Europe View

Keith Fender



In late November reports in the Dutch media suggested Eurostar services between London and Amsterdam were going to be delayed and would not start operation for at least six months, ie until June 2018. Eurostar had previously told multiple UK media outlets during May 2017 that services to Amsterdam would start with an inaugural service for invited guests in December 2017 with public services starting in the spring of 2018 in time for Easter (which is 1 April 2018). When asked in late November, Eurostar rather bizarrely told Modern Railways ‘Earlier this year we said that we were aiming to start commercial services in the spring after Easter and that is still our plan’. To compound the confusion, the Eurostar spokesperson in the Netherlands dealing with the Dutch media in late November said ideally services would begin before Easter, although they conceded they might not!

The delay to the start of through services to the Netherlands appears to be due to two main factors – the need for discreet new security and immigration screening at both Amsterdam and Rotterdam stations, plus the need to gain approval for use of the Class 374 trains in the Netherlands and to train drivers and other staff.

The construction of the planned Eurostar passenger facilities at Amsterdam CS was underway in early January, however in Rotterdam the original plan to build a long thin Eurostar passenger building on island platforms 3 and 4 has been abandoned, with the revised plan being a Eurostar area in the main station building adjacent to the existing platform 1, previously used by the shuttle service to Hook of Holland; this platform will be widened, and London-bound Eurostar trains will use it. Construction work in Rotterdam is reportedly scheduled to begin in early 2018.

Test running of through trains between Amsterdam and London (as opposed to test runs in the Netherlands) has now begun, but the planned inaugural train for invited guests has yet to happen. We understand the trains do not yet have all the necessary approvals for passenger use in the Netherlands.

Our thanks to reader John Morris for some of the information in this report


The Lithuanian Parliament ratified the State Treaty allowing for construction of the new standard gauge Kaunas to Tallinn ‘Rail Baltica’ line in October 2017. The treaty followed agreement between the three Baltic countries in January 2017 on the route and financing for the new line. The parliaments of Estonia and Latvia had already ratified the treaty in June 2017.

In late December the RB Rail trilateral joint venture, which will build the line on behalf of the three governments, started tenders for design of the Parnu to Rapla section in Estonia and the Kaunas to Ramygala section in Lithuania, connecting with the completed section from Kaunas south to the Polish border. In Estonia the government has decided to withdraw passenger services from December 2018 on the Lelle to Parnu line, which will in part be paralleled by the new 1,435mm-gauge route; this is to avoid track renewal costs, and buses will be provided instead. Whether passenger services on this section will be provided when the new line opens in 2026 is not clear.

The proposed link by tunnel under the Baltic from Tallinn to the Finnish capital Helsinki has also taken a step forward. The project, known as the FinEst link, is currently being evaluated, with draft plans expected in early 2018. The current planning suggests construction of a fixed rail link between Finland and Estonia could begin in the 2030s.

Under construction: the new Eurostar check-in buildings are being built behind the hoarding on the right at the eastern end of Amsterdam Centraal. On 5 December 2017, NS Traxx Loco No 186003 (right) is on the rear of a train to Brussels and No 186142 at the rear of an IC Direct service to Breda via the HSL-Zuid route.
Keith Fender



Czech Railways (Česke drahy or ČD) has leased 10 Vectron MS locos from European Loco Leasing (ELL) to operate Eurocity services between Prague and cities in Germany. Originally ČD had planned to use its Škoda-built Class 380 locos for these services, but major delays in gaining approval for use in Germany (ironically now received) meant it was simpler to hire Vectron locos, which already had the necessary approvals. The lease agreement with ELL is for 10 years.

From 10 December 2017 the Vectron locos replaced the older ČD dual-voltage Class 371 locos used between Prague and Dresden/Leipzig. From 10 June the Czech Vectron locos will be used as far north as Kiel, Hamburg and Berlin on a daily basis, removing the need for locomotive changes in Dresden and reducing Prague to Berlin journey times by a minimum of 12 minutes.

ČD is now introducing modernised coaches equipped with Wi-Fi and USB sockets on these services; in some cases, these newly-refurbished open coaches were formerly compartment stock.

