INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1311 01 SEPTEMBER 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 classic view of Andermatt is from the loops ascending the mountain towards Disentis. This is the railway line that
can be seen leaving the station and curving away left as seen by the observer. The line curving away right goes to
Göschenen – a steep descent through a narrow gorge. This railway is called the Schöllenenbahn. In the opposite
direction the line leaves the station and curves left towards Brig. Everything is metre gauge and steep sections are
abt rack operated. Travelling along these lines is strongly recommended, but try to pick a clear day!
 Belgium – Line 125A gets passenger service
Line 125A from Liege-Guillemins to Flemalle-Haute via Kinkempois yard reopened on 8 June with an
hourly Liers to Flemalle Haute service, weekdays only. The stations of Seraing and Ougrée were also
reopened as part of the project.
Courtesy of europeanrailwayatlas.com
 Czech Republic – Mladá Boleslav changes planned
Mladá Boleslav is home to the Škoda Auto works which has recently increased production resulting in
a considerable increase in vehicle movements and traffic congestion, both on the roads and rails
serving the site. 60% of production leaves by rail. The State has announced funding for a new road and
also several new railway projects, the latter building on works in 2008 which increased capacity. A new
5km double-track line will link the Nymburk - Mladá Boleslav lines directly to the Škoda Auto complex,
and a major modernisation of the line between the main railway station and Mladá Boleslav město
undertaken, including the reconstruction of the main railway station and a new east station.
Construction could start in 2021. More details, in Czech, at:
The proposed line is on the right of the map and runs parallel with the major road (in yellow) for a few km.
 France – Morlaix to Roscoff closed
Services last ran (it is believed) on 3 June. Heavy rainfall that day (or earlier) caused a washout near
Saint-Seve, marooning the branch train (an X73500 single-unit diesel) which was eventually brought
out on a low-loader on 20 June. Despite local protests, costly remedial work on a line which was
already in poor condition seems extremely unlikely. Buses replaced trains on 4 June, possibly
 France - Contournement Nimes Montpellier visited
The contournement Nimes Montpellier opened at the July timetable change and runs from just east of
Villeneuve-les-Maguelonne before rejoining the classic line just west of Jonquieres St Vincent. There is
also a freight connection to the Rhône right bank freight line. The contournement currently has 2
passenger trains each way, all Intercites between Bordeaux and Marseille and vice versa. A member
travelled the line from west to east recently, picking up the 10:48 working from Toulouse (8:34 ex
Bordeaux) to Marseille - currently the shortest journey allowing full coverage of the new line. The
journey took 3h 37m, with one intermediate stop at Montpellier Sud de France, opened with the new
line last month. There is no sign of a planned station outside Nimes yet. Spurs to the Nimes to Grau du
Roi branch and the associated construction base have been lifted.
 France - The new tram extension in Nice
Saturday 30 June was hot and sunny, a typical summer day at Nice, Côte d'Azur. The opportunity for a
unique event, the opening of the western section of the West - East tramway (Tram 2).
At the scheduled time, the ochre red Alstom Citadis 405 burst through the inaugural arch under a
shower of confetti and applause from the eager crowds. For Nice Métropole has become resolutely
pro-tram, 70 years after final closure of the original tramway network in the area. The first modern
tram line (8.7km) in Nice was opened in November 2007 in the eastern part of the centre ville and it
quickly became a success in a city saturated by road traffic. Initially planned for 65,000 passengers a
day, the line currently carries over 100,000 passengers daily. 28 Alstom trams are deployed on this line
(13 Citadis 302 trams (35m) and 15, longer, Citadis 402 trams (43m)). The service interval is 4 minutes
throughout the day and the average speed is a low 15 kph.
Nice Métropole has a population of 950 000. The current mayor of Nice has achieved his objective to
improve public transport with a modern tramway system. His projects are supported by the
département of Alpes Maritime and the PACA Region. An ambitious project is underway to create a
multi-branch West - East tram line.
