The International Light Rail Magazine
+44 1733 367610
Geoff@lrtap.com
Melbourne completes W-Class audit

Melbourne completes W-Class audit

An audit by Australia’s Victoria State Government has found that just 27 of its stored W-Class trams have the potential for refurbishment and re-use in passenger service. A total of 752 trams of the type were produced between 1923-56 and 224 remain on VicTrack’s register. The famous cars were phased out of revenue service in 2012, although the 27 are those fitted with uprated braking systems in the early 2000s. Six cars have already been modernised for use on the free City Circle tourist route and given the designation W8; enhancements include uprated traction motors, suspension and braking systems and LED lighting. The cost of such restoration is reported at AUD2m (approx EUR1.3m) per car. A further three SW6 cars have been converted for use as restaurant trams. The audit, announced in late 2016 by State Transport Minister Jacinta Allan and completed in November, involved detailed external and internal inspection and a grading scale assessing each car’s condition. The results have been handed to a Special Reference Group to decide the future of around 200 stored vehicles (mainly W5, SW5, W6, SW6 and W7 variants). The majority are in the Newport workshop and haven’t moved in decades: 139 are deemed suitable for potential static display, operation by heritage tramway groups or as spares for the later cars (W5-onwards) already in museums, while 20 specially-painted ‘art trams’ have been identified as having cultural value, alongside two themed trams and six historic advertising cars. A further six could be used for operational spares, while another 15 could be used for static spares. “Some of them are in OK nick, some are...
Škoda sold to PPF Group

Škoda sold to PPF Group

Following more than a year of speculation, and negotiations with potential suitors including Chinese rolling stock giant CRRC and Czech billionaire Daniel Kretínsky, PPF Group announced it had acquired 100% of Škoda Transportation shares on 25 November. The transaction is reportedly worth in excess of CZK10bn (EUR395m); completion is subject to approval by regulatory authorities. PPF was founded in 1991 by Czech entrepreneur Petr Kellner and has developed a diverse EUR35bn portfolio of assets in markets such as financial services, telecommunications, biotechnology and agriculture. Kellner retains a 98.92% stake. Earlier this year Škoda announced record 2016 earnings of CZK1.57bn (EUR61.7m) against a turnover of CZH15.7bn (EUR616.4m). Although turnover had fallen by around 15% year-on-year, the company announced that net profit had risen from CZK588m (EUR23.1m) in 2015. Exports accounted for just over half of the company’s production during the period, employing over 5300 staff. Trams remained the mainstay of its activities last year, with 87 low-floor vehicles produced for Helsinki, Bratislava and Praha and contracts signed for deliveries to Chemnitz, Eskiehir and Riga in 2016. It has also been involved in joint ventures for local assembly of its tramway products in China, including with CSR Quingdao Sifang and Beijing Subway Rolling Stock Equipment...
BQX mock-up unveiled

BQX mock-up unveiled

Public officials and advocates of proposals to build a 22.5km (14-mile) light rail line connecting the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens revealed a life-size mock-up of an Alstom Citadis low-floor vehicle at the Brooklyn Naval Yard on 13 November. The 14m USD100 000 prototype was shipped from Nice for the event. The Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) is intended to reduce congestion along the waterfront of the East River and improve connections to the city. Still in the early planning stages, the new line could open in 2024; the area’s  last lines closed on 31 October 1956. Announced by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio in February 2016, the double-track route would run between Astoria and Sunset Park, although critics have suggested that the plan to issue bonds against future property taxes along the line would not be sufficient to meet the project’s USD2.5bn pricetag and that these funds instead be invested in upgrading the city’s existing...
R1 ‘BatTram’ project cancelled

R1 ‘BatTram’ project cancelled

The R1 (Russia One) low-floor tram prototype will never go into series production, it has been confirmed by Uraltransmash’s new owners, due to a lack of orders and complexities associated with the radical design. A three-section prototype was revealed at the Innoprom exhibition in Yekaterinburg in 2014, dubbed by many as ‘an iPhone on rails’ or the ‘BatTram’. With composite construction, innovative interior layouts and advanced suspension and door systems, the concept also featured an inversely-raked driver’s cab that increased forward visibility by reducing glare and giving a 30% wider forward view, according to designer OKB Atom. No orders materialised in the subsequent three years, despite reported interest from both Yekaterinburg and Casablanca, and Uraltransmash’s parent company Uralvagonzavod found itself in difficulties. It was taken over by state-owned defence and technology conglomerate Rostec following a presidential decree on 27 December 2016. Rostec Director of Special Projects Vassili Brovko said: “The R1 is very beautiful… but it has not managed to find a place in the market, and it never will. “First, there is no chassis, then the tram is not easy to repair. If someone broke something, it would be hard to figure out where to order a spare part and how long it would take to get it.” Rostec is reportedly still working with state-owned Vnesheconombank to remedy UVZ’s financial...
Wellington light rail: ‘Get on with it’

Wellington light rail: ‘Get on with it’

Light rail plans for the New Zealand capital could be fast-tracked following new Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s comments that proposals to fix the city’s growing congestion ‘lack ambition’. The Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) coalition of Wellington City Council, the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the NZ Transport Agency released four proposals in mid-November which all include significant tunnelling and road work to cater for expansion of the capital’s bus services. LGWM consultation said demand to justify light rail was ten years away and the short-term priority was better bus routes. Three recent proposals include enhanced bus mass transit, but LGWM suggests that up to NZD500m (EUR290m) more would be needed for light rail. Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and Greater Wellington Regional Council Chair Chris Laidlaw say they support bringing forward the timeline for light rail, but added that the four proposals require necessary freeing up of road space for public transport. Laidlaw said the message he took away from his meeting with Twyford and Lester was to “get on with it”. The process of dismantling Wellington’s trolleybus system began on 1 November, despite protests from residents and businesses. The recent change of government had raised hopes of a reversal of the council’s 2014 decision to remove the system, but Mr Twyford said millions of dollars had already been committed to remove the wires and recommission bus services. The city’s 40 trolleybuses are to be refitted with hybrid power units, but the first vehicles won’t enter service until July 2018; in the meantime, replacement diesel buses have been brought in from Auckland. Daran Ponter, Deputy Chairman of GWRC’s sustainable transport...
Houston transit services suspended due to flooding

Houston transit services suspended due to flooding

Rainfall generated by Hurricane Harvey and its tropical storm aftermath saw the suspension of all transit service by Houston Metro (Texas) from Saturday 26 to Wednesday 30 August. Over 800mm (32in) fell in 72 hours, causing extensive flooding. Rail service was suspended, airports were closed and highways rendered impassable. In addition to bus services, Houston Metro operates three light rail lines: Red, Green and Purple. The Red line runs from Northline Transit Center across the city centre to the Astrodome and Fannan South Transit Center; the Green and Purple lines start in the Theater District and run east to Magnolia Park Transit Center and Palm Transit Center respectively. The system totals 38.3km (28.3 miles) and carries more than 75 000 passengers/day. Although LRT infrastructure survived relatively unscathed, all service was suspended when parts of the system saw water levels rise more than 100mm (4in) above the railhead. On 26 August Austin’s Capital Metro Red line services were suspended north of Crestview due to fallen power...