INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1341 7 DECEMBER 2019
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: Pete Skelton, 1 rue Traversière, 16450 BEAULIEU SUR SONNETTE, France
to whom all email contributions should be sent. Email: [email protected]
Postal Contributions should be sent to: Paul Stewart, 4 Clarence Close, MALVERN, WR14 3HX
Deputy International Editor: Derek Woodward, 68 Church Street, MATLOCK, DE4 3BY
The joys of travelling abroad!
 Your New International Editor’s First Issue
Here is my first attempt at editing Branch Line News International. Paul Griffin is going to be a hard act
follow as he set such high standards for himself. It is, however, my intention to try to maintain those
standards and continue to produce an informative and interesting newsletter. To achieve that end, I
do need your help please. Any relevant contributions will be most welcome, be they reports of your
wanderings on the rails in foreign parts or any news items you come across as long as these are from a
reliable source. I also need people who are willing to write up items for inclusion in BLNI from raw
information supplied to them, I already have a volunteer to do this for Germany/Austria/Switzerland,
perhaps if you have knowledge or special interest in a particular country or region you would consider
offering your services. I am always open to suggestions for improvement of the offering or, indeed, for
any constructive criticism. I hope you will find this issue meets your expectations in terms of content
and readability, any feedback positive or negative will be welcomed.
 Austria - Jungle Express to lose scheduled passenger services in 2020
[BLNI 1340.417] Although the Bad Gleichenberg EMUs do date from the opening of the line as stated,
it should be noted that one was completely rebuilt with a new body in 1978 and the other in 1990.
The killer is the non-standard electrification at 1800v DC.
 Croatia/Greece/Hungary/Italy/Sweden - Infrastructure snippets from TR Europe
Croatia – The 52.4km railway line from Lupoglav to Raša is to be reopened to serve the docks at Raša.
The line closed in 2009 after damage from a major landslide.
Greece - A major project has started on the northern approaches to Athína (Athens) central station
which will see a four track railway built underground. Only one line will be open above ground for
several years, so some services from the north will terminate short of the central station.
Hungary – A 15km section of the Debrecen to Füzesabony railway is to be rebuilt to take heavier trains
(from the new BMW plant now under construction) and 3.6km section is to be built on a new
alignment. The line between Debrecen and Tócóvölgy will be doubled.
Italy – The 70km Potenza to Rocchetta San Antonio-Lacedonia section of the Potenza to Foggia railway
is to be electrified. Tenders were requested in June.
Sweden - The 891mm gauge Roslagsbanan serves the north eastern suburbs of Stockholm with a city
centre terminus at Stockholm Östra. Next year work will begin to construct a tunnel from just before
Stockholm Östra to the Stockholm central station.
 Croatia - Zaprešić to Zabok line reopened
This is the first section of the [Zagreb] - Zaprešić – Zabok – Varaždin – Čakovec – Kotoriba railway
covered by timetable 12. The Zaprešić to Zabok section was reopened on 1 November 2019
substantially rebuilt with minor realignments to increase line speeds. Stations and halts have been
modernised and electrification masts erected. Work continues on the electrification.
Additional info (Croatian only): http://www.hzinfra.hr/?p=20174
Project details (English) : http://www.eng.hzinfra.hr/?p=8426
 Denmark/Germany – Progress on the Vordingborg to Rødby doubling
A recent return trip from Hamburg to København (31 October - 1 November 2019) using the train
ferry, before it is withdrawn later this year, gave an opportunity to view progress on the Vordingborg
to Rødby doubling project. There is evidence of progress from north of Rødby - once the significant
and unused freight yards are passed - all the way to Vordingborg, with some (disconnected) track
already in place at some points, with little or no progress in other areas. The current single-track rail
and two-carriageway road bridge over the Storstrømmen (between Vordingborg and Orehoved) is
being replaced by a new bridge to the west. Enabling works for the rail route were visible on both
sides of the water, with a jetty being built out into the waterway on the south side. Although no work
on the planned new line was spotted on the German side between Puttgarden and Bad Schwartau, it
was interesting to see semaphore signals still in use at Neustadt. Both trains our member used were
well-filled and the train ferry was a very slick operation, with minimal delay - though it was a little
disconcerting to be moving onto the ferry at the same time as an articulated truck running alongside!
 Europe – March 2018 report on potential EU border crossings for reopening or development
This report entitled ‘Comprehensive analysis of the existing cross-border rail transport connections
and missing links on the internal EU borders’ can be found at:
Pages 50 to 54 are probably the most relevant to members for whom borders crossings are matters of
 France - Hendaye
The Euskotren station has been temporarily moved around 200 metres south because of
reconstruction works, which probably halves the distance to the Spanish border.
