California releases funds for Caltrain modernisation project


Caltrain’s $1.5bn project to modernise commuter rail in California and prepare the corridor for high-speed rail received a welcome boost in October.

The rail operator received $39.8m in funding from the California Transportation Commission (CTC), which will be put towards the implementation of a communications-based overlay signal system, which will pave the way for full electrification and positive train control.

China opens Zhengzhou-Wuhan high-speed rail link

China has positioned itself at the very centre of the high-speed rail revolution, developing a number of major high-speed projects to improve mobility and boost economic growth across the country. The latest to open is the Zhengzhou – Wuhan line, a 536km route linking the capitals of Henan and Hubei provinces.

Journey times between the two cities have been dramatically cut from four and a half hours to just less than two hours. Construction of the $9bn, 350km/h line began in 2008, and its completion will contribute to China’s goal of building 16,000km of high-speed lines by 2020.

UK DfT cancels West Coast Main Line rail contract


The dispute over the UK Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to award the West Coast Main Line (WCML) franchise to FirstGroup took a dramatic turn at the beginning of October, with the DfT cancelling the $5.5bn deal after concerns over the bidding process were raised by previous franchise operator Virgin and others.

The cancellation threw the future of the West Coast Main Line, the UK’s most important cross-country rail link, into doubt, as it had not yet been made clear what would happen when Virgin’s original franchise period ran out in December 2012.

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Study supports $11bn Canberra – Sydney high-speed rail link

Canberra Airport

Plans to provide a better link between Canberra Airport and Sydney have been under consideration for a long time in Australia, as Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport is close to capacity and Canberra could provide an essential second air hub for the country’s most populous city.

An $11bn plan to build a high-speed rail line has been given support by a new study by Canberra Airport, which predicts that the line would be used by 12 million passengers a year by 2036.

The proposed line would cut journey times between Canberra and Sydney to just less than an hour.

Virgin Rail to run West Coast rail line for at least nine to 13 months

Following the cancellation of FirstGroup’s contract to run the West Coast Main Line franchise, the UK DfT settled concerns about the its short-term future by awarding Virgin an interim contract to continue to operate the West Coast route for at least nine to 13 months.

During this time, the DfT will run a competition to operate WCML for two years until the long-term bidding process is reviewed and a long-term franchise is ready to begin. Fixing the DfT’s flawed bidding system will be a major priority for the government, as bidding has been suspended for other important rail franchises such as Great Western, Thameslink and Essex Thameside.

Crossrail moves forward with east London tunnel construction

Tunnel boring machine

London’s massive rail construction project Crossrail continues apace, with contractors now ready to begin tunnelling work to link Royal Oak and Farringdon.

A 550t tunnel boring machine (TBM) named Elizabeth was lowered into a 40m shaft near Canning Town station in east London, to begin preparations for creating an 8.3km tunnel from the Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon station.

Another TBM, Victoria, is due to join Elizabeth to start tunnelling in late 2012.

Workers at Canary Wharf station, which is on the route to Farringdon, are already preparing to receive Elizabeth by breaking out the hard concrete at the tunnel eyes to allow the TBM to enter the station more easily in 2013.

New York transport system crippled by Hurricane Sandy

Long Island Rail Road

Rail transport in New York, US, was hit hard by the arrival of Superstorm Sandy at the end of October. Floodwater had entered seven subway tunnels under the East River, and the Long Island Rail Road reported flooding at its West Side rail yards and another East River tunnel.

Sections of the New Haven Line and the Metro-North Railroad were affected by power failure as the storm ripped through the city. New York officials are planning to rely heavily on bus services while the subway system recovers from the damage.

The city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was widely praised for its pre-emptive actions before the storm hit, which are thought to have limited damage and improved safety during the storm.

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