INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1250 6 FEBRUARY 2016
BRANCH LINE NEWS
This newsletter covers the World outside the British Isles from information
supplied by members.
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Compilers or of the Society.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS TEAM:-
International Editor (to whom all email and postal contributions should be sent):
Paul Griffin, 7 School Bell Mews, Church Lane, Stoneleigh, COVENTRY, CV8 3ZZ
Email: [email protected]
Deputy International Editor: Derek Woodward, 68 Church Street, Matlock, DERBY, DE4 3BY
 Czech Republic - Praha Žižkov branch finally closes
BLNI1116.282 announced in 2010 that this branch in the east of Praha was to close in October of that year
and be dismantled with the land sold for development. Over four years later the last freight train ran
(online newspaper E15.cz reported container empties at around 22:00 on 31 December 2015 as being the
last train), and the container traffic was redirected to Melnik.
 Finland/Estonia - Rail tunnel gathers momentum
Estonia’s accession to the EU in 2006 led to renewed interest in the idea of an 80km rail tunnel under the
Baltic linking the capital cities of Tallinn and Helsinki, a journey presently accomplished by a two hour ferry
ride. About eight million ferry journeys are made each year, Finns purchasing alcohol going one way and
Estonian commuters working in Finland the other way. On Tuesday 5 January Estonian and Finnish
ministers signed a memorandum of understanding promising to improve connections, including further
investigations on the idea of a tunnel to bolster the one million population economic area formed by
Helsinki and Tallinn. A recent preliminary study suggested that the fixed link could be built for between
€9bn and €13bn, would treble travel and boost trade between the cities in its first decade, and see 25m
journeys by 2040. The tunnel is also enshrined in the Rail Baltica concept, the €3.6bn high-speed train line,
which will run from Tallinn to Poland and link into Western Europe’s rail networks – and could also connect
Helsinki directly via train to Berlin and beyond. EU funding would be essential and applications have been
made for feasibility study funding. Should the project go ahead, a Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel could be a reality
 Georgia - Tbilisi Children’s Railway
Tbilisi has suffered terrible flooding problems in 2015 and our correspondent was very sceptical as to
whether the railway would still be operational, or indeed, would it even be open in October? In fact, the
railway is open from March to November and a visit on Saturday 17 October found the railway open for
business. It is located in Mushtaidi Garden, just across the road from the Dinamo Tbilisi football ground, so
is easy to find. The southern part of the park is a children's funfair whilst the northern half which the
railway runs round looked rather dilapidated, possibly due to flood damage, equally possibly due to
The original steam engine for the line, AK-1721, is plinthed adjacent to the station. A plate on the cab
reads in Georgian script “first steam locomotive in the world on a children’s railway in Tbilisi, 1935”. In fact
this was also the first Children’s Railway in the world. Operating on a 1.2 km track, it was a 750mm
gauge railway, complete with real wagons and locomotives with the railway operated by schoolchildren
aged 9-15 years old who, under supervision of the adult instructors, drove trains and worked as traffic
controllers or as assistants to station-masters and guards. Little has changed. Though the railway was
closed from 1990-1992 at the peak of an economic crisis in Georgia, it was reopened and then refurbished
in 1999. The locomotive (only one was present) was Kambarka built TU7 B-B diesel-hydraulic TU7-2044.
This class was the standard Soviet narrow gauge design from the early 1970s. There were three open
coaches (i.e. no upper side walls or windows), although one (possibly two) coaches in the siding were of
the closed type complete with glazed windows and doors, suitable for operation in the colder months.
The operation consists of the locomotive leading out of the dead end platform then running twice anti-
clockwise around the loop before setting back into the dead end platform. There used to be two platforms
on the loop section, but while recognisable, they are disused. There were also sidings and depot in the
middle of the loop, but the sidings are gone, though a building, presumably the depot, remains.
