INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1314 13 OCTOBER 2018
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
The report in BLNI 1309.284 of possible closure of the Lichterfelde West to Goerzallee branch in Berlin caught the
eye of one member who discovered motor draisine shuttles operating over the branch on a weekend when he was
in Germany. Accordingly he made his way to Goerzallee and managed to find a free place on the otherwise fully
reserved shuttles. The picture is taken at the current end of the line at Goerzallee, with the factory sidings behind
him as he took the photograph. The good news is that the Märkische Kleinbahn, who have been involved in the
Goerzbahn since the 1980s, are now to take over its operation completely from 1 January 2019 and thus hope to
save the line, although details of any future freight or museum traffic are not yet clear.
Their website http://mkb-berlin.de/zeuhag.htm has some more information.
 Albania – Vlorë line partly reopened
A timetable poster in Rrogozhine valid from 1 September 2018 showed that services Durrës –
Rrogozhine – Fier have started again, with two train pairs daily, the trains leaving Durrës at 06:45 and
13:25. Fier - Vlorë is still under reconstruction.
 Austria – Murtalbahn upgrading decided
Ideas of converting this line (partly, as far as Murau) to standard gauge and electrifying have been
dropped. However, the whole StLB line is to be upgraded (relaid?) and four sections with sharp
curves straightened out. There will be new stock as well. Timescales are Unzmarkt - Murau: 2019 –
2022 and Murau - Tamsweg 2022 - 2026. Tamsweg - Mauterndorf is not included as the line is too far
from the centre of Mariapfarr and goes nowhere near St. Michael so buses are more cost-effective,
but the Taurachbahn will continue running tourist trains.
 Austria - Gmunden tram link completed
Historically the Strassenbahn Gmunden started at Gmunden bahnhof (on the Attnang-Puchheim to
Bad Ischl railway), and ran for 2.3km to Franz-Josef Platz, from where it was a short walk, crossing the
river Traun, to Gmunden Seebahnhof, the start of the 14.7km Traunseebahn, which ran to Vorchdorf-
Eggenberg. Both lines were metre gauge, though electrified at different voltages, and it was a logical
step to join them. Work started in 2013 and the 230 metre Gmunden Seebahnhof to Klosterplatz
section opened on 13 December 2014. The remaining 620 metres from Klosterplatz to Franz-Josef
Platz opened on 1 September 2018, allowing the Stern & Hafferl (StH) fleet of Stadler Rail
Valencia Tramlink V3 low-floor LRVs to start a Gmunden bahnhof to Vorchdorf-Eggenberg through
service marketed as Traunseetram.
 Austria/Slovenia – Drautalbahn to get enhanced service
An Austrian press article claims that the Drautalbahn, which runs Bleiburg - Holmec [-Maribor] is going
to gain 11 additional train pairs on the cross-border section from December 2019. Two additional SO
train pairs were introduced for summer 2018. Closure has been a threat in recent years, so maybe the
line is being given a chance to see what it can do. One hopes the new services are well patronised.
 Czech Republic - Liberec to Česká Lípa line to be upgraded
Czech Railways infrastructure company SŽDC intends to modernise the line between Liberec and Česká
Lípa starting with the section from Česká Lípa to Rynoltice between 2020 and 2022.
The project involves two major and two minor deviations between Zákupy and Mimoň, one of which
will lead to the closure of Zákupy station and the construction of a new station called Zákupy-Božíkov.
In addition, Jablonné in Podještědí, Rynoltice and Karlov pod Ještědem stations are to be rebuilt. The
works will allow 100km/h running between Mimoň - Brniště and Brniště - Jablonné v Podještědí.
Acceleration is also to take place in the section between Liberec and Karlov pod Ještědem.
Reconstruction of the section between Jablonné v P. and Rynoltice is proposed. In the short term it is
intended to accelerate trains from December 2018, partly by reducing the station calls of some
 Czech Republic – Čelákovice to Mochov
This short reopened branch (table 233) has three return trips morning and evening, run by a KZC-
owned single unit railcar, in this case 810-517 (aka M156-0517). CD and PID tickets appear not to be
valid, so a single cost our member CZK18.
