INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1280 6 MAY 2017
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
Gare de Belfort – Montbéliard TGV is on the LGV Rhin-Rhône and opened in 2011. It serves the cities of Belfort and Montbéliard
and surrounding areas. In typical French TGV fashion, the station lies 9km south of Belfort and 18km northeast of Montbéliard. It
also demonstrates the French penchant for modernistic architecture. When the Belfort to Delle railway opens it will call at a new
upper level of the station.
 Austria – InterRail observations
A member on InterRail travels travelled via Brennero to Innsbruck for a round trip to Fulpmes. This had
been prioritised following a report that a new bridge was being built on the line.
The new viaduct on the Fulpmes branch, view from a train on the old bridge.
. The viaduct concerned is situated between Nockhofweg and Raitis, and the new one is short but very
high above a gorge. Construction is underway but it's still early days, with work having just started on
the piers. It will replace around 500 metres of line, which crosses the river further up the valley. It's
quite a constricted and spectacular construction site, and the bridge must be costing a lot of money
given the line, at that point, only carries a half hourly service (further up the line, between Kreith and
Fulpmes it's only hourly). The trains were lightly loaded each way so the assumption is that the line
serves communities that are not easily accessible by bus. Spectacular scenery and well worth a trip.
The next morning he caught the 07:15 from Wien Hauptbahnhof to Wiener Neustadt, one of the
limited number of weekday only services that run via Trumau, and one of the two morning outbound
services that run via Meidling, and are booked to cover two PSUL's as well. The first of these is the
flyover connecting the middle platforms at Hauptbahnhof to the south side platforms at Meidling
(PSUL AT17/14), and the train, a fairly well filled single diesel unit, departed from platform 7 and duly
Train at Fulpmes
At Wien Meidling the train, as expected, took the single-track surface curve to Matzleinsdorf
Altmannsdorf (rather than the curve onto the sub-surface Westbahn line) but then took a connection,
west of Inzersdorf Ort station, on to the goods lines (or at least they are shown as such on the now out
of date S&W atlas). These lines run some way north of the route through Inzersdorf Ort station (there
are some substantial railway buildings in between). None of the Trumau services are booked to call at
Inzersdorf Ort, so this may be the usual route, but your reporter did see an inbound S60 service not
long after the train had crossed over so it could have been routed this way to avoid conflict.
 Austria - Passenger use of Salzburg avoider to end in December?
The weekend trains using the Salzburg avoider (see BLNI 1278.117) are planned to be Railjets from the
December timetable change. The present trains would have to run-round the locomotive if they called
at Salzburg, which is why they use the avoider. Railjets can be driven from either end, so can call at
Salzburg with only a small time penalty and no operational inconvenience.
 Austria – Bregenz avoiding line to see use for diversions
The line between Bludenz and Buchs is partially closed from 29 May to 2 July with some trains diverted
via the freight only Bregenz avoiding line. In previous years these diverted trains have also used the
Romanshorn avoiding line.
 Austria – St. Pölten freight avoider to open in December
The St. Pöltenfreight avoiding line should open in December with the new timetable. There are
currently no plans for passenger usage, although ÖBB did consider routing the Moscow to Nice trains
that way. The line is built to take passenger trains, even if only occasionally, so 24.7km of potential
new gricing track will need to be watched out for.
 Austria – Wien tram closure and U-Bahn opening
At end of traffic on 1 September 2017 tram line 67 will permanently close between Per Albin Hansson
Siedlung and Reumannplatz. The next day underground line U1 will be extended from Reumannplatz
to Oberlaa with 4 intermediate stations. The new line is 4.6 km long
 Czech Republic - Excursion trains in Ústí nad Labem region
The Ústí nad Labem region has again organized a regular excursion train program on several routes for
2017. Five routes will be used, which are not included in the CD printed timetable. On all of these
routes, traffic on historic trains will take place on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays in the period
1 April – 29 October. Timetables can be found at http://www.krustecky.cz/informacni%2Dletaky/ds-
The routes are: - Česká Kamenice - Kamenický Šenov, [Ústí nad Labem-Střekov] - Velké Březno –
Zobrnice, Lovosice – Třebenice – Most, Libochovice - Straškov - Roudnice nad Labem, and Kadaň-
Prunéřov - Vilémov u Kadaně - Kadaňský Rohozec/- Krásný Dvůr – Podbořany.
