Built to coincide with Australia’s bicentenary celebrations in 1988, the Sydney monorail has proved less than popular with the city’s residents or the tourists it was built to serve.
Amid constant criticism regarding the monorail’s inefficiency and exorbitant ticket costs, the New South Wales government announced last month that it is inviting bids for the removal of the 3.6km system.
The dismantling of the much-maligned monorail is being carried out to make room for future expansions of the city’s much more successful light rail system, as well as the redevelopment of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The monorail will carry on operating under its current contract until 30 June 2013.
While the Sydney monorail approaches the end of its life, the first of two planned light rail lines has opened in the French city of Dijon, six months ahead of schedule.
T1, as the line is known, runs 8.5km from the city’s main railway station to the eastern suburb of Quetigny, stopping at 17 stations along the way. Dijon’s second tram line, T2, is scheduled to open at the end of 2012.
Alstom has provided 33 Citadis tramsets for Dijon’s lines, under a €100m order placed by the cities of Dijon and Brest for 53 tramsets in September 2009. The 200-passenger vehicles feature air conditioning, video surveillance and passenger information systems.
Rail development is gathering serious momentum in the Middle East.
Along with the likes of Saudi Arabia’s Haramain High Speed Railproject, Oman is planning its first major rail project, a $12.9bn line running 1,000km from the northern border town of Buraimi to the southern city of Salalah.
September brought news that nine international firms have expressed interested in bidding for a $155m design and consulting contract for the new line.
The deadline for bids, initially scheduled for July 2012, has now been pushed back to 5 October, with companies such as Systra, Parsons and Mott MacDonald reportedly set to compete for the contract.
The New South Wales government in Australia this month revealed its transport development plans for the next two decades, including investments of more than $100bn to improve transport infrastructure in Sydney and in the surrounding areas.
Rail is getting its fair share of funding, with the planned construction of the state’s North West and South West rail links, as well as a second tunnel under Sydney Harbour to improve access to the city’s central business district (CBD).
The second harbour crossing will host a new line from Redfern to Chatswood via Sydney’s CBD, increasing the number of peak-hour trains in the region by around 60%.
The rail freight business is booming in Canada, with consistent growth in traffic and freight volumes in 2011 and 2012 so far.
In order to cater to the projected growth in future demand, Canada’s largest railway, Canadian National Railway (CN), announced a huge round of procurement, including 2,200 freight cars, 1,300 containers, 200 multipurpose box cars and 317 multilevel cars.
The railway, whose network runs from northern Canada down to the US Gulf of Mexico, is hoping that the acquisitions will ensure predictable supply chains for future customers. Further investment includes the expansion of CN’s locomotive reliability centre in British Columbia, as well as the extension of key sidings in Prince George to accommodate the 10,000ft coal trains that operate in the province.
Advanced communications technologies are playing an increasingly important role in modern rail development, a fact that European rail industry association Unife has acknowledged with its newest member, telecommunications giant Alcatel-Lucent.
The company has joined Unife to help leverage ICT systems to improve safety and efficiency on European railways.
Alcatel-Lucent will reportedly lead Unife’s telecommunication working groups to define the needs of rail operators, infrastructure managers, passengers and freight companies.
US rail operator Amtrak is forging ahead with its high-speed rail plans on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), carrying out 165mph tests using its Acela trains.
The tests are taking place on four separate routes, covering around 100 miles in the states of New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maryland. The test runs will measure train-track interaction, rider quality and a number of safety factors.
The tests represent the early stages of Amtrak’s ambitious expansion plans for the NEC, including the introduction of NextGen HSR and large-scale capacity increases on the network.