INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1255 23 APRIL 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
Cottbus station viewed from the bridge at the east end of the station. The three groups of platforms (southern by the
station building on the left, central and northern to the right) are connected by inconveniently positioned subways. The
platform groups are served by separate lines with connections on the western approaches, giving rise to a number of
PSUL routes, identified in EGTRE along with current usage. Item 173 refers to rebuilding of the station in 2016/17, so the
layout in the picture may soon be a thing of the past.
 Austria - ÖBB to rebuild Wien Meidling to Hütteldorf line
For many years the line from Wien Meidling to Wien Hütteldorf was the only direct link from the Wien -
Linz main line to the Wien - Graz and Wien - Hegyeshalom (Hungary) lines. With the opening of the Lainz
Tunnel in December 2012, a new underground connection was established and the Hütteldorf - Meidling
line lost much of its importance as an east-west freight line. In December 2015 all inter-city trains from
Salzburg to Budapest were rerouted through the tunnel, leaving local trains as the only traffic. These
include peak services from Laa-an-der-Thaya to Wien Westbahnhof and an hourly Line S80 S-Bahn service
from Hütteldorf to Hausfeldstrasse, which is increased to half-hourly during the peaks. There is now
sufficient capacity to upgrade Line S80 to run at similar frequencies to other parts of the S-Bahn network,
and ÖBB has drawn up plans to rebuild the line, eliminating level crossings by underpasses and doubling a
short single track section. Speising station will be rebuilt and two more stations will be added at Hietzinger
Hauptstrasse and Stranzenbergbrücke. The project is due to be completed in 2021.
 Belgium - Schuman-Josaphat rail tunnel opens
4 April saw the first use of passenger trains in the 1.25km Schuman-Josaphat tunnel, which connects
Schuman station on the Brussels - Namur line in the city's European quarter with the Halle - Vilvoorde line
south of Meiser station. Services from Namur and Charleroi will be able to run to Brussels Airport without
adding to congestion on the main north-south line through the city. The tunnel is also used by Brussels RER
Line S5 (Grammont - Mechelen) and S9 (Braine l'Alleud - Leuven) services. The project included the
reconstruction of Schuman station as a three-level multimodal hub for mainline, metro and bus services.
 Czech Republic – New park bahn at military base
As part of the regeneration of the Milovice former Soviet army base there appears to be a new steam
worked parkbahn! No detail is provided on the website but worth looking at anyway:
 Denmark/Germany – Fehmarn Belt link progresses
On 4 March Fehmarn Belt fixed link project promoter Femern A/S was granted Danish political
authorisation to negotiate contracts with its preferred bidders for the main tunnel works contracts.
They will present the results of the negotiations to the Danish Minister of Transport before signing the final
contracts, scheduled for May. The contracts will be conditional on the German government granting
permits for the project, at which point construction of the 18 km immersed tube tunnel between
Rødbyhavn on Lolland and Puttgarden on the German island of Fehmarn would begin.
 Finland - Savonlinna to Huutokoski line severed
This line has now closed as a through route with the removal of about 200 – 300 metres of track mainly on
the Savonlinna side of the Laitaatsilta Bridge. All other track is in place. The problem is the need to
construct a deep shipping channel crossed by a very high road bridge to avoid using the lift bridge on the
east side of Savonlinna which becomes a bottle neck, especially in summer. The cost of replacing the
railway bridge at the same time as the road bridge with enormous earthworks was not deemed worth the
cost for a line that basically is not used, apart from railcars returning to Pieksämäki for servicing. Our
informant reports that there is a good possibility that the line will be retained between Huutokoski and
 France – Fismes to La Ferté Milon suspended
It has been announced that passenger rail services between Reims and La Ferté Milon will be restricted,
from April 3rd, to Reims - Fismes. At the request of Picardie Region freight services will continue (albeit at
a maximum 60 kph). A direct line from Reims to Paris-Est (156 km) via Fismes, La Ferté Milon, Trilport and
Meaux was opened in 1894, some forty years after the route via Epernay (173 km). This direct route is
double track, but not electrified. It was kept open essentially as a useful alternative in case of problems or
engineering work along the Marne valley, until the mainline traffic reduced considerably, following the
opening of TGV Est. La Ferté Milon, in Picardie (35 km from Meaux), is terminus for the Transilien services.