 France – LGV SEA track diagrams
Schematics and layout plans for the new LGV SEA (Monts - Bordeaux) are at pages 564 and 565 of
 France – A visitor recommends the best way to travel the railways of Paris
Forget the Paris Visite and the Mobilis cards, by far the best and cheapest way to get around Paris is a
Navigo Decouverte card costing €22.15 for a week covering Zones 1-5. They run from Monday to
Sunday and cover the trip in from Charles de Gaulle airport. You need a photo that they stick on a card
 France/Switzerland - Genève Update
The old PLM station of Genève–Eaux-Vives, which opened in 1888 as the Gare des Vollandes, was
demolished at the end of 2016 to make way for a new housing and office complex that will surround
the new Léman Express underground station. The old station had got into a sad state after it closed in
2011 because of the CEVA construction work. The station was originally envisaged as a temporary
construction as the line was to be extended towards Cornavin already then and not built as solidly as
Chêne-Bourg, which was moved 100 m and preserved.
Genève -France tram extensions. It was reported last year that a tram line between Saint-Julien-en-
Genevois (Haute Savoie) and Genève will be reinstated. Now two other cross-border tram lines are
moving forward. The Greater Genève agglomeration, which covers the Genève Canton and the nearby
communities in Vaud and France has published the 3rd version of its regional transport master plans
covering the period 2016-2030. Consisting of over 200 communes and different regional
administrations with changing political agendas, the regional cooperation has not been always easy
nor fast. Line 12 from Moillesulaz on the border to the centre of Annemasse in Haute Savoie. The
construction started this February and the first phase to Parc Montessuit will open in 2019, with the
second phase to Lycée des Glières opening in 2022.
Line 18 from CERN across the border first to St-Genis-Pouilly (Ain) – Porte-de-France (by 2022) and
later to St-Genis-Pouilly – centre (by 2026), final approval still pending.
The commissioning of the Léman Express cross-border regional network is planned for December
2019, once the construction of the CEVA (Genève Cornavin-Eaux Vives-Annemasse) line has been
On 9 March SNCF and SBB signed an agreement covering the operating framework. It foresees the
creation of a new company, Lémanis that will promote and co-ordinate the service on both sides of the
border. Some 50,000 passengers are expected each day on the 230 km of cross-border RER lines. It will
serve more than 40 stations in the cantons of Vaud, Geneva and the departments of Ain and Haute-
Savoie. The duration of the Genève Cornavin-Annemasse journey will decrease from 47 minutes
(currently by bus) to 22 minutes, when the 16 km of the new CEVA line comes into service. Courtesy of
the SNCF Society.
 Germany – Freight ends on Rossberg to Bad Wurzach branch
The latest Drehschiebe reports freight traffic has ended on this Bayern branch. This leaves only the
summer weekend passenger service which has a contract to 2023. However any major infrastructure
costs could end it much sooner. One to do sooner rather than later.
 Germany – Line 1503 to be extended
The long branch line from Hude to Nordenham (line 1503) has passenger traffic, but beyond
Nordenham it is freight only for 2.6km to Friedrich-August-Hütte. Beyond here Schweers and Wall
shows line 1503 as out of use for 2.5km to Einswarden and lifted for the 1.5km to Nordenham Blexen.