Dresden loco change: ČD loco No 193290 takes over a Hamburg to Prague working at Dresden Hbf on 11 December 2017. This practice will cease from 10 June when the Czech Vectrons will operate further north into Germany.
Keith Fender



Two more contracts for new trains to replace old loco-operated Intercites trains were announced at the end of 2017. Bombardier will supply 32 eight-car R2N (or Omneo Premium) part double deck, part articulated inter-city EMUs for use operating former Intercites or Trains d’Equibilibre du Territoire (TET) services on these routes:

■ Paris – Orleans – Tours;

■ Paris – Bourges; and

■ Paris – Montargis – Nevers.

The trains will be delivered between 2020 and 2022, replacing services currently operated with Corail coaches and Class BB7200/ BB26000 electric locomotives. It appears the current limited Paris – Bourges – Montlucon through services will be replaced (possibly during 2018) by a DMU shuttle on the section Bourges to Montlucon, as this section is currently operated using BB67400 diesel locomotives.

In addition, the new Grand Est region has ordered six more Coradia Liner bi-mode units from Alstom to replace Corail coaches (and Class BB15000 locomotives) used to operate Paris Est to Bar-le-Duc commuter TER services. The units will also be used to enhance service frequencies on the Paris Est – Troyes – Belfort line, which has already seen an improvement in service frequency since the region took over responsibility for the service from SNCF Voyages.

Alstom also announced in early January that it will supply eight more dual-voltage Regiolis (Coradia Polyvalent) EMUs to the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region for TER services for delivery by June 2020, to add to 16 already ordered (of which half are in use). The Grand Est Region has also ordered one more bi-mode Regiolis unit to add to its existing TER fleet.


A collision between a regional passenger train formed of a Z2 EMU and a school bus on 14 December at Millas on the Perpignan to Villefrance-le-Conflent line in south western France left six children dead and another 20 people injured. Investigations into the accident are ongoing, although the probable cause seems to have been the bus driver trying to get through the closing crossing gates as they came down. The bus driver has been charged with manslaughter and awaits trial.



German national operator Deutsche Bahn introduced its fleet of new Bombardier-built Twindexx EMUs (German Classes 445 and 446) in several parts of Germany from December 2017. Delivery of these trains to DB subsidiary DB Regio had been delayed by up to three years due to ongoing safety case approval issues.

DB Regio has ordered several batches of the new powered driving Twindexx vehicles, which are formed into EMUs using modern Twindexx double deck coaches, some of which were already in service in the old push-pull trains the EMUs will replace. Originally due in service in December 2014, 32 Class 445 power cars have been delivered to Kiel in northern Germany to form 16 EMUs, which carry the new Schleswig-Holstein regional green/grey livery rather than DB red. As the new intermediate vehicles needed no additional safety approval, they had already been used in service in loco-operated sets since 2015; this had also occurred on routes from Frankfurt.

The Twindexx EMU power cars have been delivered in two basic variants. Some have doors positioned 730mm above the railhead and are classified Class 446, while the powered vehicles supplied elsewhere have entry heights of both 600mm and 1150mm and are classified as Class 445. The orders are summarised below:

■ Berlin Brandenburg – 5x5-car trains (10 driving power cars), originally due in service December 2014; Schleswig-Holstein – 16x4-car trains (32 driving power cars), originally due in service December 2014;

■ Main-Spessart (Frankfurt – Wurzburg/Bamberg) – 12x4-car trains (24 driving power cars), originally due in service December 2015;

■ Ringzug West (Bavaria Augsburg /Treuchtlingen – Nuremberg/Munich) – 3x4-car trains and 15x6-car trains (36 driving power cars), originally due in service December 2016; and

■ Main Neckar Ried (Frankfurt to Heidelberg/ Mannheim) – 7x3-car and 17x4-car trains; fleet partially entered service on schedule in December 2017.

The first Twindexx EMU to enter service was in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein on 27 September 2017 between Kiel and Neumunster, initially operating as a three-car passenger-carrying test train. Since early December 2017 Class 445 units have entered widespread service, not only on the Hamburg to Kiel route but also between Frankfurt and Wurzburg/Bamberg. In all these cases the new double deck EMUs were delivered late and replaced loco-operated push-pull trains.