Between Fismes and Reims (26 km) there is an outer suburban traffic of commuters. But, between Fismes
and La Ferté Milon (50 km), the line crosses a regional border (Picardie/Champagne-Ardennes). The
railway timetable reflects little interest to use the line amongst the local rural population in this quiet
agricultural area which totals just 6,000 inhabitants. Recently, until the end of March 2016, Champagne-
Ardennes Region operated TER services between Reims and La Ferté Milon. Mondays to Saturdays there
were 4 AGC diesel railcars, daily, each way, and one service on Sunday evenings. During a visit on Saturday
19 March three TER services were observed at Fère-en-Tardenois and only 1 - 3 passengers boarded the
AGC which has a capacity of 133 seats and was virtually empty. Item courtesy of the SNCF Society.
 France - Tram and light rail news
The number of projects to build new tramway lines in France has noticeably diminished recently. This is
because most of the obvious cities (+ 200,000 pop) where such transport systems can be justified have
either already created tram networks, or else rejected the concept and favoured, instead, express
buses on dedicated lanes. But it would incorrect to assume that all new tramway development in
France has stalled, despite the drastic reduction in State subsidies which makes financing more difficult.
New tram lines in the Paris region are planned and under construction (see previous news reports). An
extension of tramway T3b from Porte de la Chapelle to Porte d'Asnières (4.3 km) is under construction.
The completion date has been delayed by 12 months due to the discovery of more asbestos than expected
in the road surface that has be removed. Opening of this new section of the tramway is now expected at
the end of 2018. Meanwhile, a public enquiry is underway, this spring, into the planning of the extension
from Porte d'Asnières to Porte Maillot (or possibly Porte Dauphine).
In Caen, the city council took the brave decision to abandon the unreliable and costly Bombardier TVR
guided trolleybus system, and to replace it with a standard tramway (steel wheels on rails). The plan is to
install rail tracks along the present TVR routes and to use the existing overhead wires for current
collection. The new Alstom trams will have double the capacity of the TVR units. A public enquiry will be
held in September and work is expected to begin in 2017. The TVR guided trolleybuses will cease to
operate at the beginning of 2018 and the tramway will open in 2019.
In Avignon, a plan to create a tramway from the suburbs to the centre was mangled by local politicians and
at present is barely a third of the length originally envisaged. It does not even reach the town centre!
In Nice, the first tramway, opened in 2007, is very successful and carries 100,000 passengers a day along
an 8.7km route through the city centre, but not on a dedicated site and it is very slow (average 15 kph).
The second line is under construction. It will connect the port of Nice with the airport, 11.3 km, and there
will be a 3.6 km section in a tunnel at the eastern end. The Alstom trams will have the latest generation of
APS current collection, and no overhead wires. Construction of the tunnel will start this year.
In Strasbourg, the tram line D will be extended 2.7 km across the Rhine to Kehl. A new bridge dedicated to
the tram, pedestrians and bicycles, was installed in December 2015. The cross-border tram line will open in
2017. Item courtesy of the SNCF Society.
 France - Closure possibilities
L'Echo du Rail April 2016 identifies the following services as being "rumoured" for early withdrawal:
Busseau-sur-Creuse - Felletin
Nexon - Brive-la-Gaillarde
Guéret – Montluçon
Neussargues - Sévérac-le-Château – Millau – Béziers is reported as reprieved until at least 1 June.
 Germany - Lines closing or at risk of closure
KBS 209.70 Pritzwalk – Putlitz is due to close (once again) on 31 July 2016; as the service runs SX only, the
last trains will run on Friday 29 July. The short section from Pritzwalk to Pritzwalk West may survive as it is
served by some of the RB74 Prizwalk to Meyenburg trains.
The following lines are particularly at risk of closure in the next couple of years:
192 Velgast - Barth (closing Dec 2017, according to German Wikipedia)
269 Stendal – Tangermünde, 340 Bernburg – Calbe (Saale) Ost, 524 (part) Thalheim (Erzgeb.) - Aue (Sachs),
551 Weißenfels – Zeitz, 586 Merseburg – Querfurt, 594 (part) Buttstädt – Großheringen (possibly closing
Dec 2017, according to German Wikipedia).