View from the entrance to the temporary station looking north towards the SNCF station. Photo: Ian Mortimer
The temporary platform has been built in a very restricted space. Photo: Ian Mortimer
 France – Ninth tram line in the Île-de-France will open in October 2020
The next new tram line is under construction from Paris Porte de Choisy to Orly Ville (not the airport).
It will be 10 km long and will replace Bus line 183 which is one of the busiest bus lines in Île de France.
Tram 9 will run mostly in a straight line through the southern suburbs of the Paris area and there will
be 17 stops between each terminus (a stop every 550 metres). At Porte de Choisy, the storage sidings
of the terminus will be adjacent to tramway 3a making it (apparently) a simple matter to physically
connect the two tram lines. The dimensions of the trams on the two lines are also identical (44 m x
2.65 m). However, we have not seen any plans to connect 3a to tram 9. There has never been any
strategy in the Île de France for an interconnected tramway such as can be found elsewhere in
continental Europe. In December 2016, 22 Alstom Citadis X05 long trams were ordered. The first will
be delivered in the next few weeks. Their capacity is 315 passengers. Tram 9 will be operated by
Keolis, a "first" for the Paris region where RATP operates all the other tram lines. [Courtesy of the
French Railways Society]
 France - Île-de-France Eastern extension of Tram 1 to Val de Fontenay
After more than a decade of delays caused by the successive mayors of Noisy-le-Sec, construction of
the eastern extension of Tram 1 from Noisy-le-Sec to Montreuil and Val-de-Fontenay has finally
started according to the latest newsletter dated June/July 2019. We discover that some major civil
engineering work is now underway. This involves the deconstruction of a motorway stub (A186) that
leaves the A3 motorway and cuts across the suburban town of Montreuil on a viaduct. This motorway
was opened in 1969 but never completed. It will now be removed and replaced by a ground level
avenue with trees and the new tramway. A new bridge for the tram, pedestrians and bicycles will be
built across the A3 motorway (Porte de Bagnolet - A1 north) between Noisy and Montreuil. It will be
no surprise that the trams are not expected to run before 2023. But good that there is now a firm
target. [Courtesy of the French Railways Society]
 France – Lille Flandres to Comines (France)
This 14 km branch line is due to close with the December timetable change. The line originally opened
in 1876 and continued by a bridge over the River Lys which marks the border with Belgium at this point
to the town of Comines (Komen in Flemish) on the Belgian side of the border, the line beyond Comines
(France) closed in 2012.
The last trains are expected to operate on Saturday 14 December 2019 as follows:
TER 844013 – 12:22 Lille Flandres – Comines
TER 844016 – 13:06 Comines – Lille Flandres
 France – Perpignan to Villefranche-de-Conflent to reopen
The line between Perpignan and Villefranche-de-Conflent could reopen. It has been closed since a
collision on 14 December 2017 between a school bus and a TER, on level crossing number 25 at Millas
where this line is crossed by the D612 road. The court of Marseille announced on 22 October 2019
that the judge in charge of the investigation had, on 17 October 2019, authorised SNCF to work on the
line with a view to its reopening. Inspections have already been completed to assess the extent of the
work required. According to the Préfecture des Pyrénées-Orientales, the line could reopen to
commercial traffic by the second half of March 2020.
Millas station from the level crossing.
 Germany – FlixTrain Rerouted
FlixTrain services between Berlin and Stuttgart are re-routed from the December timetable change.
Instead of going via Hannover Messe to Göttingen, they are routed from Berlin via Lutherstadt
Wittenberg, Erfurt and Eisenach to Fulda.
 Germany - New S-bahn line into Frankfurt Flughafen Regionalbahnhof being connected
BLNI 1255.174 reported that a new double track S-Bahn line from Frankfurt Stadion to Frankfurt
(Main) Flughafen Regionalbahnhof would open in December 2019. Construction started on 22
February 2016 and is to include a new station at Gateway Gardens.
The project is on schedule and from 26 October to 14 December 2019 the old eastern approach to the
Regionalbahnhof is closed, along with the station itself, so the new line can be connected. In this
period all trains use the Fernbahnhof which has reduced capacity as a consequence. This is why a
number of high speed services are being diverted away from the airport and using the old main line
and the Raunheim Caltex Raunheim Brunnenschneise curve to join the high speed line towards Köln
as reported in BLNI 1339.405. The new S-bahn line should open on 15 December and the old line from
the junction at Frankfurt Schwanheim to the Flughafen Regionalbahnhof will be dismantled.
