Vol. 8 No. 19
May 7, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American rail and transit update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKay
European Correspondent - David Beale
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists, and
elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News items…
Chinese select steel wheel rail technology, reject Maglev for
   national rail system growth
Tampa Bay to get region wide transit authority
  Commuter lines…
Commuters heed call to avoid traffic
  Amtrak news…
New CFO selected
Keystone track work to begin
  Events…
Virginians for High Speed Rail meet May 15
  Corridor lines…
Vermont Senate provision would require DMU “flexibility” in
   Amtrak’s Vermonter equipment:
  Selected rail stocks…
  Environmental lines…
Moving new-tech corn by rail banned
  Transit-Oriented Development…
Rail line drives Utah development
  Across the pond…
Rail Team verses Sky Team: Deutsche Bahn forms international
   alliance in bid to win back passengers from low cost airlines
  End notes…


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News items...

Chinese select steel wheel rail technology,
reject Maglev for national rail system growth

From Internet News Sources and the China Daily

PEKING --- Chinese national rail authorities will rely on high-tech rail lines rather than maglev technology to improve the country’s rail transport capacity, a senior Chinese railway official said this week, the China Daily has reported.

The comments came at a time when some operators have been using or are planning to use maglev (magnetic levitation) technology on relatively short local routes, wrote reporter Xin Dingding.

“At present, most countries use tracks. Maglev technology is a new means of transport that still needs to be researched and improved,” said Wang Yongping, spokesman of the Ministry of Railways, the paper reported.

The National Development and Reform Commission approved a project last year that would use maglev technology on the Shanghai-Hangzhou Railway, though there have been no developments since the approval.

In contrast, Wang said, the Railways Ministry, which is responsible for building national rail lines, had “never chosen to use maglev technology” and thus had not done any research on it.

He added that the Shanghai-Hangzhou Railway and the maglev train serving Shanghai’s Pudong Airport -- the world’s first commercial maglev train -- are both local railways.

The Railways Ministry has been focusing on state-of-the-art track technology to upgrade the country’s railway transport capacity. And since 2004, it has incorporated engine and car technology from France’s Alstom, Canada’s Bombardier, Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Germany’s Siemens AG and the US’s GE and EMD.

The bullet trains that have been running at 200 KPH since the sixth railway speedup on April 18 rely on French and Japanese technology, reported the paper.

However, domestic manufacturers have built at least 70 percent of the country’s high-speed trains. In addition, the country has built on the available technologies to develop even faster trains.

“A Chinese-designed 300-kph bullet train will roll off the line at the end of this year. It will be used on the Beijing-Tianjin passenger rail line next year,” said Jiang Jing, chairman of the board of CSR Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co Ltd in Qingdao, Shandong Province.

He said at a press conference in Beijing on Sunday that his company would provide 10 of the new bullet trains for the Beijing-Tianjin line, which will open to traffic next year. The route is expected to cut the one-hour travel time in half.

Zhang Shogun, director of the Railways Ministry’s transport bureau, said the Chinese-designed train would lead the development of the country’s high-speed passenger transport.

“(The train) will be used not only on the Beijing-Tianjin route, but also on the Wuhan-Guangzhou and Beijing-Shanghai routes,” Zhang said.

Trains made by Tangshan Locomotive Factory under CNR Changchun Railway Vehicle Co Ltd will also ply the new high-speed routes. The company’s trains use technology from Siemens.


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Tampa Bay to get region wide
transit authority

By DF Staff, from Internet Sources, and from the Tampa Tribune

TAMPA --- Half a century after the similarly-sprawling San Francisco Bay Area began planning for a regional transportation system, and 25 years after it was first proposed for the Tampa region, the highway-dependent counties of Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota surrounding Tampa Bay are poised to follow suit.

Environmentalists and transportation experts say it is not a moment too soon.

The Tampa Bay area, one of Florida’s most densely populated regions, has also become a poster child for poor transportation planning as, for decade after decade, transportation choices were limited almost exclusively to more and more lanes of highway, plus some major airports. Access to and within the region was damaged as rail service was weakened when Amtrak, repeatedly, experienced budget cutbacks even as billions were poured into roadways.

Within the region, travel that used to take minutes can now take an hour or more.