 Germany – Halensee Kurve
The Halensee Kurve links the Stadtbahn and the Ringbahn, allowing trains to run direct between
Charlottenburg and the south side of the Ring. Passenger services are limited to two trains from
Charlottenburg at the start of service and two back late at night. From August 1999 until June 2009 the
curve was used quite regularly by the ‘Panorama S-Bahn’, a pre-war S-Bahn train specially refurbished and
converted for sight-seeing. A regular itinerary was to run in a loop, usually from Ostbahnhof, via the south
side of the Ring and back along the Stadtbahn. A special trip was made on 3 November 2004 for HM The
Queen and Prince Philip. The tour was withdrawn in 2009 because serious technical problems with the
regular S-Bahn fleet overwhelmed maintenance capacity at the depots. In November 2011 the unit was
moved to Halle-Ammendorf. In 2013 it was reported that it would cost more than 2m Euros to return it to
operational condition and S-Bahn Berlin GmbH could not justify the cost. The unit was transferred to
Verein Historische S-Bahn e.V., a society that preserves historic S-Bahn vehicles, in 2015, and is now stored
at Erkner. There is no realistic chance of traversing the Halensee Kurve any time soon while seated on a
comfy chair and being served coffee and cakes. The best prospect for doing the line at a reasonably
civilised time, and in daylight, is on Sunday mornings, when departures from Charlottenburg are at 06:58
 Germany – New high speed line opened on 13 December
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has opened a new high-speed rail line linking Erfurt with Leipzig and
Halle. Completion of the 123-kilometre railway marks a major milestone in the German Unity Transport
Project No. 8 (VDE8) – a 500km high-speed rail link currently being completed between Berlin and
München and scheduled for completion by 2017. The new railway involved the construction of three
tunnels and six viaducts.
Leipzig Hbf to Airport 311.896 to 293.174 Opened 15.12.2002
Airport to Gröbers Junction 293.174 to 285.401 Opened 30.06.2003 (Gröbers being on the original Leipzig-
Gröbers East Junction to Erfurt Hbf 287.024 to 191.078 Opened 13.12.2015
Also opened on 13.12.2015 is a connection from Halle to the new high speed line
Existing line 6340 Halle minus 0.159 (-0.159)
Ammendorf Junction 5.162 (6340) = 3.614 (6394)
Planena Junction 0.009 (6394) = 274.375 (5919)
Leipzig Hbf to Erfurt Hbf is line 5919 throughout
 Italy – Ancona Marittima branch closes
The short branch (1.7km) from Ancona to Ancona Marittima closed to passenger trains on 13 December
2015. The costs associated with safety improvements appear to have been a significant factor as the line
was unfenced and another issue was access to the docks area due to a level crossing.
 Italy – Southern Sicily update
In the new timetable buses continue to replace trains between Gela and Caltagirone due to a bridge
collapse near Niscemi. An internet trawl reveals that the bridge has now been completely demolished, but
there are, as yet, no plans to replace it. Canicatti to Gela has also been closed and bus substituted,
probably from 21 December 2014, allegedly for engineering works. An announcement in January 2016
revealed that €35M was to be spent on upgrades and improvements to the Canicatti – Gela – Comiso
section with work scheduled to commence in March and be completed by the end of the year.
 Poland - Bydgoszcz Tram extension opens
On 16 January a 9.5 km extension of the metre gauge tram network in Bydgoszcz opened, linking
Wyścigowa with Łoskoń in the Fordon district in the east of the city. Routes 3, 5, 7 and 10 serve the new
line. The new line includes a 530 m long bridge over Bydgoszcz Wschód railway station, which provides
interchange between trains and trams.
 Poland/Belarus – Cross border line closes to passenger services
The timetable change saw passenger trains between Kuźnica Białostocka (Poland) and Grodno (Belarus)
withdrawn due to low passenger numbers and a large operating deficit. Increasing competition by bus
operators has not helped either.
 Poland - Even more on the Pomeranian Metropolitan Railway
Reference BLN 1242-364 and taking the points highlighted in this article in the order they are presented.
