INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1319 22 DECEMBER 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
Aung Ban railway station in Burma, and the cabbage ladies are hard at work peeling off the outer leaves and packing the tender
centres into the orange piles on the left. These will be loaded into goods vans for transport to the markets of Yangon in a frenzied
operation whilst the train waits to depart. Presumably the stationmaster gets them to sweep up the runbbish….
 Albania/Greece – Proposals for a railway to join the two countries
A potential TEN-T corridor is to be the focus of a two year ‘strategic investment plan’ funded by OSE,
Greek infrastructure manager Ergose, and the Albanian Ministry of Infrastructure & Energy. The
proposed link would connect Thessaloniki with Montenegro via Shkodër, Tiranë, Durrës, and the line to
Pogradec. It would be 130 km long, but would require construction of a new cross-border section of
railway running from Pogradec south towards Korçë before turning east to cross the border at
Kapshticë/Krystallopigi, serve the city of Kastoria, then join the Greek rail network at Florina.
 Belgium – Part of Brussels to Denderleeuw track-quadrupling completed
Belgian infrastructure manager Infrabel has finished renewing two tracks between Anderlecht (as yet
unopened) and Saint-Katherina-Lombeek, completing the track-quadrupling between Anderlecht and
Denderleeuw, part of the busiest line in the country. The new tracks were inaugurated on 28 November
and services were due to begin using all four tracks of the 15km section from the new timetable starting
on 9 December. The local media are pointing out that it is the part in Flanders that is open and that the
part that is in Brussels is still not open. What will be of interest to gricers is on the Brussels side of
Anderlecht station where the two centre tracks will drop down under the current Brussels-bound track
and join line 96A. Both tracks are installed but only one is connected and wired. There is a lot of bridge
work ongoing on line 96A as well so at the moment there is nothing to connect up to.
 France – More of the Nexon to Brive-la-Gaillarde line closed
This lightly used secondary line has long been quoted as a candidate for closure, and it looks increasingly
likely to happen. Trains have been suspended between Pompadour and Objat since February 2018 and
this was increased to Objat to St-Yrieix la Perche from 8 July 2018. That’s almost half the line. Now it has
been announced that the infrastructure of the section St-Yrieix la Perche to Objat will be
decommissioned from 15 December 2018. Map courtesy of europeanrailwayatlas.com
 France/Germany - Strasbourg cross-border tram line reaches Kehl Town Hall
A 1.2km extension to Strasbourg Line D was opened on 23 November, extending the tram network
further into the German town of Kehl.
A new station was added at Hochschule, on Grosssherzog-Friedrich Street, while the line now terminates
at Kehl Town Hall. The new extension gives passengers access to Kehl’s city centre, as well as connections
with the town’s bus network within the new bus/tram interchange at Town Hall Square.
Services will operate every 12 – 16 minutes on weekdays, every 14 – 17 minutes until 12:00 before
extending to every 6 – 8 minutes on Saturdays, and every 22 – 30 minutes during the Sundays and public
holidays. The cross-border section of Line D was inaugurated on April 28 2017, with public services
beginning on April 29 2017.
 France – Avignon’s new tramway to open 2019
The original plans for a new tramway network at Avignon were cancelled by a change of administration.
However after consideration they decided that it would be more costly to cancel the project than to
modify and re-schedule it. So the suburbs of Avignon outside the city walls will get a tramway after all!