He travelled on the second evening train on Friday 14 September
(leaving at 17:54, train 18328) and there were only three young
passengers going down - and not perhaps surprisingly, none coming
back up at 18:39 (train 18329). The following (last) service down the
branch left with only two people on board. The station building
appears to have been someone's house and might still be, although
well boarded up downstairs. There is a small shed at Mochov which may house the unit overnight.
Beyond the station the line crosses a small river and continues into a factory although this has clearly
not been used for many years.
The station building at Mochov
A short run round loop north of the platform, stretching back to km 3.7 has not been either. The
station is on one side of the large village, which cannot help the custom. Given small passenger
volumes, our member recommends doing it sooner rather than later if you still require it.
The picture shows the station building, the loop and small shed at Mochov, and makes clear the isolation of the
station from the town. Not ideal for attracting passengers.
 Estonia – New line to Tallinn port
The Estonian capital Tallinn is preparing a tender for new LRVs, which will be used on a new line to the
 France – Arches to Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges up for closure
The [Epinal] – Arches - St.-Die-des-Vosges line is widely believed to be closing at the timetable change
this December. A member visiting the line on 8 September noted a poster at Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges
Poster protesting against closure of the line
The 10:22 from Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges on Saturday 8 September was reasonably used although a 2-
coach unit would have been enough - it didn't need the new 4-coach Alsthom Régiolis hybrid
electric/diesel unit. People were joining and leaving at many of the intermediate stops. He was
expecting many kms of severe speed restrictions but the condition of track is better than he has seen
elsewhere. There was one very, very slow section near Corcieux-Vanémont and a short slow section
near Lépanges but that was it.
The colour coding in this GPS screen dump makes line speeds clear
By comparison with other lines he has done in France, it's not obvious why it is closing. Usage was
good and only a small section has a severe speed restriction. There are no regional boundaries
involved as both Epinal and St.-Die-des-Vosges are in Grand Est. A little research on-line threw up
some interesting information. SNCFs reasons for proposing closure relate to the state of the Vanémont
tunnel and deteriorating track condition requiring a 40km/h limit to be imposed along the entire line.
Local railwaymen rubbish these claims. It appears to be a classic case of ‘we want to close the line, so
let’s find some problems’.
 Germany – A Sunday on North German minor railways
A summer Sunday in Germany provides an opportunity to visit tourist lines that operate on only a few
days a year. Lüneburg was your reporter’s first destination, in order to sample the Bleckede Kleinbahn
service. This runs on the first and third Sundays of the month between May and September and, as the
name suggests, goes to Bleckede. As with many of these operations, it travels over a privately-owned
The train consisted of a single elderly diesel railcar hauling a wagon for cycles, and was well filled
leaving Lüneburg. Some seats were reserved, as indicated by small cards hanging from the curtain
rails. After around a kilometre, a well-used line goes off to the right which serves Lüneburg Harbour.
On arrival at Bleckede, remaining on board when the unit ran round its wagon was not an issue, as
some passengers stayed in their seats and others got on before this manoeuvre. The line beyond the
station is still used, but according to the S&W atlas, it doesn’t go much further.
View from the front of the railcar as it ran round at Bleckede end of line
Railcar and wagon at Bleckede
Unfortunately, as only a few minutes were spent at the terminus, there was no time to explore.
Bleckede station itself is not particularly photogenic as parts are fenced off. On the return journey it
was possible to sit behind the driver and observe the line ahead, which was quite overgrown in places.
Travelling on via Hamburg-Harburg your reporter arrived at Eystrup, on the Bremen to Hannover line,
from where a secondary line runs through to Syke, on the Bremen to Osnabrück line.
The end of the Eystrup – Syke line is a platform on the other side of the car park from the main line station at Eystrup. There is a
connection between the two lines north of the station.
