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Virgin Trains seeks $US 3.6bn bonds for California–Las Vegas line

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Privately-funded inter-city passenger operator Virgin Trains USA, previously known as Brightline, is seeking approval from the states of California and Nevada to raise as much as $US 3.6bn in tax-exempt bonds for a high-speed line linking southern California with Las Vegas.

Virgin Trains USA confirmed last September that it had acquired XpressWest, a high-speed project with rights to develop a federally-approved corridor connecting Victorville, a desert city 137km northeast of Los Angeles, with Las Vegas.

Bloomberg reports that a California state agency could sign off on Virgin Trains’ application in September, which would result in the company borrowing as much as $US 2.4bn in unrated private activity bonds for the project. In November, a Nevada agency will consider a similar request to let the company leverage as much as $US 1.2bn in similar debt.

The government agencies wouldn’t be responsible for the bond payments but they would allow the Florida-based company, which currently operates a service between Miami and West Palm Beach, to access cheaper capital for the $US 4.8bn project.

The California bond sale is planned for the first quarter of 2020, which could see construction start by June with an opening date in 2023.

Should a committee of Nevada’s government representatives approve the plan, almost a third of the state’s annual capacity for such debt would be designated for the project this year and next, which Bloomberg says is a sign of how important it considers the project.

Proposals for passenger rail links from California to Las Vegas go back decades. Most recently the Las Vegas Railway Express, or X Train, a 2010 start-up that had received state approval, issued stock and purchased passenger coaches before being discontinued in 2016.

Virgin Trains says a one-way trip to or from Las Vegas would take around 90 minutes, half the current driving time, and cost less than driving and parking, and flying, according to an economic impact analysis by Beacon Economics LLC.

The company plans to construct the line in the median of the separated freeway lanes along Interstate 15 from Victorville in San Bernardino County. The company expects the majority of passengers will come from Los Angeles County, according to its application to California’s Debt Limit Allocation Committee.

Earlier this year, Virgin Trains cancelled plans to launch an IPO before receiving approval to raise $US 950m in debt to fund its extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando.

 

Source: railjournal.com

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News in English

Light rail growth strong in Europe, UITP says

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Light rail infrastructure and patronage has seen a steady increase since the start of the millennium, according to a report from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), with 108 new cities around the world opening their first line, including 70 in Europe.

The Light Rail and Tram: The European Outlook statistics brief found that Germany and central Europe make up half of all patronage, with the rest split between southeastern Europe, France, Poland, the Benelux countries (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg), western Mediterranean, Nordic/Baltic and the British Isles.

Between 2015 and 2018, light rail infrastructure in Europe grew by 3.9% from 8943km to 9296km, with ridership growing 6.9% from 9740 million to 10,422 million passengers between 2015 and 2018. Light rail now carries as many passengers as metros and regional/commuter rail, and 10 times more passengers than air travel in Europe. The average light rail journey in Europe is 3.27km.

The busiest light rail network in Europe is in Budapest, Hungary, with 411 million passengers, while Berlin takes the title of longest light rail network in Europe at 193km. Ridership growth varies from region to region, ranging from 17.5% in the British Isles to 1.5% in Poland.

There are notable differences between network structures across the countries. While the average European line is 7.3km long, they tend to be longer on average in countries with newer systems and a limited number of lines, while older, more complex systems feature lower average line length.

The fleet operating on the 1275 light rail lines in Europe consists of 20,750 trams and LRVs, with 51% of this fleet comprising partial or full low-floor vehicles, ranging from countries with almost 100% such as France, Spain, Ireland, Britain and Norway to those with much lower percentages.

The average annual mileage per vehicle in Europe is 52,000km, ranging between 38,700km and 77,500km. The discrepancy can be partly explained by the fleet age structure. In addition, this value is theoretical and based on the assumption that all vehicles are used equally.

UITP says that with continued pressure to reduce congestion, tackle poor air quality in cities and reduce greenhouse gas emission contributing to climate change, light rail will continue to obtain support of decision-makers and the travelling public in Europe.

However, much attention and resources will go into the maintenance, modernisation and replacement of assets to keep ageing systems attractive and fit for purpose. For this reason, the growth of green-field projects in Europe will continue to slow down.

 

Source: railjournal.com

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«Eastern Railway Egnatia» project back to the spotlight

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Σιδηροδρομικές γραμμές στην Αθήνα

The Thessaloniki-Alexandroupolis-Ormenio railway line is once again in the spotlight. According to what OSE Chairman, Mr. Kostas Spiliopoulos, said during a recent ceremony, this project is one of the big challenges of the new decade.

The so-called «Eastern Egnatia Railway» will, as Mr Spiliopoulos explained, connect the ports of Thessaloniki, Kavala and Alexandroupolis and will have modernized features.

The construction of two new sections is also envisaged; the first will be a coastal route from Thessaloniki to Amfipoli and the new port of Kavala, in Nea Karvali are and the second section, from Nea Karvali port to Toxotes, Xanthi, where it will be meeting with the existing line.

The whole line will be electrified and will be able to support speeds up to 200 km/h. The new line will continue after Alexandroupolis, ending at the northernmost part of the country, in Ormenio, near the border with Bulgaria and Turkey where the line is used mainly for freight services.

The cost of the projects is estimated at 1.25bn euros and will be activated by the new NSRF 2021-2027.

The Chairman also confirmed that in 2021 all works for the signalling systems on Athens-Thessaloniki corridor will be completed allowing the itinerary to reach 3 hours and 30 minutes while he mentioned that the maintenance of the network will be planned through long-term contracts.

 

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Crossrail on course for summer 2021 opening

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Συρμός του Crossrail στο Λονδίνο

Crossrail Ltd has confirmed that the 21km central underground section of the Elizabeth Line between Paddington and Abbey Wood in central London will finally open in summer 2021 and the cost of the project will not exceed the additional funding agreed in December 2019.

Crossrail says this latest forecast is based on current progress with completing software development for the signalling and train systems along with the safety assurance system for the railway, which is required ahead of the start of intensive testing in the autumn.

Following the opening of the central section, full Elizabeth Line services between Reading and Heathrow in the west via the central section to Shenfield in the east will commence in mid-2022. MTR, using TfL Rail-branded services, began operating stopping services between Reading and Paddington on December 15 and between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in June 2017.

Crossrail agreed additional funding of £400-650m for the project in November 2019, on top of the additional £590m agreed in July 2018 and £2.15bn in December 2018, increasing the budget to over £18bn. This compares to the original £14.8bn budget, which the company claimed the project was on course to meet 18 months before its scheduled opening in December 2018.

TfL expects to lose £1.3bn in income from passengers as a result of the two-and-a-half-year delay to the project.

“We have a comprehensive plan to complete the Elizabeth Line and the milestones we must hit during 2020, including the testing of the signalling and train systems and safety assurance, but there are no shortcuts to delivery of this hugely complex railway,” says Mr Mark Wild, chief executive of Crossrail Ltd.

Crossrail says the central section is on course for substantial completion by the end of the first quarter except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work is set to continue until the end of 2020. All physical work is complete in the tunnels, shafts and portals and fitting out is nearing completion at all other stations.

Intensive testing will involve the operation of multiple trains in tunnels to simulate the Elizabeth Line’s timetable. The final stage of testing will involve passenger trials to test real-time service scenarios.

“We continue to make good progress with the central section now reaching substantial completion and we are increasingly confident that Bond Street station will be ready to open with the rest of the railway,” Wild says

Construction on the project, which at one time was Europe’s largest infrastructure project, began in 2009.

 

Source: railjournal.com

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