Also, hot off the presses, VVO has said that if its budget is cut it will cease funding 248 Pirna – Neustadt
(Sachs) – Sebnitz (Sachs) services. No date but clearly threatened (again).
 Germany – News from around the Lander
Berlin and Brandenburg - Cottbus station is to be rebuilt in 2016/17 with considerable changes to
platforming which may result in increased use of the PSUL connections on the western approaches.
Berlin-Marienfelde – Glasower Damm Süd will shut for a year from 11 Nov 2016
From 10 January to 9 December 2017 major diversions likely as Karower Kreuz will be shut, so some trains
to north will go Berlin Hbf - Bhf-Spandau – Falkenhagen – North West quadrant of the Aussenring to rejoin
the normal route at Birkenwerder. Line 6084 (Berlin-Karow Ost to Berlin Karow) is unaffected, so Berlin
Lichtenberg to Bernau and beyond should operate normally.
Line 6078 (Berlin-Lichtenberg - Berlin Wriezener) closed on 13 December 2015 and reopens 21 August
2017. This is due to the ongoing reconstruction of Berlin Ostkreuz station. And finally expect difficulties on
the line between Berlin Rummelsburg and Berlin Ostbahnhof until 12 October 2016 as there are
restrictions on the number of tracks available.
Hessen - A new double track S-Bahn line from Frankfurt Stadion to Frankfurt (Main) Flughafen
Regionalbahnhof should open in December 2019. Construction started on 22 February 2016 and will
include a new station at Gateway Gardens. When completed the present line from the junction at
Frankfurt Schwanheim to the Flughafen Regionalbahnhof will be dismantled.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - On the Baltic coast the Klütz – Reppenhagen heritage railway, marketed as
the Klutzer Kaffeebrenner, only operated on weekdays in the 2015 season, but for 2016 the following
schedule applies: April, three train pairs Wednesday and Friday. May, June, September and October, three
train pairs Monday to Friday and in July and August four trains pairs daily. http://www.stiftung-deutsche-
Nordrhein-Westfalen - The Bergische Museumsbahnen is a heritage tram line near Wuppertal running
between Kohlfurther Brücke and Moschenborn. The operation was threatened after thieves stole some of
the catenary, but somehow €50,000 has been found for replacement and trams will run from late April
though only as far as Greuel in the short term. http://www.bmb-wuppertal.de/
North of Aachen, the Selfkantbahn heritage railway (Gillrath to Schierwaldenrath) temporary diversion
reported in BLNI 1247.445 ended, as scheduled, after Easter 2016.
Rheinland Pfalz - The Land has funding (to 2018) for tourist services on : Eifelquerbahn, Brexbachtalbahn,
Zellertalbahn and the threatened Holzbachtalbahn from Altenkirchen to Selters. The reason the
Altenkirchen (Westerwald) to Siershahn line is threatened is that if freight traffic does not cover the cost of
operation then the local authorities on the route (who own the line) are saying they do not want to have
to subsidise it.
Thuringia - Thuringen transport authority NVS plans to tender Pfefferminzbahn (Sömmerda –
Großheringen) services from December 2017 only on the Sömmerda to Buttstädt section as the rest of the
line goes to neighbouring Sachsen Anhalt who are unwilling to fund it due to budget cuts.
 Italy - Lines with bus replacement and what’s happening around Palermo
The following lines are operated by buses in the current timetable
134 Laveno-Mombello - Sesto Calende, 165 Varese - Porto Ceresio, 233 Gemona del Friuli - Pinzano –
Sacile, 241 Palmanova - San Giorgio di Nogaro, 258 Pisa Centrale –Cecina, 286 Fabriano – Pergola, 302
Viterbo- Capranica-Sutri, 310 Priverno Fossanova – Terracina, 312 Sulmona – Carpinone, 315 Campobasso
– Benevento, 335 Lioni – Avellino, 337 section from Rocchetta San Antonio-Lacedonia - Gravina in Puglia,
348 Sicignano degli Alburni – Lagonegro, 375 section Caltagirone – Gela and 392 section Canicattí - Gela.
In addition buses replace trains (or not) in western Sicily. Palermo Notarbartolo to Punta Raisi is bus
replaced between Palermo Notarbartolo and Piraineto due to works on doubling the line and putting 7km
of it underground. Buses run direct from Punta Raisi to Palermo. The works are due to be completed by 30
June 2016. Further west the direct line (47.2km) from Alcamo Diramazione to Trapani has been closed
since 25 February 2013 due to multiple landslides. Despite promises to repair it nothing is planned and the
replacement bus service disappeared quietly at some point. The lengthier route to Trapani via
Castelvetrano is obviously considered an acceptable alternative by the authorities despite being twice as
long. In practice most people probably travel to Palermo by bus.