After Line 1, a second line called Ouest - Est is under construction from Cadam to Port Lympia (11 km,
20 stops). A short branch to the airport will serve terminal 1 and terminal 2. Line 2 will pass under the
city centre in a tunnel 3 km long with 4 stops. Line 3 will run from the airport up the Var valley to Saint-
Isidore and will share the infrastructure of Line 2 for 3.7 km (5 stops) and then continue independently
for a further 3.3 km and 6 stops. The overground section of Line 2 from Cadam to Magnam was
opened on 30 June. The branch to the airport will be opened in December 2018. Half the tunnel will be
opened in June 2019 and the remainder of the Ouest - Est line will be opened in September 2019. Line
3 will be opened in December 2019. Later extensions are planned for Line 3 northwards up the valley,
from the airport towards Cros de Cagnes and from both ends of Line 1.
Courtesy of the French Railways Society
 France – Plans for the Paris termini
A vast modernisation plan (600 million euros) has been approved. The busiest terminal station in
Europe handles 700,000 passengers daily. In 2024 it will be 800,000 daily in the year when Paris hosts
the Olympic Games. In 2030 it will be 900,000 passengers daily.
Between 2019 and 2023 the station will be substantially rebuilt and re-organised. It will increase from
36,000 sq m to 110,000 sq m. Much of the increased space will be for retail outlets (shopping !).
Arrival and departure flows will be separated. Arriving passengers will continue to exit at ground level
into the main concourse, but departures will take place from a new glass enclosed bridge across all the
tracks outside the great hall. The number of escalators will be increased from 45 to105 and there will
be 55 lifts compared with 20 at present. The bus station will be modernised. The adjacent
surroundings will be transformed into gardens with trees.
Work is underway to improve this plain, confusing and uncomfortable terminus with larger windows,
light wells and automatic doors.
The passenger flow will be re-organised with 19 more escalators and 4 extra, high capacity, lifts. There
will be more shops (a total of 130 outlets). The budget is 150 million euros and completion is
scheduled for the end of 2020. This station handles 200,000 passengers daily
The station seems to have been a building site for ever! In fact since 2012. It is due to complete in
2020 and the budget is 600 million euros. The Seine side of the station has been opened up for a new
entrance. At present, much of the historic hall is filled with a "LEGO" of scaffolding, presumably for the
repair of the glass roof. There are currently hardly any cafés, and no restaurants at all in the station. An
important point: the toilet kiosque long situated next to Platform 21 (arrivals) has gone and the new
WC service is located next to Platform 1 on the Seine side of the concourse. Platforms 1 - 7 are
currently totally covered over and dark with an office block seemingly under construction above.
Departing passengers may search and find a waiting area with piano hidden away on the arrivals side.
63,000 passengers a day use this quiet terminus. Courtesy of the French Railways Society
 France/Switzerland – Draft timetable for Belfort – Delle – Bienne issued
The draft timetable for the new Belfort-Delle-Bienne line has been issued though it is not considered
yet definitive with discussions continuing especially regarding schoolchildren travel times. The
timetable for Belfort - Delle is here:
 Germany – The last British Military Train
For those with deep pockets and a desire to participate in a little bit of railway history, the last British
Military train will run (steam hauled) 11 to 18 June 2019 from Manchester, through the Netherlands
and onward to Berlin. Details at: http://coldwarexpress.co.uk/info/
 Germany – Sande bypass contract awarded
Deutsche Bahn has awarded a contract to upgrade or replace 5.7 km of the railway from Oldenburg to
the JadeWeserPort container terminal at Wilhelmshaven. 1.7 km of the existing line will be double-
tracked and a new 4 km double-track line will be built to bypass the town of Sande and replace the
existing line which will be lifted. The contract is expected to take 3½ years.