At the beginning of March 2017, the Nordwest-Zeitung reported on the planned reactivation of the
railway line from Nordenham to Blexen for freight transport, parts of which have been closed since the
1980s (presumably Einswarden to Blexen). The railway infrastructure company Hanseatische
Infrastrukturgesellschaft (HIG) has purchased the line between Friedrich-August-Hütte and Blexen and
after track repairs trains should start running later this year. Several companies such as Steelwind
Nordenham, a manufacturer of offshore windmills, Nordenhamer Zinkhütte, Weser-Metall and Rhenus
Midgard will benefit from the extended line.
 Germany – The end looms for Zwotental to Adorf
Passenger traffic between Zwotental and Adorf (line 6663) ended on 8 December 2012 after the
cancellation of the services by the Verkehrsverbund Vogtland. Several Saxon railway associations
(Chemnitz Hilbersdorf, Schwarzenberg) are running farewell specials over the line in 2017 because DB
Netz AG is entitled to terminate the route i.e. lift the tracks, between December 2017 and June 2018.
 Germany – Baumholder branch seeing few passengers
The Heimbach to Baumholder line which reopened in December 2014 (actually in 2015 due to various
problems) is apparently only being used by 400 passengers a day (on 36 trains!). In most parts of
Germany that level of usage would guarantee closure. Rheinland Pfalz may be willing to see if usage
gets better but may also decide to cut the service, so anyone who wants to travel on the line would be
well advised to do so before December this year just in case.
 Greece - Lianokládi to Domokós current situation
The high-speed line runs largely parallel to the existing mountain railway section. On the southern
ramp all the track and all building work is complete but with the exception of a ten kilometre section
after Lianokládi no tracks have been laid yet. At the end of this section, a short connection to the
existing line is under construction (from Google Earth this seems to be just before the eastern portal of
the tunnel heading for Stirfaka). Possibly the new line will be used by trains on this 10km section soon
and the bypassed part of the old line will close. There is an obvious saving in journey time, and the
double track is operationally more convenient than the single track old line. Progress on the north
ramp south of Domokós would be considered good apart from the fact that none of the bridges are
completed, though the pillars are present.
 Italy – Foggia avoiding line to be used by passenger trains?
The recently constructed single track electrified curve south of Foggia connecting the Bari and
Benevento lines may be getting a passenger service. From June 2017 Trenitalia are planning to start
using ETR V250 (originally to be used in Belgium and the Netherlands for ‘Fyra’ services) between
Lecce and Roma. These have a lower top speed than the ETR485 currently used, so avoiding Foggia
would contribute to keeping the end to end schedule unchanged. The worthies of Foggia are unlikely
to be impressed, so we shall see what happens…
 Italy – New Incline Elevator in Verona
A new incline elevator has been installed in Verona to reach the historic hilltop fort of Castel San
Pietro. It is on the course of the Funicolare di Castel San Pietro which operated from 1941-1944. The
inclined length is 158 metres with a 55 metre height gain. Operation is fully automatic and the elevator
was to enter service early in 2015, but opening was delayed, with 16 April 2017 now being quoted.
 Italy – Reduced fares on high speed routes for over 60s
It may be relevant to a fair number of members that Italian open access operator Italo
(http://www.italotreno.it/en) offers reduced fares to those aged 60+. Depending on the train and level
of bookings, these may be offered in Prima, as well as Smart (ie standard). The amount of discount
seems to be variable. Senior tickets can be purchased on line or at the Italo machines at stations they
serve. By way of comparison, a high speed journey from Salerno to Roma booked 24 hours in advance
could cost €49.90 by Trenitalia, but Italo could be as little as €19.50.You do not need a railcard or
anything else to buy a senior ticket; you just need to be able to prove you are 60+ on the train.