The service on this route is operated by VGH using Bruchhausen-Vilsen museum stock and calls itself
the Kaffkieker, also running on the first and third Sundays in the summer months. The train departs
from a separate single platform station across the forecourt in front of the main station at Eystrup. A
single railcar, very similar to the one used earlier in the day and in a smart blue livery, provided the
service. In comparison to the busy junction station of Lüneburg, Eystrup is little more than a wayside
stop on the edge of a small town that, on a Sunday afternoon, was absolutely deserted. Just before the
train was due to leave a few people did appear, so a couple of staff and three other passengers set off.
Soon after departure, the train passed a set of exchange sidings which looked well used. The reason
for this use became apparent when a junction was reached from where a short branch diverged right
to a large factory. As the journey progressed further passengers joined and the train eventually
became quite busy. At Hoya the line crosses the river Weser on a smart new bridge. The station here is
on a different alignment to the old one as the original building is well north of the current line. The
lines by this station are now used as sidings.
The original Hoya station building is on an old alignment
The most significant intermediate stop is at Bruchhausen-Vilsen where the museum is located, along
with a 7 km long metre gauge branch to Asendorf. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to do this, but the
connecting service was being provided by a smart little railcar. There is also quite a bit of dual gauge
track in the station area.
Narrow gauge railcar at Bruchhausen-Vilsen ready to work a service to Asendorf
Narrow gauge depot and dual gauge track at Bruchhausen-Vilsen
The line has the feel of a local railway as most of the passengers seemed to be using it as such, and in
fact your reporter was the only one that travelled the full length. At one point the driver forgot to stop
at a station where two passengers had wanted to alight so, once this was brought to his attention, he
reversed the train back to drop them off. It also has the characteristics of a light railway as, the Weser
bridge aside, there are no significant engineering features but a lot of roadside track and even a short
stretch of street running at Uenzen. At Syke the train ran into a short platform alongside a goods shed
adjacent to the main station. Here there is a short connection, which didn’t look well used, to the main
Street running at Uenzen
Railcar on arrival at Syke, with main line connection visible in the distance. The main line platforms are behind the
 Lithuania/Latvia – The saga of the Mažeikiai - Reņģe line continues
National rail company Latvian Railways and its freight shipping subsidiary LDz Cargo are demanding
more than 82 million Euros from national rail company Lithuanian Railways to compensate for the
losses the Latvian companies suffered due to the illegal dismantling of the Mažeikiai - Reņģe railway in
2008. In April 2017 the European Commission fined Lithuanian Railways nearly 28 million Euros for
hindering competition on the rail freight market by removing the tracks. It was also required to
reinstate the track, which it claims it is doing.
 Poland – Katowice airport link gets EU funding
PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe SA has received EU funding for the reconstruction and modernisation of the
partially disused railway line connecting Tarnowskie Góry and Zawiercie which passes by Katowice
airport. This is line 182, and is approximately 45 km long, though only 15km at the eastern end is open
to serve the quarry north of Siewierz. Construction works are planned to start in 2020 with opening
estimated to be in 2022. The estimated journey time from Tarnowskie Góry to the airport is 17
minutes and from Zawiercie about 23 minutes, but it seems certain that services will begin and end in
 Poland - Zamość to Rzeszów via Hrebenne
Your reporter joined the evening service to Rzeszów at Zamość. The route includes the lengthy section
from Zwierzyniec to Horyniec Zdrój which was reported to only see a summer weekend service. As the
well filled train entered Bełżec, your reporter was therefore surprised to see a DMU in the other
platform. A bit of checking revealed that there is a twice daily service from here to Lublin, so the
sparse section has been considerably shortened. At Hrebenne it was observed that the cross-border
line into Ukraine was rusty. Much of the track between here and Horyniec Zdrój is in very poor
condition with sections of very slow speeds. The broad-gauge line that comes in at Werchrata is still
used but only to what appear to be trans-shipment sidings - the line beyond is mostly heavily
 Romania – Galaţi tram network to be restructured
The tram network of Galaţi has shrunk dramatically since 1990 and there has been talk of complete
closure, but in recent years some lines have been renovated. In March 2018, the city administration
decided that the tram network would be completely restructured with only a north-south line (Cimitir
Ştefan cel Mare - Micro 19) and east-west line (Piaţa Care - Combinatul Siderurgic) and the two depot
lines retained. The rest of the network would be replaced with a trolleybus network.