 Luxembourg - Details of a recent visit
Luxembourg’s new tramway opened some months ago from its current northern terminus, known as
Luxexpo to a north central site at Pfaffenthal-Pont Rouge, identified as Paffendall on the cars. On
Friday 27 July the line was extended to a newer, slightly more central, terminus called Stareplaz/Etoile,
with three stations. To celebrate the opening, free rides are available until 16 September. Nine 7-
section articulated cars are employed, numbered from 101 upwards. They have been constructed by
Spanish company CAF and carry a simple but effective livery of black with silver trim. However a
bizarre touch is added by the four doors on each side being glazed in different colours: green, orange,
purple and blue. An approximately 6 minute service was being operated and there were literally
hundreds of people taking photographs. The now current line has 12 stations at which the service is
shown on railway type electronic indicators which show a bus symbol (!) when a tram approaches and
which flashes when ready for departure. In September, when fares commence, the National ride at
will ticket (€4) will be accepted. This ticket is known as Billet long duration and is available from ticket
machines and Luxembourg Central Station. The depot is just north of Luxexpo which has what looks
like a totally useless curved shelter, and is situated at a very complex road junction/roundabout
system. Trams entering and leaving service negotiate this with some priority signals. The line is mainly
on reserved running, except for the three new stations which are on street running, the approach to
Stareplaz being a single line stub end. Luxexpo has two lines and these extend towards the depot
entering the gates inside which is a scissors crossing. This area is also fenced-off, though it looks like it
will be a normal running line when the planned extension to Findel Aeroport is constructed. Beyond
the gates the two lines become four and this is currently the layover point. The line appears to have
considerable scope for traffic as it runs through some notable areas including University, Parliament
and shopping zones. Most the ticket machines seen have a touch screen in five languages but the ‘long
duration’ bit is printed on the ticket as standard.
An extensive publicity campaign has been embarked upon, warning the public of some of the inherent
dangers of the new system, viz falling/stepping off platforms at stops, silent running, fast approach
and the lethal nature of the OLE. Signals are currently ‘tram style’ and can be white or coloured. At one
crossing near the Parliament buildings a double red is displayed to ordinary road traffic.
At Paffendall there is a new funicular railway. The upper station is very spacious and a single-manned
control is located there. Four cars, 1-4, are otherwise unstaffed. Two lines, A and B, each have two
cars, 1&2 and 3&4, respectively. Cars 1 and 3 use left hand loops upwards and cars 2 and 4 their left
hand loops downwards. The livery is standard CFL red. The passing loops are fixed i.e. no moving
pointwork, and the cars have H pattern wheels on one side of their bogies and rollers on the other.
The fixed points of Luxembourgs new funicular. Complete with mysterious white line...
The same system appears on the similar system at Pau in south west France. The lower station is well
served by lifts, escalators and stairways to the CFL station beneath. Pay toilets are situated on CFL
platform 2. The upper station boasts a very well equipped cafe. Just to confuse the issue, the CFL
station is called Pfaffenthal Kirchberg.
 Macedonia/Bulgaria – Rail connection to be completed, finally
Infrastructure manager MZ-I has invited companies to prequalify for a contract to complete Phase 2 of
the planned rail link from Kumanovo in Macedonia to the Bulgarian border, which is being developed
as part of Pan-European Corridor VIII from the Adriatic to the Black Sea.
Phase 1 covers reinstatement of the 31 km Kumanovo – Beljakovce line, which originally opened in
1956. Services were suspended in 1994, and owing to a lack of money construction of the 34 km Phase
2 to Kriva Palanka stopped with around a third of the work complete. Work did not begin on the 23 km
Phase 3, which would continue the line to the Bulgarian border at Deve Bair and railhead at Gyueshevo
in Bulgaria. The Phase 2 contract would include the remaining works for the single track line between
Beljakovce and Kriva Palanka.
 Poland - Tickets in Gdańsk/Sopot/Gdynia
Travel in Poland is generally excellent value – in the ‘tri-city’ region of Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia a
single local transport ticket costs PLN 3.40 (approx. 70p) and a single SKM train ticket between Gdynia
and Gdańsk is PLN 6.50 (around £1.30). However if you are spending any time in the region then a
‘bilet metropolitalny’ is worth it for savings and convenience. Unless you speak Polish, though,
obtaining one of these will probably involve a visit to a forbidding ticket window and a lot of pointing
to get the right version. A 24-hour ticket valid on all local trains (i.e. Polregio and SKM, but not PKP
inter-city services) in the area bounded by Luzino, Cieplewo, Reda Rekowo, Borkowo and Babi Dół
(services to/from Kościerzyna only) plus all local trams, trolleybuses and buses costs a mere PLN 23
(around £4.70) or PLN 46 (£9.40) for 72 hours. During our members visit this was a bit theoretical
because the tickets were not inspected once on any of these means of transport.