Phase 1 will open in the summer of 2019. 5.2 km long it will start near the SNCF central station. The
trams will be short units, 25 metres long; Alstom Citadis Compacts. Phase 2 will concern extensions to
each end of the new line. Courtesy of the French Railways Society
 France - Paris tramway T3b - extension opens
On 24 November, the 4 km extension of tramway T3b was opened to the public. This new section from
Porte de la Chapelle to Porte d'Asnières runs along the centre of the Boulevard des Maréchaux through
densely populated zones on the northern edges of the 18th and 17th arrondissements. It is expected
that 90,000 additional passengers daily will join the 130,000 who already use the T3b between Porte de
Vincennes and Porte de la Chapelle. Courtesy of the French Railways Society
 France - Figeac station destroyed by fire
The elegant Midi station building at Figeac has been destroyed by fire. The fire broke out at about 4:00
am on the morning of Thursday 22 November and the alarm was raised at 4:20 am by a member of staff
who was sleeping in the building. Over 40 firefighters fought the fire but were unable to save it. It is
believed that the upper floor was used to store archives. Situated in the Y between the Brive and Aurillac
lines the building also contained the signalling equipment for the junction and section down to
Capdenac. As a result services between Brive and Rodez and from Capdenac to Aurillac were replaced
by buses. Courtesy of French Railways Society
 Germany – Verdener Kleinbahnexpress line to be truncated?
South east of Bremen, line 9140 used to connect Verden and Walsrode, and the line is owned by the
Verden-Walsroder Eisenbahn. The middle section is closed, the eastern end is used for freight and the
western end from Verden to Stemmen is used by museum trains of the Verdener Kleinbahn. There are
rumours that, due to poor condition of track, the 2.9km end section from Neddenaverbergen to
Stemmen will close after the Santa specials on 9 and 16 December.
 Germany – Hafenbahn Stralsund extension opens
BLNI 1264.349 reported that the Hafenbahn Stralsund was to extend south with a new dock, the
Frankenhafen, being built south of the Stralsund – Rügen railway with 2.3km of new track being laid.
After a 25 month construction period the new connection north of Stralsund Rügendamm was formally
opened on 28 September 2018.
 Germany – Knappenrode to Horka line reopens after modernisation
There were celebrations to mark the completion of a project to modernise the 55km Knappenrode –
Niesky – Horka line on 3 December. Capacity on this key artery for freight traffic between Germany and
Poland has been increased from 50 to 170 trains a day. There is also a two-hourly Hoyerswerda – Görlitz
regional service introduced on 9 December. The project involved double tracking, electrification,
installation of GSM-R and ETCS, modernisation of five stations and the closure or upgrading of 33 level
crossings. Trains can now travel at 120km/h over most of the line, and a maximum of 160km/h on the
Särichen – Knappenrode section.
 Hungary/Croatia - Magyarbóly to Beli Manastir border crossing reopens
Passenger traffic between Magyarbóly (Hungary) and Beli Manastir (Croatia) was discontinued in 2016
due to migrant problems. At the initiative of the two mayors of Osijek and Pécs, an agreement was
reached in September to resume public transport links between the two cities from 9 December 2018
with four daily train pairs Pécs - Magyarbóly - Beli Manastir. According to press reports Beli Manastir
should have connections to/from Osijek.
 Hungary – Two lines planned for bus replacement
Line 113 Nyíregyháza – Nyírbátor and Line 114 Mátészalka - Csenger were both tendered by MÁV-Start
for bus replacement in November 2018, with buses commencing 9 December 2018. This was too soon
for the bus companies. It seems however, that MÁV-Start failed to consult the Ministry of Transport,
who have denied that a decision to replace trains by buses has been taken. So the MÁV-Start timetable
shows trains continuing for the moment. Anyone needing these two lines should heed the warning signs!
 Italy – Mortara to Casale Monferrato and Asti to Nizza Monferrato reopen
On 6 September 2010, the Mortara to Asti service was interrupted due to the structural failure of the
tunnel at Ozzano Monferrato, placing the entire line at risk of closure. Two years later the financial
problems of the Piedmont region led to the ‘definitive suspension’ of a number of railway lines,
including Castagnole-Asti and Asti-Mortara.
On 25 October 2017 an agreement was signed to reactivate the Alba-Castagnole delle Lanze-Asti section,
with repairs to the Ghersi tunnel.
On 10 January 2018 a protocol was signed between the Piedmont Region and numerous partners aimed
at reactivating the Casale Monferrato - Mortara section by the end of 2018. The service started on 12
It was decided to re-open the Asti-Castagnole delle Lanze section for tourism purposes, continuing to
Nizza Monferrato (approx 45km of track) and repair and renovation work has been completed. The FS
Foundation ran two steam-hauled trains over the line to the Canelli truffle fair on 11 November 2018.
