Argentina: A consortium of Néstor Otero, Emepa and Ferrovías has won a 30-year concession to build and operate a transport interchange in Mar del Plata. Completion is expected to take 24 months at a cost of 23·5m pesos, including a station funded by the federal government.A second batch of ex-Portuguese Railways rolling stock purchased by the federal government was dispatched from the port of Setúbal on January 14, comprising six diesel railcars, 18 diesel-electric locomotives, 13 EMU cars and 11 passenger coaches.ALL has begun work to re-open the Fátima – Rojas branch to freight traffic, in order to serve a new river port at Brazo Largo. Austria: In December the Land of Salzburg began negotiating to take over ÖBB’s 760 mm gauge Pinzgaubahn during 2008. It would be renamed Nationalparkbahn and operated by Salzburg AG. Flood damage which had brought plans for closure will be repaired at a cost of €12·9m, using funds allocated to the line until 2014. Czech Republic: A KC750m project to revitalise Praha Hlavni station was formally launched on December 14. To be completed by November 2011, the work is being part-funded by the EBRD and undertaken by Czech firm Metrostav as subcontractor to Italian firm Grandi Stazioni, which has a 30-year contract signed in October 2002 to manage commercial and retail spaces at the capital’s main station.Canada: VIA Rail has introduced Interac Online payment, allowing customers of three banks to use internet banking to make payments when booking tickets.Europe: On January 9 SNCB and SNCF signed an agreement to create the Sideros joint venture to provide transport and logistics services to the iron and steel industry. This will involve the creation of a pool of specialised wagons, freeing-up investment resources for new equipment. Germany: Regional transport authority ZVON has selected Ostdeutsche Eisenbahn to take over passenger services from Cottbus to Zittau and Forst and from Görlitz to Hoyerswerda and Bischofswerda in 2008. They are currently operated by Veolia subsidiary Lausitzbahn and DB Regio.Philippines: On January 16 Finance Secretary Margarito Teves signed an agreement with Export-Import Bank of China for a US$500m Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan for the 45 km Northrail Project Phase 1, Section 2, from Malolos to Clark. An agreement to upgrade the existing North Luzon Railway was signed by Northrail and China National Machinery & Industrial Corp, and an agreement for upgrading South Luzon Railway Phase 1, Section 1, was signed by PNR and China National Technical Import & Export Corp.Russia: Rosneft-Sakhalinmorneftegaz has put up for sale the 230 km Okha – Nogliki 1 067 mm gauge railway in northern Sakhalin, with all buildings and stock.Slovakia: Civil engineering firms Dopravoprojekt and Infraprojekt have established DI Koridor to undertake the development of a rail link to Bratislava airport. ZSR has put the cost at KS940m, with half of the funding to come from the EU and half from the state budget.Slovenia: Work began in December on a two-year upgrade of the Pragersko – Ormoz section of Pan-European Corridor V. The EU is contributing €14·6m towards the €36·m cost of the work.South Africa: Work is expected to begin next month on the construction of a 69 km rail link to Majuba power station from Ermelo on the Richards Bay coal line. Utility company Eskom has allocated R1·8bn for the project, which it expects to complete in 2010 to relieve pressure on the existing line to the power station.A R3·2bn refurbishment of 1 600 suburban EMU cars over the next three years has been announced by South Africa Rail Commuter Corp. CEO Lucky Montana said Metrorail is operating on a ‘knife edge’, with only 3 200 operational vehicles out of the fleet of 4 600.Spain: Acciona Rail Services has become the second private freight operator to be awarded a safety certificate by ADIF. Under a five-year contract with Unión Fenosa starting at the end of January, it expects to haul 600 000 tonnes of coal a year from the port of Gijón to a power station at La Robla using a two locos and 33 wagons, acquired at a cost of €12m.Sweden: Following the deregulation of night trains in Sweden in January, from January 31 to March 4 Connex is operating an overnight service between G?teborg and the Jamtland winter sports resorts of Åre, Duved and Storlien, using Class 142 electric locos supplied by Hector Rail.Switzerland: On the weekend of December 16 a train undertaking a series of over-speed test runs in the Lötschberg base tunnel reached 280 km/h, setting a new Swiss speed record.
Rwanda rolls out issuance of electronic passports FILE:The Supreme Court of Rwanda.PHOTO/NewTimes FILE:The Supreme Court of Rwanda.PHOTO/NewTimesRwanda is set to launch an electronic auctioning system in courts as it seeks to move to reduce corruption in the auctioning process of loan defaulters’ property.The system is aimed at reducing the human element in the auctioning process thereby tackling corruption and undervaluation of auctioned properties.While speaking to the New Times Agency, The Registrar General Richard Kayibanda said that with the electronic collateral auctioning system any interested bidder will be able to bid from wherever they are, whether in Rwanda or abroad, as the bidding will be done online.He said that the use of the digital collateral auctioning system will make the process more transparent and make the bidding environment friendlier contrary to some past instances where some ‘brokers’ would physically harass genuine bidders due to human interaction.“It will be easier, faster and more transparent. The client can place their bid at any time and will be able to see the bidding results at the opening time, which will be communicated through email,” he explained.According to the Head of the Access to Justice Services in the Ministry of Justice, Martine Urujeni, this will help weed out ‘mafia rings’ formed by some brokers to distort prices and value.Related Rwanda hosts International Anti-Corruption Excellence Awards Three students in Rwanda develop anti-corruption app