Wrzeszcz has three platforms but with the Pomeranian Metropolitan Railway (PMR) now in full use
platform usage by services particularly running eastwards towards Wrzeszcz is quite varied. There are
three options for services. Firstly they can run over the flyover (which is confirmed as being in use) into
platform three and this does not only happen with services running onwards to Gdańsk Glowny but also by
terminating services. The second option is to initially veer right and take the non-flyover route and then
make a double weave into platform 3, which appears to happen even without a conflicting service over the
flyover. Thirdly, and what seems the most obvious option, is remaining on the south side of the layout and
running into platform 1 which seems to be for terminating and starting services. It does not appear that
services run east out of platform 1 and the track is fairly rusty indicating only infrequent use. Going west
the route is more certain either from platform 1 via the non-flyover route or from platform 3 by the
flyover. Arrivals into platform 3 from the PMR are 06:06 M-F, 07:16, 08:25 M-F, 08:54, 10:54 M-F, 11:19 M-
F, 12:24, 13:32 M-F, 14:24, 17:18 M-F, 18:04 M-F, 18:29 M-F, 19:09 M-F, 20:49 M-F, 21:28 and 22:09 M-F
and so must take the flyover or the "double weave" option.
Beyond the Airport the single track line running south towards its junction with the line towards
Kościerzyna is with commencement of services to Kartuzy in use, and trains access Kartuzy from the
reinstated and rebuilt northern line which counter-intuitively veers away eastwards before crossing above
the line continuing towards Kościerzyna. At Kartuzy trains use the rebuilt and very tidy new platform on
the north side which is where the previous summer service from Somonino also operated into. The new
regular service over this route does not appear to have started. The old signalbox at the end of the
platform has been demolished but the old station building remains semi-derelict across the tracks to the
south while Kriegslok Ty2-14 built by Henschel in 1943 continues to rust away in the foliage just off the
platforms to the north.
Kartuzy station platforms photographed on 28 July 2011 with the summer only service from Gdynia via
Somonino flanked by rusting Kriegslok Ty2-14 and ST44 798.
Kartuzy station platforms photographed on 23 December 2015 with the train from Gdansk via Barkowo
and the Pomeranian Metropolitan Railway
Proceeding northwards from the airport around the double track curve towards Gdansk Osowa the whole
route has been rebuilt, including loops around two island platforms at Osowa with the main lines in
between. These appear to be the main tracks in use with the occasional terminating services here from the
Gdańsk direction turning around in the east side loop. Further north the intermediate station of Gydnia
Wielki Kack is served in both directions by a single track loop off the new double track formation adjacent
to the east; from a perusal of the timetable no train appears to omit this stop and so these tracks appear at
least currently to be a provision only for freight, which explains why they are quite rusty! The loop diverges
at km194.1 and converges at km195.1 and trains proceeding northwards have to do both crossovers. It is
reasonable to presume in future that if the line has other services not serving this station they will use the
new double track section in its entirety.
Approaching the flying junction to the east of Gdynia your correspondents train took the flyover line and
then subsequently proceeded to weave back towards Perron V which is the westernmost platform at
Gdynia. From here it returned via the non-flyover route towards Gdańsk airport. Perusal of the arrivals
sheets indicated there is now quite a spread of arrivals from this route into both Perron II and V so it might
now be possible that all services use the routes relative to direction of travel. Certainly their platform
usage cannot be used definitively to pre-determine the route used to get there.
 Poland – Construction of Kraków Płaszów avoiding line announced
BLNI 1196.443 reported that a new curve was planned between Kraków Zabłocie and Kraków Krzemionki
to allow trains from Kraków Główny to proceed directly onto the Zakopane line without reversal at Kraków
Płaszów. Construction of the new curves (1.2 km and 1.4 km long) was formally announced by
infrastructure manager PKP PLK on 21 December. Zabłocie and Krzemionki stations are to be rebuilt as part
of the project, which also includes modernisation of infrastructure along the existing lines.