 Slovakia - Bratislava tram route extended
Testing on a dual-gauge extension of Bratislava’s tram network began on 16 February. Operator Dopravný
podnik Bratislava expects passenger services to start in March or April. Running south from Šafárikovo
námestie, the new route is the only one in the city to cross the Danube, using the 460 m Old Bridge which
has been reconstructed to carry trams. The double track line then passes over the D1 motorway on two
viaducts before terminating at Bosákova in Petržalka. The 2.4 km extension has three stops and is mostly
dual-gauge. While the existing tram network in Bratislava is metre-gauge, standard gauge fast suburban
light rail lines have been proposed. Construction started in December 2013 and was undertaken by the
MHD – Starý most consortium of Eurovia SK, Eurovia CS and SMP CZ. A second stage of the project will
involve the construction of a 4 km further extension from Bosáková to Janíkov dvor.
 Spain – Contract awarded to finish standard gauge corridor
With the awarding of a contract on 1 April for mixed gauge track between Astigarraga and Irún, contracts
are now in place to complete a 1435 mm gauge corridor between the French border and the high speed
line connecting Vitoria, Bilbao and San Sebastián which is currently under construction. They cover
modifications to the bridges, tunnels and stations as well as the laying of additional rails for mixed 1435
mm/1668 mm gauge operation.
 Spain - New industrial branch opens in Aranda de Duero
The northern 98km of the Madrid – Aranda de Duero – Burgos railway (known as the Directo as it was the
most direct route from Madrid to the north) was retained for freight traffic after the closure of the
southern section. A new branch connecting Aranda de Duero Montecillo station with an important
industrial estate called Marina Prado, in the south west of Aranda, entered service on 29 January.
The branch is 3.569km long and is locally known as the Marina Prado branch, but is officially called the
"Derivación Particular de Aranda Intermodal S.L". The cargo is steel coils from the Port of Bilbao and the
branch was built by the company Aranda Intermodal SL with a grant of 3.5 million euros from the Junta de
Castilla y Leon. In fact calling it a new branch is rather misleading as two sections of the line use the
formations of closed railways. The attached map (e-BLNI readers only as it’s in colour) shows the branch
uses the initial section of the former Duero to Ariza railway (in-situ as far as Aranda de Duero Chelva
station) before running alongside the Directo and passing underneath by a new underpass to join the
[Ariza]- Aranda de Duero Chelva - Valladolid railway (closed 1985) for over a kilometre before diverging off
the formation into the industrial area to serve Tubos Aranda, Michelin and a Chinese owned steel factory.
 Switzerland – St. Gallen Durchmesserlinie construction starts
This is the project to join the Trogenerbahn (Trogen to St. Gallen) and the Appenzellerbahn as a through
service. The official start of construction was 4 April 2016. It will include a deviation outside St Gallen
station to replace the rack section which will include the 705 metre Ruckhalde tunnel. Partially as a result
of the rebuilding of the Bahnhofplatz area and partly to rebuild the narrow gauge platforms in St Gallen,
the first 360m (approximately) of the Trogenerbahn closed on 25 August 2015. This temporary closure was
originally stated to be until "summer 2016" but will now last until the December 2016 timetable. The rack
section will close permanently in April 2018 with all trains between St Gallen and Teufen replaced by buses
until the Durchmesserlinie opens in October 2018.