 Lithuania/Poland - Update on the new standard gauge railway
An update to the report in BLNI1268. The service now departs from Kaunas at 09:00 to Białystok
(Saturday, Sunday and Monday), arriving at 13:05. There were fewer than 25 passengers on board
when it set off on 25 March. The speed was generally low, reduced to a crawl in places, especially
when crossing the Russian gauge (RG) line. The train came to a halt at the junction at Jiesa (this is
actually the name of the river), where it crossed the RG Kaunas avoiding line at its west end. It was not
possible to see out of the front of the unit but the driver was probably communicating with a staff
member on the ground. The SG line has a pair of points here, which will clearly become the future
connection to the intermodal terminal at Palemonas. However there was no sign of any work to
convert the avoiding line to mixed gauge or lay a second track.
Kazlų Rūda, Marijampolė and Šeštokai have passing loops on the standard gauge (SG) line. It was
notable that the stations between Kaunas and Kazlų Rūda which had been rebuilt have a platform on
the SG line, even though no SG train serves them. The flat crossing with the RG connection to the
sidings at Marijampolė had red plates in the RG track as noted in BLNI1268 but the tracks were shiny,
indicating regular use. The same applied to the flat crossing south of the station. This suggests that
either there were problems with the signalling or that it is not commissioned yet. Either way, the
impression was that the train was working under some form of ‘possession’.
There were only 8 passengers and 3 gricers on departure from Marijampolé. A train of military vehicles
(jeeps, lorries and small tanks) was in the process of being transferred to RG gauge wagons at Šeštokai,
although they were unable to see which nationality they were. This was presumably part of the NATO
support mission to the Baltic States. Once on the original SG line south of Šeštokai the speed picked up
noticeably until they reached the Polish border, where track quality and speed dropped considerably.
Two Polish customs officers checked some passports at Trakiszki and they were followed later by two
railway police. The 20 minute stop here was far longer than needed, but no doubt allows for a more
thorough inspection if one were ever needed. There were only 3 passengers on the northbound train.
BLNI1268 speculated about a possible re-instatement of the Suwałki avoiding line. Yes, it is unlikely in
the short term, as Suwałki is a sizeable town, but it is far more likely if and when freight traffic to
 Spain – More on the Manacor to Arta line
Regarding BLNI 1278.135, a member comments that the Manacor to Arta line was never intended to
have physical connection with the SFM “main line” from Palma. It was to be operated by electric
tram/trains and these were in fact already built and delivered at the time the project was halted.
There is a specification at:
balearic-island-of-mallorca. It would be interesting to know where the vehicles are stored at present?
Despite the current use of the trackbed as a “greenway” there is still political pressure from Arta to get
the line built.
 Spain – Bilbao area
The new 6km Metro Line 3 ( between Kukullaga-Etxebarri and Matiko) was inaugurated on Saturday 8
April. Matiko - Sondika was reopened at the same time. Line 3 has now absorbed the Matiko - Sondika
- Lezama Euskotren line and indeed is operated by Euskotren. The Kukullaga-Etxebarri - Matiko service
is designated L3 and Kukullaga-Etxebarri - Matiko - Lezama E3.
Contrary to expectations, Lutxana - Sondika, which was reopened to passenger trains to maintain a rail
link to Sondika and Lezama when Sondika - Matiko closed for reconstruction as a Metro line, has not
been closed. Instead, a Monday - Friday 'Lanzadera' shuttle service (re)started on Monday 10 April.
 Spain – Tunnel boring on new Madrid to Galicia line completed
It was announced on 6 January that the boring of the Bolaños tunnels on the Madrid - Galicia high-
speed line has been completed. These are two 6.7km parallel single-track tunnels along the Verín -
Ourense section of the line.
 Switzerland - More double track on the Zentralbahn
Approval has been given to double the section of the Zentralbahn (which runs from Luzern to
Interlaken) from Hergiswil Matt to Hergiswill. Part of this will include a deviation on which a new
Hergiswill Matt station will be located. The deviation will reduce the distance by 70 metres and is
planned to open in December 2019.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Argentina – Line to reopen for passenger trains
Governor Gerardo Morales launched the first stage of the reconstruction of the Jujuy - La Quiaca train
tracks on Monday 20 March. Some works that will facilitate this had already been undertaken since
the start of the year.The project is divided into three phases: Volcán - Humahuaca, Humahuaca - La
Quiaca and Jujuy – Volcán, with stations in Volcán, Tumbaya, Purmamarca, Maimará, Tilcara,
Huacalera, Uquía and Humahuaca.