 Serbia – Line reopens
Banatsko Miloševo to Subotica has reopened to passenger trains from the December timetable change.
 Slovakia - Obscure route changes and new Bratislava area local tickets
In previous years there have been a number of peak hour commuter services in/out of Bratislava-Nové
Mesto on lines 120 and 130 which take obscure routes. From the new timetable these are greatly reduced.
Just three early morning arrivals on T120 and one on T130, and no departures at all.
The local tickets around Bratislava have been revamped from 1 November - details here -
In a similar fashion to Prague some tickets are now also valid on ZSSK regional trains - the 24hr Zones
100/101 ticket for €3.50 covers trams, buses and trains within a limited area. Of more interest may be the
24hr "all zones" ticket (€6.90) which is also valid on trains much further out on lines 110, 120 & 130 (see
map shown in the link above).
The Kysak avoiding line has had a Friday/Sunday train pair for several years, but this has now been
supplemented by a daily EC service each way, albeit both in the late evening.
Additionally, the first kilometre of the Moldava nad Bodvou to Medzev branch has reopened, with services
from Kosice now continuing from Moldava nad Bodvou to Moldava nad Bodvou mesto and vice versa.
 Spain - Valencia avoiding line closed to passenger trains?
Local observations suggest that the practice of reversing locomotive hauled through trains in and out of
Valencia Nord using the avoiding line (Valencia Fuente San Luis - Alfafar-Benitusser) may have ceased.
Other enquiries revealed that the trains are re-engined at Valencia Nord, so the avoiding line may have lost
its passenger service.
 Spain - A visit to the Valencia area
A member recently visited the Valencia area and has provided an update on developments. An article in
Geotren provides an overview of proposed changes from March 2014, and the diagrams in this are the
basis of the diagram in this item. http://www.geotren.es/blog/corredor-mediterraneo-configuracion-
ferroviaria-a-medio-plazo-para-el-entorno-de-valencia/. Apologies to paper BLNI readers who will not see
the colour coding, but most of the features of interest can be deduced.
Iberian Gauge trains from Cuenca had been terminating in the outskirts of Valencia at Sant Isidre. From 19
September trains started to run via a new connection onto the dual gauge line that avoids Valencia Nord to
Fuente San Luis, where they reverse and run to Valencia Nord. The tunnel between Sant Isidre and Fuente
San Luis (also known as Hospital de la Fe) is now complete with Iberian gauge (IG) tracks laid although only
one of the two is connected at the Fuente San Luis end. Three trains per day are scheduled to use this link,
these being the Regional Express services between Valencia and Madrid via Cuenca. The C-4 and C-6
Cercanias services continue to terminate at Sant Isidre.
In future trains from Cuenca will run through another, as yet incomplete, tunnel directly into Valencia Nord
using the as yet unbuilt connecting line B.
1.6km north west of Sant Isidre heading towards Cuenca a branch used to go north west to Quart de
Poblet, Riba Roja and Lliria. This has been progressively cut back over the years and now only the first 600
metres remain serving a station at Xirivella L'Alter. Our member visited this short branch, the most recent
truncation being Xirivella L'Alter to Quart de Poblet in 2005. He walked from Xirivella Alqueries (10
minutes) and found the terminus station to be very run down with no facilities, not even a ticket machine.
No-one got off the inbound service and he was the only passenger on the return working at 10:45. He was
however forced to buy a ticket as Sant Isidre before he could exit the station there to continue his journey
by metro. The Valencia to Barcelona line is being converted to dual Iberian gauge and standard gauge, with
Valencia to Castelló de la Plana currently under conversion. Our member travelled as far as Castelló de la
Plana and found that one track only had been relaid throughout for conversion to mixed SG/IG. As far as
the north end of Sagunt it is the Valencia-bound track that is being converted, from Sagunt to Castello it is
the Barcelona-bound track. Installation of the third rail is complete through the underground section at
Valencia Cabanyal and between Sagunt and Moncofa but otherwise there remains much work to be done.