 Switzerland /Italy – A recent visit to Switzerland and Italy
Mendrisio to Stabio. This 3.5km branch re-opened in December 2014 as the first stage of a cross border
line to Varese in Italy. The branch is double track, although the SBB EMU taken by our correspondent used
the left hand road from Mendrisio in both directions. The right hand line gives access to a number of
freight installations so it is surmised that the branch is currently operated, for most of the day, as two
single lines. Stabio station has two platforms and the departure board indicated that all but one service
used platform 2 on the left hand road. The double track continues beyond the station as far as the eye can
see. There are no intermediate stations on the open section and few other passengers were on the
Stabio station, looking towards the Italian border. Work on the Italian side (see BLNI 1239.310) should be completed and
the Mendrisio to Varese line opened for service in June 2017
Cadenazzo (Switzerland) to Malpensa Aeroporto (Italy). There are five daily services that use the cross
border line between Cadenazzo and Luino, all of which run through to Malpensa Aeroporto. The two
morning southbound services start back at Bellinzona, and your correspondent caught the second of these
from here for the 2 hour 15 minute trip. The 4 car TiLo (a joint venture between Trenord and SBB) EMU left
Bellinzona well filled, but had virtually emptied out by Cadenazzo, so only a handful of passengers stayed
on to enjoy the scenic ride along Lago Maggiore in the early spring sunshine with snow still on the ground
at low levels. A couple of security guards got on at the Swiss border station of Ranzo-S. Abbondio but
didn’t go through the deserted train. A few passengers joined at the intermediate stations south of the
border, but it wasn’t until Luino that the train became quite full again. At Laveno Mombello it was noted
that the connection from Laveno Mombello Nord was disconnected, with a length of track removed at the
junction. A northbound freight was passed here, taking the goods lines round the back of the yard.
Another northbound freight was passed as it waited to come off the line from Sesto Calende, a line which
had lost its passenger service in 2013. The train emptied out again at Gallarate, presumably because most
passengers wished to carry on into Milano. After Busto Arsizio the train took the new single track curve on
to the Saronno to Novara line at Busto Arsizio Nord. These are the only services that use this curve. There
is also an east curve towards Castellanza, but this is clearly not used as there was a set of buffer stops
perched on top of the track just short of the junction at the north end. There is also a triangular junction
where the Malpensa airport branch leaves the Novara line, but the west curve looked rusty.
Milano to Zürich over the the Gotthard Pass
Having only ever done the Gotthard route once, over 25 years ago, our member decided that it was a good
time to take a trip from Milano to Zürich on an international service before the opening of the base tunnel
later in the year. He chose a service that did not stop at Como and was rewarded with a trip through the
7.2 km Monte Olimpino II Tunnel that is the main feature of the Como avoiding line. Travelling north from
Lugano, both entrances to the Ceneri Base tunnel were observed (admittedly the north end was from a
Bellinzona to Locarno train) and, at the north end, it was noted that the earthworks were well advanced,
including the curve towards Locarno. Despite being a Friday, the train was lightly filled and, after
Bellinzona, our member had two bays of four to himself so was able to view from both sides. There
appears to be a minor piece of mainly vertical realignment where the old route crosses over the new, just
before the latter enters the base tunnel south of Bodio. After a most enjoyable run over the pass, the train
passed through Erstfeld, beyond which it ran onto the previously reported new connection to the base
tunnel line, and it was noted that work was proceeding to lift the old line. At this point the train crossed to
the southbound track and used the flyover to gain the tunnel route. It then ran wrong line (if there is such
a thing in Switzerland) through to Arth Goldau, which was a major disappointment to our member as,
having only done the line southbound previously, he was hoping to cover the separate northbound
alignments between Flüelen and Brunnen. At Arth Goldau our member was surprised when the train ran
into the south (i.e. Rotkreuz) platforms, as it was booked to stop at Zug. There had been some
announcements made prior to arrival there, not in English, and our member had ignored them so missed
the reason for this diversion. The train could still make its booked call by reversing at Rotkreuz, but it didn’t
and instead carried on through Wohlen, before taking the curve to Othmarsingen. This curve, until
recently, had no booked passenger trains but now sees a few peak time services between Zürich and
Wohlen or Muri. Ironically, it had been our member’s intention to do the curve on one of these trains after
arrival at Zürich so he was saved the trouble. Arrival into Zürich was via an unusual route (in our member’s
experience), via a diveunder east of Altstetten station, then along the south side of the main yard and a
further diveunder, presumably to bring the train into its booked platform, at around 20 minutes late.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Japan - Visit to Japan, October 2015 Part 1 Hokkaido
The following report is from a correspondent who decided, with his wife, to travel independently and to
travel extensively on Japanese Railways (JR) while seeing some of the tourist attractions of the country.
