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UK: Dozens of towns and cities across the UK could benefit from Midlands Engine Rail, a £3.5 billion improvement programme to transform the region’s rail network, launched by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect.

Made up of seven projects, which includes improved connectivity to Birmingham Airport, the programme is strategically-important in supercharging the Midlands Engine economy and is designed to drive sustainability, productivity and social mobility across the whole region. It also includes and builds upon the flagship Midlands Rail Hub scheme; aimed at boosting east-west connectivity, which was submitted to Government in June 2019.

Set to be delivered in stages from 2022 to the completion of HS2 Phase Two, Midlands Engine Rail will provide a much-needed capacity boost for national, local and regional rail services, creating space for 736 more passenger trains on the network each day. Over the past two years, rail passenger numbers have risen faster in the Midlands than anywhere else in the UK.

You can download the full report here: https://www.midlandsconnect.uk/media/1593/final-mer-report.pdf

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POLAND: The European Commission adopted three major Cohesion Policy projects, modernising the Polish rail and road network and increasing travel safety while reducing costs and travel time.

EU-funded works will replace the outdated technology and set up a modern communication system along almost 14,000 km of railway line throughout the country. In addition to improving passenger safety and reducing travel time, this project will allow Poland to move towards introducing the European Rail Traffic Management System, which will integrate Polish rail lines with the European railway network. The project should be operational as of July 2023.

More than €117 million allocated to upgrade Silesia's railway services, which includes upgrading and electrifying 46 km of railway lines, building or refurbishing stations, platforms, viaducts and bridges in northern Silesia. It will also make platforms accessible for people with reduced mobility and build a new International Airport station at Pyrzowice, which serves the regional capital of Katowice.

Works will restore traffic on the Tarnowskie Góry-Zawiercie line while creating safe and reliable links to and from Pyrzowice airport. Once finished in May 2022, this project will improve the efficiency of freight transport and ensure reliable connections for passengers. It will ultimately boost local economic development.

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THE NETHERLANDS: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will replace one of its daily services between Brussels and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (“Schiphol”) with seat capacity aboard the Thalys high-speed train. In recent months, KLM, Thalys and NS Dutch Railways have developed a long-term plan to reduce the number of flights between Brussels and Schiphol. The basic premise being that the product should match its current appeal to customers.

KLM has regularly indicated that it is in favour of replacing short-haul flights with rail services, as long as trains fully match the speed, reliability and comfort that air travel offers passengers. The decision to reduce flight frequency from five to four flights a day on the Brussels-Schiphol route, in combination with the improved Air&Rail product aboard the Thalys, is a first step. KLM intends to gradually cut back the number of flights between Brussels and Schiphol. The Brussels-Schiphol route is used by passengers who catch connecting flights to intercontinental destinations at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

“Intermodal transport involving trains and planes remains a complex and challenging business. Speed is key, not only in terms of the train itself, but also the transfer process at the airport. We aim to make maximum progress in both areas. Reducing our frequency from five to four flights a day is a good way of gaining more experience with Air&Rail services," KLM President & CEO Pieter Elbers said.

This step is part of KLM’s commitment to “Fly Responsibly”, which aims to create a sustainable future for air transport, but it also reflects our commitment to the sector plan Smart and Sustainable. Next to that, KLM is faced with slot restrictions at Schiphol. By replacing short-haul flights with rail services, scarce slots can be used for services to long-haul destinations. Rail services will maintain feeder traffic to Schiphol, while network quality improves thanks to the more varied range of available destinations.

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USA: The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors awarded a contract to KDG+DE Construction Support Services for $25.9 million to provide construction support for the Airport Metro Connector (AMC) 96th Street Transit Station project. This is the first time a female-led consultant group has been selected to work on a large Metro project. 

KDG+DE is a partnership of KDG Construction Consulting and Destination Enterprises. The AMC station will be built at the intersection of Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street and will serve Metro Rail and local bus lines. The station will also be the transfer point between local transit and the future Los Angeles World Airport (LAWA) Automated People Mover that will provide quick rides to and from LAX passenger terminals.

Metro expects to begin heavy construction in mid-2020 with the station forecast to open in 2023, the same year as the LAX people mover is scheduled to debut. 

The AMC 96th Street Station is a design-bid-build project, meaning that all design plans and specifications will be completed by Metro’s design consultant prior to award of a construction contract.

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USA: The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has launched a new programme designed to provide state funding for transportation projects while also leveraging local and private funding.

The new Cost Share Program will provide funding to local entities for transportation projects that improve safety, support job retention and growth, improve access or mobility, relieve congestion and help areas across the state improve the transportation system.

Up to $50 million will be available in the program for fiscal year 2020. The on-going program, which has at least $11 million available, requires a minimum of 15% non-state cash match. Additional consideration will be given to project applications that commit more than the minimum required match amount. The funding above the base $11 million comes from a one-time, $50 million State General Fund transfer. A minimum 25% match is required for projects to qualify for the one-time funds.

The Cost Share Program is open to all transportation projects including roadway (on and off the state highway system), rail, airport, bicycle/pedestrian and public transit. Funds from the program can only be used for construction.

“Creating the Cost Share Program allows us to leverage both state and local dollars to help address important transportation needs across Kansas,” said Kansas Secretary Julie Lorenz. “We look forward to working with Kansas communities to build projects that improve safety and keep the Kansas economy moving.”

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis beginning 3 September 2019, and will be reviewed twice annually, in October and March. To be included in the first review period, applications must be submitted by 11 October 2019. Selection criteria will include consideration of projects that meet programme objectives, eligibility categories and requirements. Geographic distribution also will be considered during project selection. More details can be found here: http://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdotorg/Headquarters/PDF_Files/pressrelease2019/Cost_Share_Program.pdf