BRITAIN: FirstGroup has announced that the Department for Transport (DfT) has exercised an option to continue current contractual arrangements for South Western Railway (SWR) for the full two-year extension period set out in SWR’s National Rail Contract. This will now run until May 25 2025 on existing terms. SWR operates commuter services from London Waterloo to Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire, as well as longer distance services to Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon.

Austria: Škoda Group has established a new Škoda Group Austria subsidiary based in Vienna after acquiring part of the assets, and taking on over 40 employees, of Molinari Rail Austria on February 1 after the latter went into administration in November 2022. Škoda Group says it is significantly strengthening its position in technical engineering and design and has gained an experienced team that will work on both group and its own projects. Škoda Group has gained two new premises: its subsidiary’s head office in Vienna and a branch office in Schwaz, Tyrol.

Brazil: US track inspection technology company Ensco has created a new subsidiary, Ensco Technology of Brazil, to aid its expansion into South America. Ensco says it has a significant Brazilian customer base, including Rumo, MRS, Vale and SuperVIA. In partnership with Infra, Ensco will be using its North American rail development experience to assist Brazil’s Ministry of Infrastructure (Minfra) and National Land Transportation Agency (ANTT) with new line construction under the Pro Rail initiative. The new subsidiary will have access to the Transportation Technology Center (TTC) in Pueblo, Colorado, to meet its technology and research needs.

Denmark: Danish State Railways (DSB) has announced pre-tax profits in 2022 of DKr 229m ($US 32.7m), down from DKr 805m in 2021. Although DSB recorded 163.7 million passenger journeys in 2022 - a 39% increase on 2021 - and passenger revenue was up 40%, profit was adversely affected by higher electricity and diesel fuel prices. DSB has launched a number of initiatives to reduce energy consumption but energy costs, at DKr 344m, were higher than in 2021.

A Swiss Southwestern Railway (SOB) train like those that will be operating half-hourly services on the St Gallen Rhine Valley line. Photo credit: SOB

Switzerland: Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and Swiss Southwestern Railway (SOB) have strengthened their cooperation by signing a declaration of intent over future operation of services on the St Gallen Rhine Valley line following further track doubling. While SOB will operate additional trains between St Gallen and Chur, SBB will take over individual services from SOB on the IR35 Chur - Bern route. With the December 2024 timetable change, there will be a half-hourly service between St Gallen and Sargans over the St Gallen Rhine Valley route and SBB aims to commission SOB to operate these additional trains under SBB’s existing long-distance concession.

A FlixTrain service at Aachen. FlixGroup has celebrated its 10th anniversary after 2022 was its most successful year. Photo credit: Keith Fender

Germany: FlixGroup has marked its 10th anniversary by announcing that 2022 was its most successful year, with worldwide ticket sales exceeding €1.5bn and up 18.5% on 2021 despite Covid-19 restrictions. The company also reported a positive Ebitda for 2022. Although the group had its origins with FlixBus, which now operates in 35 European countries, its FlixTrain services operate in Germany and Sweden. In 2022 over 60 million passengers in 40 countries used FlixTrain, FlixBus, North American Greyhound and Turkish Kamil Koç services. FlixGroup expects revenue to grow by over 20% in 2023 and profitability to also increase.