This leaves Alba-Castagnole delle Lanze yet to reopen. The section with the Ghersi tunnel.
Map courtesy of europeanrailwayatlas.com
 Italy – Savigliano to Saluzzo reopens
Another victim of the 2012 closures in Piedmont was the Savigliano to Cuneo railway, which lost its
passenger service, though remaining open for freight. Reopening of passenger services between
Savigliano and Saluzzo is confirmed with a first train (doubtless for VIPs) on 1 December, and a full
timetable commencing on 9 December 2018.
 Italy – Metaponto to Sibari closes 7 January 2019
The IC trains between Taranto and Reggio di Calabria do not run north of Sibari from 8 January, and the
few local trains between Sibari and Trebisacce are withdrawn at the same time. That means the last
trains between Metaponto and Sibari run on 7 January. Website claims infrastructure upgrades.
 Luxembourg – Public transport set to become free
Luxembourg is set to become the first country in the world to make all its public transport free. Fares on
trains, trams and buses will end at some point in 2019 under the plans of the re-elected coalition
government. Luxembourg City, the capital of the small Grand Duchy, suffers from some of the worst
traffic congestion in the world. It is home to about 110,000 people, but a further 400,000 commute into
the city to work. The new policy will save on the collection of fares and the policing of ticket purchases,
but there are issues still to be resolved. It is likely that homeless people may move from the streets to
the trains during the winter, in order to stay warm. Also, no decision has been taken on what to do about
first and second class on trains.
 Macedonia – Main line south reopens
The concrete bridge over the Crna Reka river between Gradsko and Kukurichani on the [Skopje] – Veles
– Gevgelija – [Thessaloniki] railway line closed on 2 October 2018, just in time to create major problems
for the PTG Balkans tour, due to cracks in the beams. After emergency repairs it reopened on 7
 Netherlands/Germany – Upgrading the Betuweroute into Germany
In November the Netherlands completed the construction of the Dutch part of the third track between
Zevenaar Oost and Oberhausen. Three kilometres of track were laid.
On the German side there is a lot of work to be done in the coming years. Two years ago, the
construction of a 60 kilometre track between Emmerich and Oberhausen started. For this project, DB
Netz needs to have more than a hundred viaducts rebuilt or modified and to lift dozens of them. It is
expected that this will be complete at the earliest in 2022, so at times the Betuweroute in the
Netherlands will not be unavailable or partially available for freight transport. Trains will be diverted via
the border crossings at Venlo and Bad Bentheim, but transport of hazardous substances will be by the
Betuweroute as much as possible.
The Dutch province of Gelderland and Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works will jointly invest in
the construction of a new rail terminal located on the Betuweroute in Valburg near Arnhem
 Poland – Museum railway near Rybnik extends
The Kolej wąskotorowa w Rudach is a 785mm gauge museum railway running for about 6km south west
of Katowice near Rybnik. The railway connected Raciborz with Gliwice. The Raciborz end of the railway
used to end at Paproć, but on 17 October 2018 a 700 metre extension to Rybnik Stodoły saw its first
passenger train after reconstruction funded by local government. Regular tourist services will
commence once minor tidying up works are completed.
Paproć was the southern terminus of the railway and a popular place to take pictures of
ones offspring brandishing a departure baton in the cab of the locomotive.
Presumably this activity will move to Rybnik Stodoły.
 Romania - Part of line 213 reopens for schoolchildren traffic
Line 213 runs [Timişoara North] - Timişoara Est – Giarmata - Remetea Mică - Radna. Since the spring of
2018 there have been no trains between Giarmata, Remetea Mică and Radna because CFR decided that
the route was not profitable. At the beginning of the school year, the mayors of the affected
communities came with a request to the prefecture because they had no bus route for transporting
students to school and they were concerned about transport in the winter months. CFR have agreed to
extend the service from Giarmata to Remetea Micǎ from 9 December 2018, with three train pairs.