There is no sign yet of the crossovers that will be required to get the SG track into Joaquin Sorolla. See A.
The new high speed line from Joaquin Sorolla to Xativa (E) has ballasted SG track but no electrification as
yet. It was completed in 2011, since when is has remained completely unused. Whilst travelling out to
Xativa on the IG line our member noted south of Silla a new tunnel in the early stages of construction
which will provide an SG or mixed gauge connection to the Ford factory there. See D. Extension of SG in
the future towards Alicante will require a new connection at C.
The C-2 Cercanias service from Valencia currently terminates a short distance west of Xativa at L'Alcudia de
Crespins with bus connection onwards to Moixent since 2 March 2010. This section of line has been under
reconstruction for some time to widen the formation to take two tracks. Currently one IG track has been
relaid from Moixent to within 300m of L'Alcudia but work seems to have all but stopped there for the
moment. Our member understands there is uncertainty on how to deal with the remaining section
between L'Alcudia and Moixent which includes a long cutting close to residential properties, a substantial
road bridge and the single track viaduct approach to Xativa that should also be widened but which would
require expensive and disruptive solutions. He is not aware of any proposed date for completion of this
and full reopening of this section of line.
 Spain/ Portugal - Recent visit to two metros
A member who visited Tenerife and Lisboa (Lisbon) last year comments that neither seem to have been
mentioned much in BLNI of late. Firstly Tenerife, or more correctly its capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a
fairly new entry of 2007 to the ‘tram world’. Line 1 runs from La Laguna Intercambiador (near the Opera
House) to La Trinidad via Hospital. The shorter line 2 running from La Cuesta to Tince intersects and shares
the track between Hospital and El Cardonal. Tickets may be purchased at multilingual machines
(thankfully!), but must be validated by another machine on entering the trams, which are 5 section Alstom.
Two days later our member had time after the normal ‘touristy stuff’ to have a ride on the Lisbon Metro
consisting of four lines: Blue, Yellow, Green and Red. His journey was on the ‘Blue’ line, which he joined at
Terreiro do Paço for the short ride to Santa Apolónia, both stations convenient for cruise ships. This line
originates at Amadora Este in the north west of the city and opened in 2007. Santa Apolónia is also a small
main line terminus with the next stop Oriente being larger. The Yellow line runs from Rato to Odivelas
intersecting the Blue line at Marquês de Pombal. The Green line runs from Cais do Sodré (also a mainline
terminus) on the riverside to Telheiras near the University, intersecting Yellow at Campo Grande, Red at
Alameda and Blue at Baixa-Chiado. The Red line starts at São Sebastião on the Blue line and runs to
Aeroporto, intersecting Yellow at Saldanha and Green as above and also has a station at Oriente. The ticket
machines are multilingual, but not as easy as those in Tenerife to use the first time.
 Sweden - Passenger trains return to Trelleborg
The 34km long line from Malmö to Trelleborg is known as the Continental line due to Trelleborg’s ferry
links with Baltic ports, especially Sassnitz, which is recent years has seen a summer-only Berlin - Malmö
train service by train ferry to/from Trelleborg. Despite being busy for freight the line has had no regular
passenger service since the 1970s, but over the last few years infrastructure manager Trafikverket has
modernised the Continental Line including upgrading track for 160km/h operation and the construction of
two new intermediate stations at Ostra Grevie and Västra Ingelstad. Trelleborg station, which is on a short
spur off the train ferry line, has also been restored and upgraded as the town's main public transport
interchange. Services started on 12 December when Skånetrafiken introduced Pågatåg regional services
operating at half-hourly intervals for most of the day.
 Switzerland - Waldenburgerbahn to be regauged
The 13.1 km line from Liestal to Waldenburg is known as the Waldenburgerbahn. It opened in 1880 and
was electrified in 1953 at 1.5KV DC. Today it is the only passenger-carrying 750 mm gauge conventional
railway in Switzerland. Now plans have been approved to regauge the line to 1000 mm by 2022. This will
require a one year suspension of services.