Tram at Gdańsk Główny station
 Poland - Elbląg-Ostróda Canal – inclined planes
It is not every day you get to ride on a railway with a gauge of 3.27 metres – and in a vehicle that is not
a train (or is it, if it’s running on rails?) but a boat. The Elbląg-Ostróda Canal in the deeply rural
Warmia/Masuria area of north central Poland has five double-track inclined planes that lift the canal
through a total of 99.5m over a distance of 9.5km. The inclined planes work on the funicular principle
and are water-powered. Boats steer up to a platform with railings on either side and attach to the
platform. When the mechanism is released, the platform and boat move up or down the slope, pulled
or braked by a single cable between the tracks. The canal opened in 1860 but nowadays it operates
purely for leisure. Finding information about trips operating on a weekend in June proved quite
challenging. Żegluga Ostródzko-Elbląska’s website advertised trips starting from Elbląg to the top of
the inclined plane system at Buczyniec, with return by bus (or the reverse), but in reality the only
option seemed to be a return bus trip from Elbląg to Buczyniec (about 40 minutes in each direction),
with a return boat trip traversing the top three inclined planes in both directions. Possibly the fourth
inclined plane was out of action; our members boat trip went as far as the top and then turned round.
Everything was quite well organised, with a commentary in English (and Polish/German/Russian).
Ascending boat meets empty trolley
Boat approaching trolley
Boat approaching trolley
Boat reaches top of plane
Looking down the plane with trolley on right
Reaching the top of the plane
 Romania – Dorneşti to Putna branch reopens
The 39km branch from Dorneşti to Putna reopened on 15 August, the first day coinciding with a local
festival. Subsequent days have an eight train service advertised until 8 December 2018 with some
trains starting at Suceava and others at Dorneşti. The 11 stops between Suceava and Putna have been
augmented by a further 3 temporary stops at Vicov, Putna Troiţă and Putna Centru.
 Serbia/Kosovo - Into and out of Kosovo
Continuing our two members’ exploration of the Balkans after their experiences at Merdare, reported
in the last BLNI, with the journey from Niš to Mitrovica Sever and back to Kraljevo.
Another taxi from the hotel to the station at Niš for a relatively early start with the 07:40 Beograd
Centar service as far as Stalać, formed of one of the new Flirt EMUs 413-033/34. This got our members
to Stalać on time at 09:17 where they would connect into the Jagodina to Kraljevo service due to
depart at 09:42. They had changed trains at this station before and found a complete absence of
train information which still pertained. The train however did turn up just a minute or two late, formed
of another Russian DMU 711-016/15. The schedule on the line to Kraljevo is particularly slow due to
the state of the track, with trains scheduled to take 160 mins to cover the 80km. Arrival at Kraljevo was
on time at 12:24 which gave time to wander into the town and get some lunch before joining the
14:45 service to Mitrovica, formed of Russian DMU 711-063/64.
The Mitrovica train carried Serbian police all the way to the border station at Rudnica, but they did not
carry out any checks. Kosovan police joined the train at Donje Jarinje and checked ID cards and
passports, but did not stamp their passports and seemed quite content with our members’
presence. Although a lot of attention regarding this route focuses on the border and security
arrangements, our members cannot recall any comment on just how scenic the route is. It follows a
gorge and river for much of the way as it steadily climbs all the way to Mitrovica. Travelling through
the Serb areas of north Kosovo there were Serbian flags flying on many buildings and a notable
absence of any overt Kosovan support. The railway is run by employees of Serbian Railways even
though it runs through what is technically Kosovan territory. The entire political situation of this region
seems quite bizarre and it seems strange that it remains part of Kosovo when the population seem to
want nothing to do with Kosovo. It is easy to understand why this is disputed.
The train was quite busy throughout the journey and got them to the 'temporary' station at Mitrovica
Sever on time at 18:22. The station is actually in the middle of what would be described here as a
council depot, filled with road maintenance vehicles and with no signage.