The Class 446 trains entered service on schedule on 10 December operating the Main Neckar Ried contract services between Frankfurt and Heidelberg. Not all the 24 Class 446 trains had been delivered in time for the new contract, so DB has put in place a transition plan with all the former loco-operated push-pull trains on the Frankfurt to Mannheim route likely to be replaced from April onwards.


From 10 December 2017 DB Fernverkehr has been using five of its new ICE4 Class 412 250km/h EMUs daily, replacing Class 401 ICE1 trains on the Hamburg – Munich via Hannover route.

The number of ICE4 trains in use will increase to nine sets daily from 10 June. The displaced ICE1 trains, which date from the late 1980s, have been used to expand capacity on the new Munich – Erfurt – Berlin – Hamburg route (see feature, p74) and are not being withdrawn but instead fitted with European Train Control System for many years of future use.

Opening day: LUAS Citadis vehicle No 5020 at Phibsboro tram stop on the former MGWR alignment used to reach Broombridge on 9 December 2017
Neil Dinnen



The LUAS ‘Green line’ light rail extension from St Stephen’s Green to Broombridge via Dublin city centre opened on 9 December 2017. The railway order was granted for the new line on 3 August 2012; work commenced in June 2013 and includes 5.9km of double track, 13 new stops and a new depot at Broombridge. The new infrastructure was handed over to operator Transdev on 8 September 2017, with several weeks of system testing having been completed the previous day. The budget for the project was €370 million and the total cost came in €2 million under that. This project was the only one of the three major Dublin transport projects proposed before the global financial crisis and subsequent recession to receive funding.

The new cross-city line achieves three important goals – interchange with the ‘Red line’ at the Abbey Street stop and with Iarnrod Eireann services at Broombridge, as well as serving the busy O’Connell Street area. Only northbound trams operate through O’Connell Street due to traffic volumes, the southbound line operating parallel on Marlborough Street and crossing the new Rosie Hackett bridge over the river Liffey. Journey time on the new section of route is around 25 minutes.

North of the city centre, the line serves the new Dublin Institute of Technology campus, then passes around the former Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR) Broadstone terminus before joining the MGWR track bed out to Broombridge, which last saw regular passenger trains in 1937 and closed in 1961. The route was reserved, preventing redevelopment and thus allowing its use by the LUAS. Broombridge IE station (opened in July 1990) and the LUAS interchange greatly improve transport links in north west Dublin.

First week in service: a DB Regio Class 445 Twindexx EMU led by power car No 445050 arrives at Würzburg from Frankfurt on 7 December 2017.
Keith Fender

Capacity enhancements are taking place along the Green line, including platform extensions to accommodate 55-metre Citadis trams. Seven new 55-metre trams are being delivered by Alstom and are due for introduction in March 2018. Existing ‘5000 Class’ trams are to be extended to 55 metres. When completed, 8,160 passengers per direction per hour (24 trams per hour) will be able to be carried. Tim Casterton



Italian open access high-speed operator Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV) has confirmed it is planning a stock market flotation via an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in early 2018, and has shortlisted banks to assist with the process.

After being founded in December 2006, NTV started operation on the Turin to Naples route in April 2012 using a fleet of 25 AGV high-speed EMUs built by Alstom, all of which were in service by 2013. The timing of the company’s launch, coinciding with the global financial crisis which led to recession in Italy, led to NTV having to amend its service offer and obtain new financing over the next few years. The original financing for the start-up of around €700 million was raised during 2008, and French national operator SNCF was selected as a strategic partner with a stake of 20%. Between 2015 and 2017 significant debt restructuring was undertaken coupled with new capital injected by new shareholders. SNCF sold its stake in June 2017 – the 20% stake (in 2008) had dwindled to around 1.4% (thanks to additional capital contributed by other shareholders which SNCF had not matched). Current shareholders are a mixture of private investors and institutional investors such as banks and insurance companies.