 Azerbaijan – Baku station modernised
President Ilham Aliyev attended a ceremony on 10 February marking the completion of a two-year
project to modernise Baku station and national railway company ADY’s offices. The Moorish-style
station building dating from 1884 has been restored externally, while the interior dating from a
refurbishment in 1926 and the adjacent buildings added in 1977 have been altered to meet modern
needs. New ticket offices have been provided, along with shopping and catering facilities, lifts for
passengers with disabilities and parent and baby rooms. The refurbishment also included ADY’s
administrative building dating from 1956, which has 505 rooms and a 280-seat auditorium.
 China - Changsha to Zhuzhou and Xiangtan Intercity Railway opens
The Changsha to Zhuzhou and Xiangtan Intercity Railway in Hunan Province opened for passenger
services on 26 December 2016. There are 21 stations on the 95.5 km Y-shaped route from Changsha to
the two termini.
 Israel - Inaugural run on the Acre to Carmiel line
Israel’s transport minister joined the Israel Railways general manager and other invited guests for an
inaugural test run on the 23km Acre - Carmiel line on 21 March. The test train completed the 147km
trip from Carmiel to Tel Aviv in around one-and-a-half hours. The line was constructed by Israel Roads
and includes two 5km twin-bore tunnels, which are equipped with Sonneville slab track. This is the first
slab track installation in Israel. The line is due to open on 20 September, the eve of Jewish New Year.
The minister said his ministry is working on the design of an extension from Carmiel to Kiryat-Shmona
in Upper Galilee near the Lebanese border.
 Japan – Work starts on Maglev line
Work for a magnetic levitation Shinkansen bullet train line has started in various related locations,
with 10 years to go before the scheduled launch in 2027 of the services that will link Tokyo and
Nagoya, central Japan, in only 40 minutes at the fastest.
Construction of a tunnel under the Minami Alps huge mountain range, believed to be the toughest
phase of the maglev Chuo Shinkansen project of Central Japan Railway Co., better known as JR Tokai, is
slated to commence this year.
The 285.6-kilometre-long ultrahigh-speed train line will connect new Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and
new Nagoya Station in Nagoya, the capital of the central prefecture of Aichi, via five other prefectures-
-Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Nagano and Gifu. Maglev Shinkansen trains will travel at a maximum
operating speed of 505 kilometres per hour. More than 80% of the line will be through tunnels. - See
 Mexico – New Mexico City airport to get rail link
Ferrovalle will build a new 10 km rail line from existing Line S to the construction site of the Nuevo
Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México (NAICM) at a cost of 750 million to one billion pesos.
The line should be finished by March to the site, located in the dry lakebed of Lago de Texcoco in
Estado de México to the east of the city, and should replace some of the 5,000 trucks that currently
enter the site each day. After the airport is operable, circa 2020, the rail line will remain to serve the
airport and its intermodal air cargo terminal. It is unclear if this means passenger services as well as
 South Africa – Local railways around East London and Port Elizabeth
East London station is one of the few well-looked after buildings in the town. Most are in a very poor
state. The station has a very long façade pleasingly painted in white with attractive brown shutters and
solid wooden doors. Above the central entrance is a clock above which is written “CAPE GOVT.