 Switzerland – Part of classic Gotthard route to close soon
The introduction of ETCS between Altdorf and Erstfeld on 16 August 2015 also saw the first stage of track
layout alterations in the area. The original line was diverted to the east to form a conflict free junction with
the lines to and from the base tunnel. The following figures are provisional: Altdorf 35.25km, deviation
point 38.03km, Rynächt Junction 38.66km, deviation point 40.61km = 40.56km (50m more) and Erstfeld
41.58km. Southbound trains are currently using the new northbound track and northbound trains continue
to use the original ‘classic’ line. In March 2016 the flyover line will be commissioned and the 3.5km of
original track closed and removed.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Australia - Mount Isa line recovery and deviation line
At approximately 10:20 on Sunday 27 December, a 26 wagon freight train carrying sulphuric acid derailed
on the Mount Isa line at Quarrells, 20 kilometres east of Julia Creek. The Inlander passenger train was
replaced by road coaches in both directions between Townsville and Mount Isa. Freight services were
limited to those between Mount Isa and Phosphate Hill. The full recovery of the line is expected to be a
complex and lengthy process, but work began to construct an 800 metre deviation on 8 January. More
than 50 Queensland Rail staff worked around the clock constructing the track, which involved laying more
than 1000 sleepers, 1.6 kilometres of rail and 2800 tonnes of ballast. Completion was expected in the
middle of w/c Monday 11 January.
 Ethiopia - Second light rail line opens
The second light rail line in Addis Ababa opened on 9 November. The 17.4 km Green Line has 22 stops and
runs east from Ayat to Tor Hailoch, sharing tracks with the north-south Blue Line on a 2.7 km, five-stop
stretch between Lideta and Meskel Square. The north-south Blue Line began revenue service on 20
September, after a period of test running that started on 1 February. The 16.9 km route links Menelik
Square with Kaliti, serving 23 stops
 Russia (Asiatic) – Most northerly railway in the world to be extended
VIS TransStroy signed a concession agreement on 30 December to extend Gazprom's Obskaya –
Bovanenkovo Yamal Peninsula line, which is already the world's northernmost railway, north to the port of
Sabetta on the western shore of the Ob estuary.
The 170km 1520mm-gauge line will cost Roubles 113bn ($US 1.54bn) to construct and is due to be
completed by 2019. VIS TransStroy will design, build and operate the line until 2036, when control of the
railway will be transferred to the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region. The railway will support the export
of natural gas from the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoye gas field through a new port at Sabetta on the Arctic coast,
where an LNG plant is being constructed.
The railway will be 572 kms long (525 kms to the Bovanenkovo station) and include 5 stations and
70 bridges with a total length of more than 12 kilometres. So far 472 kms of rail have been laid. The terrain
is extremely challenging with permafrost and extensive areas of marsh requiring special construction
techniques. For example embankments are made of wet sandy silt which has great strength at subzero
temperatures. A unique multi-layer heat insulation system is laid over the silt to keep it below zero in the
summer. The line will carry passengers as well as freight and will be constructed as a single-track line with
provision for the addition of a second track in the longer-term. The maximum speed for passenger and
freight trains will be 50km/h. The map (e-BLNI only) was produced by Gazprom.
 Thailand/Malaysia – More cross border trains
A twice-daily cross-border passenger service between Hat Yai in Thailand and Padang Besar in Malaysia
was inaugurated by officials from State Railway of Thailand and KTMB with a ceremony at Hat Yai on
December 21. Regular services began the following day. The services on the 60 km route are operated
using SRT diesel multiple-units, with a journey time of 50 minutes. There are joint border facilities at
Padang Besar. The services are aimed at cross-border commuters as well as tourists, and are timed to
connect with KTMB trains on the recently modernised and electrified route to Kuala Lumpur.