Courtesy of europeanrailwayatlas.com
 Romania - Line 916a partially closed
This line near Timișoara runs north -south from Buziaş to Gătaia and Jamu Mare. Currently the Buziaş -
Gătaia section is closed due to a flood damaged bridge awaiting repairs. The Gătaia - Jamu Mare section
(a branch) is open, and steps have been taken to cope with an increase of freight traffic for two years.
 Serbia – Major engineering works and temporary line closures for several years
The reconstruction of the Beograd to Subotica railway continues in 2019. There will be single line
working on the Beograd – Stara Pazova section which is being rebuilt to quadruple track (two extra
freight tracks) and 200km/h operation. Work on the northern sections will begin in 2019 and with it
complete line closures as follows:
Stara Pazova – Novi Sad from 1 February 2019 to 7 December 2019 (maybe longer), and Subotica – Novi
Sad 1 October 2019 to 1 November 2022. So anyone needing the present line needs to go before
February 2019! This is because in the middle section (Stara Pazova – Novi Sad) there will be very
significant new railway built.
A grade separated junction will be built at Inđija for the connecting line to/from Golubinci, replacing the
current flat junction at Inđija Pustara. Heading north the new line alignment starts at km 48.157 (not
sure where this is from). There is a short viaduct from 51.176 to 51.670, then the relocated station at
Beška (was 52.412 to 53.632, but in future will be new km 53.450 to 54.712). Another short viaduct from
55.477 to 55.853, then the new station Čortanovci followed by the new Čortanovci tunnels under
Fruška-Gora mountain. The tunnel on the left (going north) is from 56.400 to 57.556, and the tunnel on
the right runs from 56.431 to 57.518. There is now a long viaduct from 57.717 to 60.594 before the old
route is rejoined at 60.596.
The next new section starts at 63.479 and is on embankment designed to act as a flood barrier for the
Dunav (Danube) to 65.2. From 64.679 to 67.829 the new alignment will be on either side of the existing
formation. A total of 14.16km of new railway. The new station at Beška will have pedestrian underpasses
and Indija, Sremski Karlovci, Karlovacki Vinohrady and Petrovoradin stations will be reconstructed with
South of Beograd reconstruction of the Beograd to Mala Krsna railway commences in the fourth quarter
of 2018 and will last for 450 days, so the line is closed for that period.
Even further south works between Niš and Brestovac (on the line to Preševo), start in the third quarter
of 2019 for 2 years which will include lengthy total closure, dates not yet known.
Finally, there is a major rebuild of the Niš – Dimitrovgrad line east of Sičevo beginning first quarter 2019
for two years, then from the fourth quarter of 2021 electrification work begins. If you are wondering
why the two are not combined, so are the editorial team. West of Sičevo the existing line is to be
replaced from the end of 2023 by a 22km long new line which will follow the line of the motorway from
Črveni Krst. 40 families are being rehoused to enable construction which will begin in 2020. It is still
unclear whether the old line will be removed or used for tram traffic; it is up to the city authorities to
It is also unclear if any international service will be provided on either the Beograd to Subotica or Niš-
Dimitrovgrad routes during the work. If there is then it will be by bus as diversions are unlikely or
impossible depending on the route. Other works are also planned on the route to Montenegro!
Passenger services resume between Požarevac and Majdanpek (the middle section of the [Beograd] –
Mala Krsna - Zaječar line) from 1 February 2019.
The 2019 regional lines rebuild program includes Niš – Zaječar (108 km), Lapovo – Kraljevo (84 km),
Subotica – Senta (38,5 km), Kumane – Banatsko Miloševo (28,5 km) also freight lines Markovac –
Resavica (53 km) and Kikinda – MSK Kikinda (6 km). The next few years are probably not a good time to
try to grice Serbia.
 Slovakia - Zvolen to Šahy reopening in January
Line 153 runs from Zvolen south to Šahy and on to Čata. Passenger services were withdrawn in February
2003, but reinstated on the Čata to Šahy section four months later. Zvolen to Šahy has since been freight
only, but has long been suggested for reopening to passenger trains, and finally this is coming to pass,
services commencing 2 January 2019. Timetable at:
 Slovenia - Grosluplje to Kočevje branch reopening next year?