Overall Impressions. He had heard that Japanese Railways were very good. No way had he realised how
good they were. They transported the couple around Japan very rapidly, and punctually with amazing
levels of comfort and service. The UK should be ashamed of itself when its railway system is compared
with Japan. There is no problem with travelling as much information is given in English as well as Japanese.
He found the Japanese courteous and friendly. Prices were very reasonable, helped by there now being
184 Yens to the pound compared with 120 four years ago. Our correspondent started in Hokkaido.
Sapporo, despite being a large city, had a nice feel about it. There is a tram system, presumed to be a
shortish section of a larger original system. It does an open loop, about five miles in length, through the
southern part of the city. However, there are three surprising things about it. The trams were old but then
suddenly a brand new tram appeared; on each station there were diagrams of the tram route and the
position at that time of all trams operating, even showing which two were the newer type, and the third
surprising thing was work was in progress to close the loop. Rails and overhead wires were installed and it
was obvious it would open shortly (as indeed it did on the 20 December 2015, reported in BLNI Extra No. 10
Item B12. Ed.). After two nights they were on a Super Express train to Hakodate. Surprisingly it was a diesel
multiple unit. The driver sits almost on top of the train and with running by the sea it was lovely scenery.
They were one minute late at one station. A Shinkansen high speed line is being built to bypass this but will
not open for many years. Our correspondent and his wife had Japanese rail passes which cost £332 each
for two weeks in green class, the equivalent of first class. A coupon must be bought before leaving the UK
and exchanged in Japan. The passport must be stamped as a temporary visitor or you are not able to
exchange the voucher. In theory travel in green class has to be reserved. So he took his itinerary into the JR
offices at Sapporo and had all the reservations made. A charming assistant kept giggling whenever he
spoke, but she was very competent and spoke good English. As the return train of their planned visit to
Hiroshima was full she made it on a later train. Subsequently they decided that they would go on a
different day and another charming girl re-arranged the reservations, again giggling as she did it. Whilst
most Japanese cannot speak English this was not a barrier to travel. Both trains in Hokkaido were very
comfortable, with a seating arrangement of 2 x 1 and lots of leg room and comfort. Seats lined up with the
windows and the seats revolve so at all times they can face forward. If only this were so in the UK. As
expected the Japanese queue on the platforms to get on. Two other things struck him. Before each stop
there is an announcement in Japanese and English that it will make a brief stop and if any passenger wants
to make a mobile call they must use the vestibules. One young lady looked after their green class coach.
She came in about every ten minutes, smiling and bowing every time as she entered the coach and, as she
was leaving, turning around and bowing again. She did the ticket checking, provided free cold drinks and
sold light snacks and magazines. Virgin and other UK train companies do not know the meaning of
customer service! Hakodate also has a tramway in regular use.
They discovered here one should take a ticket when getting on which shows the number of the stop. An
electronic display shows the fares before every stop from all the previous stops and this should be paid
when alighting, the driver checking this. The cable cars to the mountain overlooking the city were packed
just before dusk. The view was magnificent. The line south from Hakodate is electrified and mainly single
track until it joins with the new Shinkansen line to pass through the world's longest train operating tunnel,
the Seikan Tunnel. This line starts just north of Hakodate and takes its own route to the tunnel. The tunnel
is over 33 miles long, just longer than the Channel Tunnel but shorter than the Gotthard Tunnel (which is
opening to passenger trains this year). The Seikan Tunnel opened in 1988 and is the deepest mainline
tunnel in the world. Their journey from Hakodate to Toyko took six hours changing onto the existing
operating Shinkansen at Aomori. There are many adverts showing the new times will be 3 hours 26
minutes from Hokkaido to Tokyo but he supposes this will be to the first station it encounters in Hokkaido,
not Hakodate [See next item. Ed.]
 Japan – Shinkansen connects Hokkaido with Honshu
A long-awaited bullet train service that connects Hokkaido with the main island of Honshu began
operations on 26 March making it possible to travel the breadth of Japan by Shinkansen for the first time.