 Norway – ERTMS programme commences
Norway is planning to use ERTMS signalling over the entire network of 4,200 km by 2034. In spring
2020 the technology will be deployed on the Roa to Hønefoss freight line for testing and if all goes to
plan the first railway line equipped and operated with ERTMS will be launched in October 2022.
Within three years ERTMS should be installed on the Grong to Bodø section of the Nordlandsbanen in
the northern part of the country.
 Poland - Imminent major track works at Kraków Główny
From the night of 29/30 November until mid-December (assumed to be timetable change weekend so
until 14 December) in connection with the installation of a new computer traffic control system there
are numerous service changes/diversions.
Firstly it will still be possible to travel direct between Podłęże and Kraków Główny and on IC diversions
via Nowa Huta, diversions via Nowa Huta appearing to continue throughout the 2019/20 timetable
period, but during the disruption period SKA1 trains from Wieliczka reach only Kraków Płaszów and
trains from Kraków Airport only Kraków Główny. Cross city substitute transport on trams 3 and 50 will
Some SKA2 trains from Miechów will go to the Kraków Płaszów station via Kraków Olsza omitting
Four SKA3 trains from Tarnów and one from Bochnia will stop at Kraków Olsza instead of Kraków
Regional Transport - Trains on the route from Rzeszów to Katowice will take a detour via the Kraków
Olsza station, bypassing Kraków Główny. Some services from Trzebinia will be served by substitute
buses on the section between Zabierzów and Kraków Główny.
PKP Intercity - The route of the Przemyśl - Świnoujście - Przemyśl trains has been changed; they will
take a roundabout route from Kraków to Mysłowice through Spytkowice bypassing Krzeszowice,
Trzebinia and Jaworzno Szczakowa stations. A replacement bus will run on the section between
Kraków and Mysłowice. Train IC 3524 to Olsztyn will start running at Kraków Płaszów at 15:08 and will
take the roundabout route bypassing the Kraków Główny station.
The PLK (Polskie Linie Kolejowe – The infrastructure subsidiary of PKP) summary of this and other
Kraków work states: As part of the modernisation of the Kraków cross-city line, PLK will rebuild nearly
20 km of track between the Kraków Łobzów and Podłęże. Flyovers, new bridges and viaducts are
being built. After completion of the upgrade, trains will travel at a speed of 160 km/h and in the
centre of Kraków 100 km/h.
 Russia – December Timetable International Service Changes
On the international routes of the Russian Railways it is time to say goodbye to the two Russian
sleeping car trains "Vltava" on the Moskva-Praha route (operated only once a week) and the "Polonez"
which operates three days a week between Moskva and Warszawa. As a replacement, instead of the
night trains, there will be a daily train on the Moskva-Warszawa-Praha route which will be diverted via
Minsk and Brest.
As for the few other trains to Western Europe (Moskva-Berlin, Moskva-Paris, Moskva-Nice) everything
remains largely the same. From December the Saarland gets a direct connection to and from Russia,
the weekly overnight train between Moskva and Paris being routed via Saarbrücken instead of
Karlsruhe and Strasbourg.
For other cross-border traffic, there will also be in new through coaches from Novorossiysk on the
Black Sea and Krasnodar to Baku in Azerbaijan. The coaches will go on the night train from Rostov-na-
Donu to Baku.
 Spain – Osuna to Pedrera
Those who are interested in Spain will remember that the line between Osuna and Pedrera was
severed when floods destroyed the bridge over the Rio Blanco at Aguadulce in October 2018.
Bustitution is still in force between Osuna and Antequera Santa Ana. Within a few months ADIF was
laying track on the alignment of the parallel formation of about 11 km of the never completed
Marchena - Antequera Santa Ana high speed line, whose bridge over the Rio Blanco was unaffected by
the floods. The formation was the property of the Junta (regional government) of Andalucia. The
work was completed last May and has been approved by the safety authorities. However, services
have not started because of bureaucratic problems, the route is not "state-owned" (presumably
meaning the national as opposed to regional government) and apparently no provision exists for
RENFE trains to run over non-State-owned lines.