It would have been possible to turn around and go straight back on the same train but this would no
doubt have looked odd and possibly would have attracted some attention. However it suited our
members plans to stay the night in Mitrovica.
Mitrovica Sever station approach, through the council depot. The building in the background is the station ticket
office and waiting room, run by Serbian Railways (SV) even though it is deep within Kosovan teritory.
Mitrovica Sever station. Yes, this is actually a working station!
There is actually a four-star hotel listed on booking.com, in the Serbian area of the city north of the
river Ibar but still over a km from the station, so a good 10 minute walk. The rooms were like mini
apartments including a cooker and fridge and were quite comfortable although hardly four-star by
western standards. They took advantage of the restaurant here and had a good meal before retiring
for the night.
The return train to Kraljevo didn't leave Mitrovica Sever until 10:50 which gave time to have a walk
around the town. The hotel is quite near to the (in)famous Ibar river bridge and was approached via
the main street, with a stop along the way at a grocery store to stock up on refreshments. Everything
in the district north of the river was priced in Serbian Dinars rather than Euros which is the official
currency of Kosovo. The bridge itself was barricaded at its northern end which appears to be the norm,
the Serbs north of the river trying to deter Albanians from the south from crossing.
After checking out of the hotel they made their way back to the station in plenty of time for the 10:50
departure back to Kraljevo, the inbound working for which arrived on time in the form of DMU 711-
050/49. The Kosovan passport checks at Donje Jarinje were as relaxed as on the previous day, but the
Serbian police who joined the train at Rudnica were rather more thorough. The standard advice is that
one must have a valid Serbian entry stamp in your passport otherwise you are likely to be treated as
having entered Serbia (north Kosovo province) illegally. When the police officers were inspecting their
passports they were clearly heard to comment about the Dimotrovgrad entry stamps and did not
hassle them in any way so this advice seems to be correct. What would have happened if they had not
had that stamp is unclear but suspect it would not have been pleasant.
Arrival back at Kraljevo was on time at 14:26. The next part of the plan was to join the 15:00 Lapovo
train as far as Kragujevac where they had a hotel reservation, however when they arrived at Kraljevo
the train wasn't in the station and there was no unit on the stabling sidings to form it so they started
to become concerned as to whether it was running. One of the station staff spoke a little English,
enough to tell them that the train was not running and that they should go to the bus
station. Great! The line to Lapovo has a sparse service of only two trains per day each way and is
difficult to do, so they were not happy about abandoning the plan to do it. It was quickly established
that they should be able to find hotel rooms in Kraljevo and then turn up for the first train to
Lapovo the following morning in the hope that this would run which would allow them to continue
with their original plan. Soon they were booked into a hotel close to the station where they had stayed
before. Since it was not clear whether the 05:40 to Lapovo would run the following morning the hotel
bar was patronised for a long look at the options – resulting in plans 'B' and 'C' over a drink, before
heading into town for a look around and a relaxing sit down by the river Ibar. They then headed back
to the same restaurant where they had lunch the previous day for an evening meal.
 Slovenia/Italy – Trains to cross border and continue to Trieste and Udine
From 9 September trains return to the Villa Opicina to Trieste line with the introduction of through
services from Ljubljana to Trieste and Udine. Two train pairs will operate. Trains last ran from Ljubljana
to Venezia in December 2011.
 Spain - The Sagunt to Zaragoza line visited
This line has certainly undergone considerable realignment. Many kilometres of new line and new
bridges parallel the abandoned formation which is often visible hundreds of metres away. Some old
stations, many of which look quite historic, but especially north of Teruel, appear to have undergone
considerable wholesale modernisation. Cella and Santa Eulalia del Campo have platforms that look like
they could accommodate the longest main line rakes and have centre fast lines, while at Torrijo del
Campo the old station is clearly offset from the current route and part of the line is fit for 160 km/h -
quite different from the line south of Teruel. This may be explained by the commitment to connect
each provincial capital (which Teruel is) with Madrid by a decent main line. Teruel is probably the
stand-out in Spain in not being on a (reasonably) direct line; the best that can be done is via Zaragoza.