NTV launched a growing network of long-distance buses in Italy in December 2015 – these are branded as .italobus and have expanded rapidly during the last two years.

The company reported revenue from transport services – it no longer supplies a breakdown of rail and bus passenger revenues – of €329 million for the first nine months of 2017, resulting in an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation) profit of €114.8 million. Whilst these results are an improvement on the same period in 2016 (up 25.9% and 78.8% respectively), it is impossible to tell how much is due to the capital-intensive rail operation (rail kilometres operated increased by 6.6% in the period) and how much has been gained from bus services (which in kilometres operated increased by 36.3% in the same period).


In October 2015 NTV announced an order for eight 250km/h seven-car non-tilting Pendolino-Evo EMUs to be built by Alstom in Italy, the first of which entered service (as Italian Class ETR675) in mid-December 2017. This order has since been increased to 17 trains, each costing €21.3 million based upon figures disclosed in NTV’s accounts, with four more ordered in September 2016 and five more ordered in November 2017, principally for Rome – Milan and Rome – Venice services. A new maintenance depot for the Pendolino-Evo fleet is being built in the north of Italy in the Venice area to complement the company’s other major depot, which is in the south of the country near Naples.

All in service: a pair of new NS Flirt three-car EMUs at Tilburg on 5 December 2017.
Keith Fender



The first part of Luxembourg’s new 16km-long tram system, known as Luxtram, opened on 10 December 2017 when the 3.6km section between the LuxExpo exhibition centre and Rout Breck-Pafendall (Pont Rouge/Pfaffenthal) opened with eight tram stops in total. A 200-metre new Abt rack-equipped fully automatic funicular railway, operated by national rail operator CFL, connects Rout Breck-Pafendall (Pont Rouge/ Pfaffenthal) tram interchange with the brand new Pfaffenthal-Kirchberg station on the Luxembourg to Ettelbruck line, which also opened on 10 December; this is located 40 metres below the tram line in the Alzette valley.

The Luxtram network will expand in the next few years – the rest of the line to Place de l’Etoile in the city will open in 2018, and the line will be extended to Luxembourg’s main station by 2020. Extensions from LuxExpo north and east to Luxembourg Findel airport and from the main station by 3.9km to Cloche d’Or, south of the city centre, will open in 2021. Luxembourg used to have an electric tram system, but the last line closed in 1964.

The section between Pont Rouge and the main station via the city centre has no continuous overhead power supply, although some tram stops will have 750V DC overhead power catenary. The 21 CAF-built bi-directional 45.4-metre-long Urbos light rail vehicles incorporate CAF’s Greentech Freedrive technology, which uses lithium batteries to store sufficient energy for up to 10km of operation. CAF won the €83 million contract to build the trams in May 2015.



Dutch operator NS has now taken delivery of all 58 Flirt EMUs ordered from Stadler in April 2015. The €280 million order was placed without tendering, as NS claimed it had an urgent need due to widespread overcrowding. The new trains (25x4-car and 33x3-car units) were assembled at Stadler’s Siedlce plant in eastern Poland.

NS has two more large EMU orders in progress. CAF is delivering 118 EMUs (68x3-car and 50x4-car) based on its Civity platform, ordered in October 2014 (before Stadler was awarded the ‘urgent’ Flirt contract), the first of which are now on test in the Netherlands; passenger service should begin later in 2018. Alstom is building 81 ICNG (Inter City New Generation) EMUs, derived from the Regiolis design used in France, for delivery from 2021 onwards.



Tunnelling for the new Bozberg tunnel on the route between Basel and Zurich (via Brugg) was completed in late November. The new 2.7km tunnel, parallel with the existing 2.5km tunnel dating from 1875, is being built to remove one of the last bottlenecks for four-metre corner height freight (road swap bodies on intermodal ‘piggyback’ wagons) between the Swiss border at Basel and the Italian border via the new Gotthard Base Tunnel. The new Bozberg tunnel is forecast to cost SFr350 million (£265 million) and will open to traffic in 2020. The old parallel tunnel will be converted into a service and rescue tunnel connected to the new one by five cross-passages.