RAILWAYS. E.L. Q.R.1880”. Local trains in the Republic’s main cities operate under the “METRONET”
label, Net being Afrikaans for network. There are five terminus platforms, only one platform having
shelter and facilities. Most trains use this, with the others occupied by electric units. The system uses
12 car trains, locomotive hauled with overhead power. The suburban trains use the main line out of
the town about 50 miles to Berlin with numerous stops on the 80 minute journey. Trains are clean but
elderly in yellow and grey livery. The cost of the return journey, the full length of the service, was R17
which is just over £1 but was considerably cheaper before Brexit caused the pound to slump. There is
only one class. All stations except two remote halts were well staffed with booking offices manned,
waiting rooms and toilets. The latter were well equipped with the normal facilities in spotless
condition with mirrors, soap and paper.
Several goods trains were observed in passage. At Berlin there is just a single platform despite multiple
tracks and main line trains stopping there. The locomotive changes ends for the return journey.
Electrified sidings contained ballast trains. As a destination it was highly original and very different
from its namesake. German missionaries came to the area in the 19th century and immigrants were
given land to farm, thus acting as a buffer zone between British lands and warlike natives.
The line at Mossel Bay in the Western Cape is still used by goods traffic and has been truncated a mile
or two from the town. There was plenty of freight activity and sidings, presumably for gravel, stone
and sand or to the mills. The former Mossel bay station is now a railway themed bar and offers
accommodation right by the beach. Much of the original wooden buildings have been retained. The
premises were closed, so only limited investigation was possible.
Our member went on to make a journey from Port Elizabeth to Uitenhange. The station at Port
Elizabeth is quite impressive with a large train shed enclosing the four main terminal platforms. The
station is well staffed, some with sufficient English to respond to queries as there are few notices, no
timetable and no loudspeaker announcements. An attractive feature is large, colourful panels showing
the city’s main monuments. Trains were identical to those in East London. His attention was drawn to
a long, empty train in platform 4 with low brown and cream carriages. The supervisor informed him it
was going to Congo Brazzaville (which seemed rather improbable) via Kinshasa in Congo – route
unknown, but he thought via Namibia. He was also told ‘express’ trains run in Kenya! On our members
return to Port Elizabeth the train was seen ten miles out of the city crossing to go on the single
electrified line north, presumably that used by internal mainline services. A few passengers could be
seen on board. A return to Uitenhange, a 45 minute journey, cost R18. Returns are valid for two days
and cost double the single fare. Ticket checks were made on both journeys, unlike in east London.
Despite stations having staff at turnstiles two people had no tickets but were not fined R40 as stated
on the train for boarding ticketless! The line is double tracked. Uitenhange has a large station building
with wide tiled platforms spotlessly clean like others on the network. The building is in a quasi-Cape
Colonial style. Large amounts of goods traffic were seen with numerous sidings all along the route and
two large freight yards which were very active. In Port Elizabeth lines go into the port area. The bonus
of a not very inspiring journey alongside dunes, scrubland, bottle-strewn wasteland and pools was that
it afforded good views of Flamingos and Spoonbills in large numbers.
It may be worth noting that despite large numbers of staff in various capacities at stations, many
seemingly idle, the trains appeared not to have guards. Certainly in East London only the driver was
seen, although possibly one of the ticket checkers on the Port Elizabeth trains may have been a guard.
 USA - Brightline to start service in July between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale
Florida’s Brightline will start carrying passengers between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in late
July 2017 and the company plans to launch services between Fort Lauderdale and Miami in August or
September. The company unveiled its first train, BrightBlue, at a special event in West Palm Beach
earlier this year. Brightline’s second passenger train, dubbed BrightPink because of the colour of the
markings on its passenger cars has now arrived as well. In all, five trains are expected to arrive in South
Florida before the company launches the first leg of its passenger service this summer. Eventually,
Brightline plans to expand service north to Orlando. Track work for the second phase of the project,
which runs between West Palm Beach and Orlando, has not yet begun. Treasure Coast leaders are
challenging that stretch of the project, and have filed a federal lawsuit to block bonds that the
company had planned to use to pay for the construction. Brightline officials say it will take about 2
years from the start of construction for the company to complete the West Palm Beach to Orlando leg.