The IBSE telegramm reports that passenger trains are to restart on the 48.6km Grosluplje to Kočevje
branch from June 2019.
 Spain – El Cable Ingles visited
Almeria became an important port for French and British mining companies in the 19th century for the
export of iron and lead from the Alquife mines in the interior. A new 90km railway line was built from
Almeria to Linares and as part of the port of Almeria a huge 1000 metre-long iron railway pier was
completed in 1904 to allow rapid loading of ships with mineral ore. This was known as El Cable Ingles,
and also as El Alquife and the English Pier, the latter name being rather unfortunate in that the pier was
actually built by Scottish engineers for the Glasgow-based Alquife Mines and Railway Company. For
construction of the pier 3,824 tonnes of steel were used from the Motherwell foundry in Glasgow as
well as 8,000m2 of wood, 1,152 m³ of concrete and 1,056 metres of Iberian broad-gauge iron railway
tracks. It was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII on 20 April 1904. Both railway and pier closed in 1973.
There was a proposal to demolish the structure, but the Directorate General of Fine Arts of the Ministry
of Culture stepped in with a proposal to declare it a Monument of Historic Importance. In 1998 it was
declared an Andalusian Cultural Heritage Site. Repair works started in 2010 and upon completion in
2012 it was anticipated that it would house an exhibition centre, a restaurant and a leisure complex,
but this never happened.
A cruise call at Almeria in November 2018 found local tourist staff giving out illustrated maps, the one
showing El Cable Ingles is included below.
The magnificent frontage of the old station was very tempting, but on
arrival it was found to be covered in netting, so not really visible. No work
seemed to be in progress, so this may be protection against a crumbling
structure as at the Station Hotel in Ayr. It has in any case been replaced by
a modern "intermodal" building further along the platform, also serving
the bus station to out-of-town destinations. The arrival and departure
screens are common to road and rail, with the first few platform numbers
for rail and the rest designating bus bays.
The map also features the “high level staith” (El Cable Ingles) for the ore
dock. Most of the ground level line from the station is in situ, but with
mature palm trees at regular intervals in the middle of the "four foot". The
climb to the pier starts on a stone viaduct, leading to open trestle supports
of iron or steel. The start of the line on the viaduct is intact, but curvature
prevents seeing how far. The structure is very impressive.
 Switzerland - Review of future of Schynige Platte Bahn
The Swiss Railways Society reports that Berner Oberland Bahn is reviewing the future of the Schynige
Platte Bahn. "The rolling stock and equipment are a century old, the workshop resources are
rudimentary and new staff no longer have the historic skills to keep these vehicles going. Increasing
difficulty with maintenance and repairs, especially with breakdowns and spare parts, are apparent. The
SPB is only marginally profitable, and reserves for modernisation do not exist." The railway is purely a
tourist operation and it does not run during the winter. This involves the cost of dismantling the
electrification catenary every autumn and re-erecting it in the spring, in order to avoid damage from
heavy snowfall and avalanches. It is not a unique tourist attraction, because there are plenty of other
mountain railways in the area. The railway is to operate in 2019, but for how much longer?
 Ukraine – Airport line opened in Kiev
On 30 November, national railway UZ introduced an airport shuttle branded Kyiv Boryspil Express
between the Pasazhyrskiy station in Kiev and the Boryspil airport. It uses a new 4 km branch running
south from the Kyiv to Poltava main line at a junction between the existing stations at Chubynskiy and
Boryspil. There is an approximately hourly service taking 38 minutes, with platform 14 at Kiev
Pasazhyrskiy dedicated to the airport trains and equipped with ticket vending machines.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Australia - $A 1.38bn Sydney Metro contract announced
The New South Wales state government has awarded a contract for major infrastructure works
associated with the extension of the second stage of the Sydney Metro project from Chatswood to
Bankstown. This includes 31km of underground track to be laid in the twin railway tunnels from
Chatswood to Sydenham. The second of five tunnel boring machines (TBM) has recently started
tunnelling under Sydney to deliver 8.1km of twin tunnels from Marrickville to the new Sydney Metro
station sites at Waterloo, Central, Pitt Street, Martin Place and on to Barangaroo.
