on the Great Western Main Line. The contract covers the line from Maidenhead near London to Bristol and Cardiff, along with the routes to Newbury and Oxford.
Announcing the contract on March 26, Amey put the value of the electrification works at £700m. Electrification forms just part of a comprehensive route upgrade, which includes resignalling with ETCS and a major remodelling of the Reading station area.
Britain (along with Denmark) was the big sceptic of rail electrification in Europe, then privatisation stopped the slow expansion of overhead wires completely. It was to the credit of the transport minister in Gordon Brown's Labour government, Lord Adonis, that electrification was re-launched with a strategic mindset and in complete state control (see Britain leads the way...). Surprisingly, the next government, that is David Cameron's current pro-austerity Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition, didn't stop the programme, nor did it try to cram PPP schemes into it, only changed priorities between individual projects. The first construction contracts were granted last autumn (see Rail News Blogging #3), but this one is the biggest project, and thus the biggest financial commitment. It is still not without inconsistencies, though: electrification of the Cardiff-Swansea section in Wales was saved, forcing either a change of trains or the use of more expensive and less energy-efficient hybrid trains.
Railway Gazette: Sydney monorail to be scrapped
AUSTRALIA: The New South Wales government announced on March 23 that it had paid A$19·8m to acquire light rail and monorail owner Metro Transport Sydney, clearing the way for the monorail to be removed to accommodate the new Sydney International Convention Exhibition & Entertainment Precinct. The deal will also simplify contractual arrangements for planned expansion of the city's light rail network.
...State Premier Barry O'Farrell said the 3·6 km monorail loop had 'never been truly embraced by the community' since opening in 1988; 54% of its 3 million riders a year are visitors to the city. Now it is reaching the end of its economic life, and the government 'cannot justify costly upgrades like the purchase of new vehicles required to keep it running.'
This development has a symbolic importance for a trend we are less familiar with in Europe: faced with the costs and complexity of building a proper fixed-guideway public transport system from scratch, many a city council in the recent past opted for something flashy and futuristic instead. There are successful monorails in the world, but, as in Sydney, if a real system emerges around it, there is still the issue of network integration. So Sydney is replacing its monorail with a boring standard light rail.
:: :: :: :: ::
Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.