 Romania - Passenger services return to two lines
Line 700 (Urziceni – Făurei) is to regain a limited passenger service. The draft 2019 timetable shows
two IR pairs on the Urziceni - Pogoanele - Făurei route.
Line 904 runs from Titu to Pietroşiţa. A washout in March this year led to closure of the Fieni –
Pietroşiţa section. Repairs have been completed and on September 2018 the line was reopened for
traffic with four return trips for CFR passenger trains resuming from 25 September, and one TFC train
pair from 30 September.
 Russia (European) – Suburban rail service proposed for St. Petersburg
Russian Railways have submitted a proposal for a suburban rail service on a 53 km semi-circular route
around St Petersburg. It would use existing lines including some currently freight only routes, which
would require upgrading with additional tracks to allow the frequent services required. 24 new, or
rebuilt stops, would be opened, including interchanges with all metro lines commuter routes out of
 Serbia - Novi Sad to Orlovat stajalište reopening delayed
Reopening for passenger services of Novi Sad - Zrenjanin via Orlovat, originally planned for 1
September 2018 has been delayed, with a second date, 24 September, also failing to be met.
 Slovakia - Ružomberok to Zápalkáreň weekend service
Your reporter only become aware that a passenger service was running over this short line on summer
weekends shortly before leaving home, so he made a late amendment to his itinerary in order to
include it. The timetable showed trains leaving Ružomberok on the hour, with a single journey taking
around 15 minutes and returning on the half hour, and the timings were such that it was possible to fit
in a round trip between services to Bratislava.
On arrival at Ružomberok it was not immediately obvious where the train departed from, but a sign
outside the station instructed intending passengers to head for the yard to the left.
Train at terminus outside Ružomberok station, which can be seen in the background.
As your reporter walked towards it, the train appeared and stopped at the end of the siding furthest
from the main line, where some small signs had been erected and steps provided.
Departure board at the station. The logo style may be familiar!
The train itself consisted of a class 810 railcar and a guards van for bicycles. A lot of passengers got off
on arrival, and many of them collected their bikes from the van. The outward journey was relatively
quiet and, fortunately one of the crew spoke reasonable English, so your reporter was able to get
some background on the operation and the line. The service, which started this year, is being run by a
local transport company, using stock and staff from the railway museum at Vrútky. Originally the line
was a 760mm gauge passenger branch which ran for about 20 km. Subsequently, a short standard
gauge line was laid, straddling the narrow-gauge tracks, to serve local factories. The narrow-gauge line
closed some time ago and freight traffic ceased within the last couple of years. The passenger service
uses the first 3 kilometres, and beyond here (it only goes a short distance further) it is very overgrown.
Leaving Ružomberok, the line runs over a substantial river bridge, past a large estate of tower blocks,
then alongside a suburban road before terminating on the edge of town.
View from the train on the branch by the housing estate
View from the train crossing the River Vah.
At this end a lot of work has been done, as a landscaped area has been created, including a container
which is used as a shop and information centre, and even a bar selling draught beer (your reporter
didn’t notice this until too late!). The main purpose of the service appears to be to encourage people
to take their bikes from the town centre to the outskirts, where a number of cycle routes start,
although the train your reporter was on was mainly made up of family groups, a bit like a preserved
railway at home.
Train at the end of the line
A map of the branch which appears to show it terminating just beyond the station at the country end
The return train was nearly full, but the friendly staff allowed him to travel in the back cab, even
though the driver was driving from there!
 Slovakia – Track to do at the Forest Railway Pribylina
Table 903 in the Slovakian timetable is the Považská lesná železnica (PLŽ) or Forest Railway Pribylina,
with references to the museum but nothing about any rail service. Built between 1914 and 1916 the
forestry network was once 109 km long but was dismantled in 1972. The original depot was in Liptov
village Pribylina and since 2008 this has been a museum. Now there is a railway line to complement
this. The 950 metre track is to be officially opened in October 2018, with commercial operations
starting in May 2019.
