August's top stories: FirstGroup ousts Virgin and Brazil revives high-speed rail3 September 2012 Chris Lo
August saw Virgin Trains start legal action regarding the loss of a major UK rail franchise, while other tech trials and projects proceeded apace. Railway-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from August 2012.
US rail operator Amtrak's plans for high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) might be hugely ambitious, but that hasn't stopped the operator from pushing through new developments on the rest of its network.
This month saw Amtrak keeping pace with its rail counterparts around the world by introducing a new smart ticketing system across its national network, including the NEC, state-supported routes and long-distance services.
The eTicket scheme, which is intended to shorten queues and improve the passenger experience, was launched after successful trials of the system on five routes.
Bidders for Saudi Arabia's 175km monorail project in Riyadh have been narrowed down to four consortia from the 38 initial bids, although these four groups encompass 33 companies from 15 countries across the world.
The respective teams are led by Vinci, Bombardier, Alstom Transport and Strabag, with each consortium incorporating the range of companies and technical areas of expertise necessary for a project of this scope.
The winning consortium will be responsible for building the underground network, as well as the associated bridges, trains and engineering and design work.
Swiss rail operator TPG is playing host to a new trial of 'supercap' tram technology on its light rail network in Geneva.
Train manufacturer Stadler Rail is providing the technology for the pilot, an energy-storing system that allows braking energy from everyday operations to be collected.
This stored energy can be used to move the train without power in an emergency or released back into the catenary. If the tests are successful, supercap modules will be installed on all of the network's 32 vehicles.
The Indian Government has approved the Delhi Metro's plan to extend a number of lines as part of the third phase of the network's expansion.
The new projects will extend the metro system by 11km to Haryana at a cost of $360m, while $50m will be spent on a 2.7km extension to Shiv Vihar and the metro line from Dwarka to Najafgarh will undergo a 5.5km, $191m extension, to serve four new stations.
The countdown has begun for the US's new Tier 4 emissions standards, which are set to become a requirement in 2015.
In response, rail freight transportation company Union Pacific Railroad, which operates lines across the US Mid-West and West Coast, is testing a new emissions-reducing locomotive technology on 25 trains in two rail yards in California.
Union Pacific, along with the California Air Resources Board, will analyse the emissions reduced by the technology during the next year and a half.
In a disaster for Virgin Trains, which has operated the line since 1997, the UK Government has chosen FirstGroup as the next operator of the West Coast Main Line, running from London to Glasgow.
As part of its bid, FirstGroup has promised a raft of service improvements, including launching new services and introducing 11 new six-car trains to the line by 2016.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson issued a statement saying that FirstGroup's bid was far too high and the operator will almost certainly be unable to meet its commitments.
Japan Railways is continuing to expand its high-speed bullet train service, with construction now started on a 21km, $2.6bn route between Nagasaki and Isahaya.
The new service, scheduled for completion in 2022, will connect to the under-construction Takeo Onsen - Isahaya route, which should be finished by 2021. These projects form two parts of the three new Shinkansen lines approved by the Japanese Government in June 2012.
Despite a troubled development due to a lack of private bidders and numerous false starts, Brazil is preparing to open a new round of bidding for its $16.5bn high-speed rail line from Rio de Janeiro to Campinas via São Paulo.
Previous bids have failed due to the project's low cost projections and potentially unfavourable contract conditions, but Brazil's National Agency of Terrestrial Transport (ANTT) believes it has now come up with a better contract structure.
Bidding for the manufacturing of new trains is set to finish in May 2013, with the contract for building the tracks and all related infrastructure to follow in early 2014.
Virgin Trains has not taken its West Coast Main Line usurpation by FirstGroup lying down.
The company followed its initial complaints with official legal action against the UK's Department for Transport (DfT) regarding its award of the 13-year franchise to its rival, claiming that the contract is badly flawed and represents a risk to taxpayers and customers.
Virgin Trains said in a statement: "We are left with no choice but to commence court proceedings as we believe the procurement process has ignored the substantial risks to taxpayers and customers of delivering FirstGroup's bid over the course of the franchise."