It was thought that this had been resolved by the Junta agreeing to transfer it to the (national)
Ministry of Development. However, this is where politics rears its ugly head. The adviser to the Junta
President proposed that ownership of the Osuna – Pedrera line should be transferred to the national
government only if the government committed to building a line from Sevilla Santa Justa to the
airport. This was shortly before the (inconclusive) general election on 10 November, and horse-trading
is part and parcel of Spanish politics. As one might expect, different parties are in control at each level
– left wing in the central government and the town councils affected but right wing in the Junta. A
meeting was held between the adviser and the mayors of Pedrera, Osuna, Marchena and Arahal, the
towns affected by the missing section of line. However, it appears that no progress whatsoever was
made and that ownership of the line will not be transferred unless the Minister of Development
confirms ADIF's commitment to build the airport line. So clearly the line will not open for some time
or even never.
 Spain – Camp de Tarragona to Vandellòs
According to The Acting Minister of Development, José Luís Ábalos, the new line between Camp de
Tarragona and Vandellòs should be in operation before the end of the year. Looking at the RENFE
journey planner, services are continuing as normal until and including 26 December. From 27
December only the Barcelona - Sevilla Talgo and a Regional Express are shown. So perhaps the line will
open on 27 December but the new services haven't yet been loaded.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Argentina – Buenos Aires
A must-see for enthusiasts here is the breath-taking station of Plaza Constitución, the 14-platform
terminus of the erstwhile Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway, with its magnificent concourse very
similar in design to New York’s Grand Central. Electric and diesel trains run on its 5ft 6in gauge tracks.
The other major city terminus is Retiro which is actually not one, but three adjacent stations. On the
left is the grand edifice serving Línea Mitre, its graceful double-arch overall roof sheltering six double-
sided 5ft 6in gauge tracks (12 platform faces). This line uses electric trains with an unusual under-
running third-rail pick-up. On the right is the unprepossessing terminal of Línea San Martin, also of 5ft
6in gauge but diesel-worked. In between these two is the fine terminus of Línea Belgrano Norte, to
our eyes a most unusual operation, its commuter network operating on metre-gauge, with 6-coach
trains hauled by diesel locomotives. The national railway museum is alongside the Mitre station.
Tracks extending from Retiro to the port are out of use, but construction of a new dual-gauge access is
well advanced. A third commuter terminus is at Once. The city also has a substantial six-line
underground, known as the “Subte”, and until 1963 had a network of street tramways, some surviving
tracks can be found in the cobbled streets of the San Telmo district.
 Argentina - Tigre
For a pleasant outing from Buenos Aires, the Línea Mitre service to Tigre is recommended; entirely at-
grade, through pleasant suburbs, much work continues on replacing the many level crossings with
underpasses or by conversion to foot crossings. The older stations are very British in style and Tigre
has a smart 4-platform terminus. A short walk alongside the river passes two rowing clubs, one British
and one Italian in origin; both feature very narrow gauge tracks, formerly used for conveying boats
from their club premises across the street to the water’s edge. The Brits used grooved tramway rails,
the Italians a simpler rail. Continuing from here, the town’s other station called Delta can be reached;
it is a simple 2-platform structure, evidently cut back some distance from the original terminal
building. This line is served by the Tren de la Costa, a standard-gauge overhead-electric light-rail line,
using 2-car CAF trams. Running near to the coast, many stations feature cafés and shops. At its
southern terminus, Av. Maipú, there is an elaborate interchange with the Mitre line back to Buenos
Aires Retiro, bridging the avenue and featuring a shopping mall, but all now alas empty and
 Australia – The Overland threatened again
In a replay of last year’s saga, once again tickets for the Overland (Melbourne to Adelaide) are being
sold only to the end of year (last departure on sale 31 December 2019 from Melbourne, despite what
is said in some press articles). Victoria has yet to announce new funding and the South Australian
government has confirmed that it will not give any more subsidies to the service which almost
collapsed last year when the newly elected SA Liberal government pulled its subsidy of about $A1.2m
over four years. In the lead-up to the Victorian election in November last year, Labour stepped in with
a promise of $A3.17m to keep the service viable this year. However a year is a long time in politics and
there is no election coming up. Cheap air travel has seen rail patronage plummet from almost 46,553
in 2007 to 18,737 in 2017, with the Overland cutting its services from five a week in the 1990s to two a
week since 2013. The 828km journey starts at $A114 a ticket and is still popular with pensioners who
enjoy the day long trip. Country residents still rely on the service, which stops in towns such as Murray
Bridge, Bordertown, Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Stawell and Ararat.
 Canada – Obscure routes used by Toronto trams
As a global note, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) has a policy of permitting passengers on
streetcars at virtually all times that they are on the street, unless the vehicle has a maintenance issue,
resulting in a variety of obscure variants for all routes when streetcars are on their way to or from
carhouses, especially since some routes do not pass close to any carhouse.