 Spain – Observations on the Alacant-Murcia line
A member found a journey on this railway line to be a much more interesting trip than anticipated.
Beginning with the historically realigned route from Alacant to Sant Gabriel (where the train reverses),
a small railway museum was noted by the station whilst passing Torrellano. After a short while his local
train passed underneath the new dual gauge LAV from Bifurcation Murcia to Murcia and promptly
diverged left to join the right-hand side of the LAV formation. A severed SG line could be seen behind
it and then the train crossed the left-hand SG track (totally rusty) and entered the new BG platform
loop at San Isidro. To the right were SG through lines and opposite a SG platform loop all awaiting
OHLE. The train then diverged left to re-join the classic route on a rickety section through Callosa de
Segura, but intriguingly and far away to the north east could be seen Callosa de Segura AV station
which is not apparently due to get a BG Cercanias service but has a very large inverted C symbol on its
elevated platform structures. Why? Is it a signage error, or are ADIF now planning on their favourite
past time of releasing property for development by transferring the Cercanias service onto the LAV
thereby eliminating 10-15 km of the classic route at a stroke? This would also have the bonus of
locating the station much more inconveniently for the town which always scores points in any planning
consideration in Spain! Regaining the LAV at Orihuela Miguel H. (where the whole station structure is
underground) the BG lines follow the LAV all the way to Murcia where expansive works to build a new
station on the outskirts at El Regueron are in hand, as are new platforms and bays at the Alacant end
of Murcia station itself.
 Spain – The sad tale of Granada’s railways
Granada has been without through trains from Madrid since 7 April 2015. The only service operating
from the station is that to Almeria, via Moreda. The Ministry of Development had promised that the
route to Madrid via Moreda would reopen in August whilst testing is completed on the AVE to
Antequera. This would be a temporary solution until the LAV to Antequera Santa Anna finally opens.
However, research on the RENFE journey planner shows all trains until 31 October (the latest date it
allowed at the time of enquiry) running via Antequera SA and nothing to Linares-Baeza or Alcazar de
San Juan, where one might reasonably expect a Talgo to call.
However, there will be only one train (a Talgo) each way – a service that took six hours in the past, as
opposed to about four when trains ran on the conventional line via Antequera Santa Anna and the LAV
to Madrid. It appears that the previous minister Íñigo de la Serna simply ignored the problem.
However, a demonstration by 5,000 people in Granada city centre in April, attended by the Mayor and
members of the Andalucian regional government (although each political party kept apart from the
others!) seems finally to have had some effect. There seems to have been some form of censure
motion as well. However, only a train to Madrid is planned; nothing to connect Granada to Valencia
and Barcelona. It would appear that the route via Moreda has occasionally been traversed by a luxury
excursion train, no doubt adding fuel to the flames.
However, when the LAV will open is an unanswered question. It seems that there have been just
‘laboratory’ (presumably track measurement) trains this year – no high speed tests at all. From
Antequera there are two UIC gauge tracks and one Iberian gauge track as far as Archidona from where
there is one of each gauge. The real problem arises east of the Barranc viaduct between Archidona and
Loja, where it reduces to just a single track line for 23 km through the municipality of Loja, some of
which has speed limits as low as 30km/h. It seems that some work has been done on this section, such
as some widening and temporary reinforcements to prevent subsidence but they all have "the look of
having been left half done and not a proper repair" according to an observer. In the meantime heavy
rainfall this year has damaged the formation in the area.
There are further issues in Granada itself: apparently funds to put the line underground in the city
were in the budget but the implication seems to be that no work has been done on this. Presumably
therefore, an attempt to reopen the line at surface level would provoke a crisis without a firm
commitment to do this by the original target date of 2025/6.
The whole project seems to be a disaster without a solution – a mess as bad as the Pajares tunnel. One
cannot see any realistic chance of the line (re)opening in the foreseeable future.
 Sweden – Construction of Norrbotniabanan starts
Construction of the first section of the Norrbotniabanan was launched with a groundbreaking
ceremony on 23 August 2018. The 270 km line between Umeå and Luleå should be built in three
phases, starting with the 12 km section from Umeå to Dåva scheduled for completion by 2020.