Two more TBMs will excavate 6.2km from Chatswood to the edge of Sydney Harbour, while a fifth
machine has been specially designed to deliver the twin tunnels under Sydney Harbour.
The initial 36km Metro North West line from Rouse Hill to Chatswood is expected to open in the second
quarter of 2019. The South West extension of the Metro, which will replace the existing heavy rail link
to Bankstown, is due to open in 2024.
 Australia – The Overland train, future in great doubt
The Overland runs the 828km between Melbourne Southern Cross and Adelaide Parklands Terminal
twice weekly using the standard gauge line and is operated by Great Southern Rail. The service is now
in doubt following the South Australian Government’s decision to stop funding the train.
According to Great Southern Rail:
“We have been advised the (South Australian) Government’s decision has been made on the basis of
relatively low passenger levels for the service and the availability of alternative transport options for
regional communities. The Overland has consistently required support from both South Australian and
Victorian Governments for its long-term commercial viability. This support has heavily subsidised
significant operational costs to ensure affordability for commuters. Our intention is to advise regular
patrons what is happening with the service so they can make informed travel decisions for the future.
Having now received the South Australian Government’s advice, Great Southern Rail has started to
explore any opportunities available to provide a short-term transitional travel phase beyond December
2018.” There is currently no timetable for the Overland showing on the GSR website from April 2019 to
March 2020. A local commentator has this to say. “At this stage The Overland is unlikely to operate in
2019. The operation is subsidised by the state governments of Victoria and South Australia. Victoria
has extended the subsidy arrangements for a further fifteen months from January 2019 but South
Australia has decided it will no longer support the operation, stating an alleged negligible benefit to
South Australian citizens along that state's part of the route. South Australia, unlike all other states in
mainland Australia, operates no state-provided non-urban passenger trains, so it has little pressure from
its electors to provide such services. Victoria and South Australia also have governments of opposite
political perspectives.” A member travelled on the train in November 2018, and a report will follow.
 Canada – Churchill line reopens
The Winnipeg to Churchill line had services suspended in May 2017 after flooding which severely
damaged a large section of track. The lines owners, OmniTRAX, decided not to repair the line, but
eventually after lengthy negotiations, the line was sold to the Arctic Gateway Group, a consortium
including First Nation tribes. Since the deal was concluded work has been progressing to effect repairs
before the ground freezes in the winter. This has been achieved, and Via Rail is resuming service to
Churchill, starting on 2 December 2018.
 North Korea – Train crosses the border from South Korea for 18-day inspection tour
Plans to reconnect the railway networks of the two countries took a big leap forward when a South
Korean train crossed the border on an 18-day tour inspecting infrastructure on the 400km Gyeongui line
from Gaesong to Sinuiji until 5 December, and then the 800km Donghae Line from Mount Geumgang to
Tumen River from 8-17 December, a distance of about 2,600km. The train carries a sign saying “Seoul to
Sinuiju” as well as 28 South Korean officials from Government and Korean Railways. The train has its
own 55m3 tank of fuel, for which it was necessary for the United Nation’s Security Council to waive
sanctions on North Korea to allow the fuel to enter the country. Any spare fuel must return to the South.
Passengers will remain on the train throughout the trip using a sleeping car. All this raises hopes that a
meeting to reintroduce railway services between the two Koreas could be held before the year end.
 United Arab Emirates - UAE agrees finance for Etihad Rail Stage 2
THE UAE Ministry of Finance and the Abu Dhabi Department of Finance have signed an agreement to
finance Stage 2 of the Etihad Rail network. This will be a 600km link from Ghuweifat on the border with
Saudi Arabia in the west to Fujairah on the east coast. Stage 1 network was a 264km link from Shah to
Habshan and Ruwais. Etihad Rail is targeting completion of both phases by 2024. Stage 3 envisages the
construction of a further 250km.