Concerning the segment of Bathurst St between Bloor Street and St Clair Avenue, Hillcrest Shops is
currently only used for heavy maintenance and rebuilds, not as a regular storage yard.
Route 511 Bathurst therefore does not provide a service north of Bathurst Station. However,
streetcars from route 512 St Clair traverse the route on their way to and from Leslie Barns and
Roncesvalles Carhouses (responsibility to supply route 512 with vehicles has alternated between these
carhouses in recent years), these trips do carry passengers in both directions, 7 days a week, stopping
at all stops used by the route 7 bus which runs in parallel. Full schedules are not publicly available,
however it is possible to infer based on published route 512 trips that start or end at St Clair West
The same policy results in unpublished service on a branch leading to the Leslie Barns Carhouse, in
practice the branch sees heavy service before and after peak hours 7 days a week by streetcars
starting or ending service. Streetcars on the branch serve stops used by the parallel route 83 bus and
may be from virtually any route, as Leslie Barns is a major complex serving about half of the total
Lastly, there is another very limited route, 508 Lake Shore, which was just reintroduced in October
2019 after a 4 year hiatus. It runs Monday to Friday, 5 eastbound morning trips and 5 westbound
afternoon trips only, between Parliament & King Streets and Long Branch Loop. The 508 offers the
only direct trips from King Street to Long Branch and the only daytime through service between Long
Branch and Downtown Toronto (the 301 Queen Blue Night offers overnight through service, but all
daytime 501 Queen trips are split at Humber Loop, requiring a transfer).
Concerning the five eastbound 508 trips in the morning rush hour, once they reach Parliament & King
Streets, they run northbound on Parliament, in service because of TTC policy, and merge into the 506
westbound at Carlton. These trips are not published, but they provide the only current streetcar
service on Parliament St between King and Gerrard; riders can either remain on board or catch the
streetcar on Parliament at regular stops used by the parallel route 65 bus.
 Israel – PTG Tours Visit in 2020
Our friends at PTG Tours are planning a visit to Israel from 14 to 21 March 2020 with the aim of
covering all freight lines in the country along with other items of interest. Please refer to the PTG
Tours website via this link https://www.ptg.co.uk/rail-holiday-tour-israel for more details and to
express your interest.
 Morocco – New Works
Guercif station building is no more! It has been totally demolished and the early stages of building a
new station in the beautiful modern Islamic style are evident.
The absolutely massive new 8-platform terminus station at Oujda is now fully open and the old station
buildings to the side are closed. The size of this impressive new structure really has to be seen to be
A new South to West chord has been built from the Bouârfa freight line to the Oujda line at Beni Oukil,
seemingly a very recent project, which we assume will avoid Bouârfa freight trains running-round at
 Myanmar – News from Yangon
A recent traveller to Burma found that the Yangon Circular Railway is still partially closed for
renovation and resignalling and also has single line working between Pagoda Road and Kyi Mylin Dine
and also Pa Ywet Seik One and Tadalay.
The Circle line between Pa Ywet Seik One & Danyingon via Mingalardon has reopened and is worked as
two sections with Circle line trains terminating at Mingalardon for another train forward. The signalling
is not in operation on this section nor is the track connected at Danyingon.
Information on trains has always been difficult to come by and it seems to have got harder. The
English language electronic display boards giving timetable information at Yangon Central no longer
work and there are no longer any English language boards giving long distance train times.
The Computer University branch continues to have no service (that’s several years now) and the
Thilawa branch has definitely lost its rather sparse service.
 USA – Amtrak service to Quad Cities looking to go ahead
The name “Quad Cities” refers to five U.S. cities along the Mississippi River. Three are in Illinois
(Moline, Rock Island, and East Moline) and two are in Iowa (Davenport and Bettendorf). Bettendorf
qualified as a city only in the 1970s, but the name ‘Quad Cities’ stuck. The project to develop an
Amtrak line between Chicago and the Quad Cities dates back to the Obama Administration and
funding has steadily been found, though some must be used by 2024. The plan calls for round-trip
service between the Quad Cities and Chicago to be offered twice daily, with stops in the Illinois cities
of Geneseo, Princeton, Mendota, and Plano.
 USA - Boston area electrification go ahead
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board have
cleared the way for the electrification of the state’s commuter rail system. It was agreed that the
Newburyport/Rockport line would be first. This line connects Lynn, Revere, Chelsea and Everett to the
city of Boston. The Fairmont line in Boston and the Providence/Stoughton line also will be top