Funding for the second phase between Dåva and Skellefteå is included in the national transport plan
for 2018-29, and detailed planning is in progress with completion by 2030. Planning for the northern
section to Luleå is at a less advanced stage and is currently unfunded.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Australia – New mine to get narrow gauge rather than standard gauge connection
Adani Mining has announced that it has dropped plans to develop an independent standard-gauge
railway to the Carmichael opencast coal mining project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin in favour of a
1067 mm gauge connection to Aurizon’s existing Newlands – Abbot Point line. This will reduce the
capital cost as it will reduce the length of new line from 388 km to about 200 km, but at the cost of
reducing train sizes from 220 to 120 wagons, and speeds of 80km/h rather than 100km/h.
 Cuba – Hershey railway to be de-electrified?
In a recent meeting with high level FCC authorities it was mentioned that the Hershey system might be
converted to diesel operation. The line is busy and there is significant freight, but the overhead line
equipment is obsolete and not cost effective, so the best solution may be to remove it and upgrade
the track infrastructure.
 Israel – New electrified line to Jerusalem opens
Passenger services on the new 25kV electrified A1 fast line between Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem
began on 25 September. At present only one of the two tracks is in use and electrified, so Israel
Railways is operating a shuttle service of two trains per hour. Passengers to or from the rest of the
network have to change to/from diesel services at the airport. Completion of the electrification
between the airport and Tel Aviv HaHagana is the next step.
 Saudi-Arabia – Haramain line officially inaugurated
King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud officially inaugurated the Haramain high-speed rail line on 25
September 2018. The 450 km-long line connects Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International
Airport, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and Madinah, making it the longest railway in the
Middle East. Trains started running on 1 October, with services on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and
Sundays. Jeddah's King Abdul Aziz International Airport station will begin operating around mid-2019.
 Turkey – Update on the Marmaray system in Istanbul, and the new airport
The Marmaray system runs at present only on the 13.3 km between Ayrlı Çeşmesi on the Asian side
and Kazlıçeşme on the European side. The full 76.3 km between Gebze (Asian side) and Halkali
(European side) is supposed to open on 1 Jan 2019. It would then be possible for the first time ever to
travel between Europe and Asia entirely by train, albeit changing trains. The terminus on the Asian
side of (i) high speed services for Ankara and Konya and (ii) suburban services is currently Pendik, west
of Gebze and 25 km from the historic Haydarpasa terminus. Trains should hopefully run into
Haydarpasa again and there are supposedly plans to run some high speed trains through to Halkali at
some point. There is currently a miserable service from Halkali to Kapikule near the Bulgarian border
and to Uzunkopru near the Greek border and also the through trains to Sofia and Bucharest, which
carry only about half the patronage they had 7 years ago.
Istanbul’s new airport (as yet unnamed) will start service on 29 October. From that date, all flights
from the existing Yesilkoy Ataturk Airport will use the new airport which is 50 km away from the Old
City (Sirkeci) and 65 km from Kadikoy (Asian side) but no metro or rail service will be available. Various
public transport options are "either under construction or planned". Two metro lines are under
construction. The Mecidiyekoy - Kemerburgaz - Gokturk - Third Airport line is expected to be ready by
the end of 2019. The Halkali* - Third Airport metro (* current western terminus of the Marmaray line)
is targeted for the end of 2020.
 USA – Cortlandt Street subway station opens again, 17 years after 9/11
Situated in the shadow of the World Trade Centre, Cortlandt Street was completely buried under the
rubble when the Twin Towers were hit in 2001. The lengthy works needed to renovate the
surrounding area meant that rebuilding the station could not start until 2015. The first train entered
the new station just days before the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Unlike much of New York’s
underground network, which is renowned for its griminess, the station, now named WTC Cortlandt
Street is air conditioned to keep passengers cool, with The New York Times describing it as “sleek,
bright and airy”, bearing “little resemblance to its old, dank self”.
The station even features some artwork: a marble mosaic titled Chorus by artist Ann Hamilton, which
incorporates texts from both the Declaration of Independence and the United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.