The line to Calatayud is long closed (30+ years).
In April 2018 it was reported that the Railway Infrastructure Administrator has begun the procedures
to start adapting the infrastructure of the line linking Sagunt and Zaragoza through Teruel for the
traffic of freight trains of 750 metres in length. This will allow more intensive use of the line for
transport from the Opel plant in Figueruelas with the port of Sagunt, and, it is believed, catalyse more
freight movement by rail from Aragon to the ports of the Cantabrian coast.
 Spain – New service proposed will reopen curve to passenger trains
Continuing delays to the engineering work between Antequera and Granada has led to Renfe
proposing to introduce a temporary direct service between Granada and Madrid via Moreda and
Linares-Baeza from late October. This will return services to the west to north curve south of Moreda.
 Switzerland – Lancy Pont Rouge new station
The new station is at km 64+222 meaning it is 332 metres further away from Genève than the original
station. Distances for the CEVA line, due to open in December 2019 are as follows:
(Zero Lausanne), Genève 60+230, Lancy Pont Rouge 64+222, Carouge-Bachet 65+649, Champel-
Hopital 68+986, Eaux-Vives 70+450, Chêne-Bourg 73+110, border CH-F 74+390, Junction from
Bellegarde 76+290, Annemasse 76+390 (=SNCF 172+713)
REST OF THE WORLD
 New Zealand - Picton to Christchurch reopening in sight
New Zealand national operator KiwiRail will restart its South Island Coastal Pacific passenger service on
the Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch from 1 December 2018, two years after
operations were suspended due to the Kaikoura earthquake on 14 November 2016, which damaged a
large section of the coastal line. The 348km line reopened to restricted freight services in September
last year, 10 months after the earthquake. Trains have been running at night to allow repair work to
continue during the day which has included rebuilding 12km and realigning 5km of track, as well as
stabilising multiple tunnels and cliff faces along the route. Day time freight services are set to resume
later this year. Your international editor, who will be in New Zealand in October, would be pleased to
hear whether any of those realignments are of significance to the gricing fraternity.
[333 Thailand – Funding announced for new railway
Funding has been announced for the construction of a 323 km double track railway from Den Chai in
northern Thailand to Chiang Rai and Chiang Khong on the border with Laos with work expected to
begin in 2019 for opening in 2023. There will be 26 stations plus a freight terminal at the border.
Tunnels will be required at Phrae (1125 m and 6375 m long), Phayao (2825 m) and Chiang Rai
 Turkey/Iran - International service reported as restarting
The train service between Turkey and Iran was reported as having been planned to restart on 18 June
after an absence of three years. The Van - Tabriz service will leave Tabriz on Mondays, returning from
Van on Tuesdays. It is expected to take 8 hours to cover the 331 km at the princely fare of €10.80! It
consists of 4 Iranian couchette coaches, which are apparently 6-berth; TCDD ones are 4-berth.
Although it was announced there would be 2 trains/week there is no information about the other
service days. The first of the new ferries is apparently now running across Lake Van. The train will
presumably use Van Iskele (ferry) station.
 USA – Light rail extension gets go ahead in Tacoma
Seattle public transport agency Sound Transit's board have awarded a $108 million contract to build
the Hilltop Tacoma Link light-rail extension and seven new stations. This will extend the existing light-
rail line by 2.4 miles from the Theater District in downtown Tacoma, Washington state, to the city's
Stadium District and Hilltop neighbourhoods. Services on the new extension will start in 2022. Sound
Transit has plans for an additional expansion project that would bring the Tacoma Link to Tacoma
Community College by 2039.
 USA – Sunrail extends
On 30 July 2018 Sunrail began passenger service along its 17-mile southern expansion into Orange and
Osceola counties, Florida. The extension, which includes four new stations, runs from the existing Sand
Lake Road station in Pine Castle, Florida, to a new terminus in Poinciana, Florida. As part of the project,
SunRail double-tracked most of its corridor and upgraded grade crossings. Ahead of the project's
opening, the commuter railroad last week increased services on its original 32-mile system from 18
round trips a day. For gricers however, the extension is of little value as it is over tracks already
covered by Amtrak services.