The 149 kilometre Hokkaido Shinkansen Line links Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokuto, southern
Hokkaido, with Shin-Aomori Station in Aomori in northern Honshu. As the new line directly connects with
the Tohoku Shinkansen Line that services Shin-Aomori Station with Tokyo Station, the total running time
from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station to Tokyo is now four hours and two minutes. Getting to Sendai Station
in Miyagi Prefecture from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station now takes two hours and 30 minutes. Finally, for
the first time since Shinkansen trains were introduced in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka as the Tokaido
Shinkansen Line, it is possible to travel by bullet train from the southern island of Kyushu to Hokkaido
through Honshu. The inaugural Hayabusa No. 10 departed from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station at 06:35
on 26 March. In Tokyo Station, the day’s first bullet train bound for Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, the
Hayabusa No. 1, left at 06:32. In Hokkaido, residents along the new Shinkansen line waved colourful flags,
many usually used by fishing vessels to show a good catch, to welcome the arrival of Shinkansen bullet
trains from Honshu. JR Hokkaido aims to extend the Hokkaido Shinkansen to Sapporo by 2030.
 Malaysia – Ampang line extended
A 6.5 km southern extension from Kinrara BK5 to Bandar Puteri on Kuala Lumpur’s Ampang Line opened
on 31 March. The first phase, from Sri Petaling to Kinrara BK5, opened on 31 October. Four stations are
open on the extension and three more will open at the end of June. The Ampang line network system was
the first railway system in Malaysia to adopt standard gauge. Between Ampang and Plaza Rakyat and
between Chan Sow Lin and Salak Selatan, the line uses the trackbed of previously disused lines that were
part of the Malayan Railway network (the Ampang/Sultan Street branch). Ridership is far below that
predicted and the line does not make a profit – partly because fares are perceived as too high.
 USA – Gold Line extends in LA
The six station 18.3 km Foothill Extension of Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line light rail route from East
Pasadena to Azusa was officially opened on 5 March. The Construction Authority is already working on
plans for a further extension to Claremont and Montclair, although this has yet to be funded. Services
operate every 12 minutes, offering a 20 minute trip from APU/Citrus College to the former terminus at
Sierra Madre Villa, serving Azusa, Irwindale, Duarte/City of Hope, Monrovia, and Arcadia.
 Uzbekistan – Tashkent tram network to close
The countries capital, Tashkent, is to close its entire 90km tram network by August and sell its fleet of 80
trams, some of which are less than five years old. It seems trams no longer provide an effective means of
transport. The 1524mm-gauge 600V dc tram system only carries around 20,000 passengers per day,
compared with 700,000 on the bus network and more than 2 million on the metro. Removing tram lines
will enable the city to widen some of its roads. The city council is planning to develop a third ring road to
ease traffic congestion in central districts. The contraction of the tram network began in 1999 but despite
the gradual closure of lines, rolling stock renewal continued. Tashkent's tram network is one of the oldest
in central Asia, with the first line opening in 1912. In 1973 it became the only city in Uzbekistan to operate
trams following the closure of the network in Samarkand.
RAILTOURS AND DIVERSIONS OVER NON-PASSENGER LINES
This is provided as a service to members and details must be checked with the organisers.
Germany – Private operator does rare track
It is now possible to travel over the Mainz avoiding line and Wiesbaden avoiding line at extended week-
ends all the year round - courtesy of HKXs Hamburg Altona - Köln - Frankfurt expresses. They leave
Hamburg Hbf. at 12:49 on Fridays and 16:49 on Sundays. Arrival times at Frankfurt are 19:35 and 23:32
respectively. In the other direction, they leave Frankfurt at 08:30 on both Thursdays and Saturdays. Full
timings (note new schedule from 1 May) and bookings at https://www.hkx.de/. Inter-rail passes are valid
on these trains.
Romania – Re-routing of line 700 near Bucureşti NOT actually a rerouting, plus a new bridge grice
Further to the item in BLNI1254.154, it now appears that this is a DIVERSION while the bridge on the direct
route is replaced, though investigation has failed to ascertain an end date. Note also that the combined
road/rail bridges over the Danube between Fetești and Cernavodă (on the Bucureşti - Constanta main
line), built in the 1980s, are in urgent need of repair. The old single track rail bridges have therefore been
temporarily rehabilitated. The line over the old bridges is used as the second track to substitute for the one
track closed for repair on the new bridges. The old bridge at Fetești is the southern one but the one at
Cernavodă (actually over the Borcea branch of the Danube) is the northern one. Normally therefore,
eastbound trains will use the old bridge at Fetești, and westbound trains the old bridge at Cernavodă. So a
return journey to Constanta should do both old bridges - but this cannot be guaranteed!