But this week, “A plan to create a regional mass transit authority in the Tampa Bay area is on its way to the governor,” reported the Tampa Tribune. “The bill, approved by the House and Senate, forms the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. Plans for the authority… could include light rail, an express bus system and new toll roads,” reported Tampa reporters Josh Poltilove and Rich Shopes.

“It’s a tremendous victory in the Tampa Bay area,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who made the bill his top priority this legislative session. “It’ll have a huge impact in addressing our transportation needs,” the Tribune quoted Sen. Fasano as saying.

The Tribune reported: “The authority cannot levy taxes, but it can acquire property through eminent domain and sell revenue bonds to pay for toll roads. It can create and operate a mass transit system, establish a fare structure, and enter into partnerships with private companies to create transit hubs and park-and-ride facilities.”

Galvano said the authority might start work by the end of the year; it has until July 2009 to develop a master transportation plan. Its 16-member board must meet within 60 days of the legislation’s approval by the governor, the Tribune said.

The Tampa Bay Partnership, a region-wide economic and civic development organization, has made the creation of a transportation authority for the region its highest priority.

“What must be our region’s strongest link – transportation – is currently among the weakest. If things continue as they are, we are on the verge of a real mobility crisis,” states the TBP in a prepared statement. “The continuation of Tampa Bay’s enviable position in economic competitiveness and quality of life requires better transportation solutions. These solutions must be multi-modal in nature and, in particular, we need to get serious about transit if we want to attain true status as a world-class community.”


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Commuters heed call to avoid traffic

 

OAKLAND, CA, MAY 1 -- Free rides on transit are over for commuters affected by the highway collapse of last Sunday, but capacity on BART, bus lines and ferry services will be increased for as long as necessary, said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, writes Scott Marshall of the Contra Costa Times.

Thousands of commuters stayed off the freeways last Monday, which helped prevent commute congestion through the hobbled MacArthur Maze. Many motorists heeded the call to work from home or ride public transit, the article continued.

Officials will continue to monitor the commuting situation and develop strategies to alleviate potential gridlock. BART has already boosted its capacity by 50%.

“Crews began hauling away charred debris Monday, and engineers prepared for reconstruction, which could take two to three months. Inspectors X-rayed about a dozen pillars supporting the ramp near the collapsed section to see if they could be salvaged, California Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Weiss said.”

It could be several months before the damaged highway is back in use. One reason for the length of time is the scarcity of steel resulting from a worldwide building boom, especially in China and India.

The early Sunday tanker truck crash and fire occurred on a westbound Interstate 80 ramp that connects to Interstate 880. An overpass ramp collapsed during the fire after the tanker’s 8,600 gallons of gas ignited.

The driver was injured but is in stable condition in the hospital and is expected to recover. No other injuries occurred.


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Amtrak news

Source: Amtrak This Week

 

New CFO Selected

Amtrak has appointed Bill Campbell as its Chief Financial Officer. Campbell, who joins the company on May 21, brings with him more than 20 years’ experience as a CFO in the private and public sectors.

Campbell will be responsible for planning, directing and overseeing all Amtrak financial activities, including effective fiscal monitoring, financial systems upgrades, and budget planning and analysis. He will report directly to Amtrak President Alex Kummant.

As CFO for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the second largest cabinet agency, Campbell managed a $65 billion annual budget. He also served as Chief Engineer and Deputy Commander for the Naval Supply Systems Command, and served for nine years as the CFO for the United States Coast Guard. Most recently, Campbell served as a Director of the Federal CFO Advisory Services practice at KPMG LLP in Washington, D.C.


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Keystone track work to begin

As the last major element of the Keystone Corridor Improvement Project, Engineering crews will begin rebuilding Tracks 1 and 4 between Philadelphia and Paoli next week. Expected to be completed in mid-November, the work will result in increased reliability and provide Keystone Service and SEPTA riders with a quieter, more comfortable ride.

Funded by SEPTA, the project will entail the installation of 80,000 concrete ties and 30 track miles of continuous welded rail to restore Tracks 1 and 4. By mid-August, work on eastbound Track 1 will be completed. Track 4 is expected to be completed by mid-November.

In an effort to minimize the impact of the track work on passengers, some Keystone Service schedules have been adjusted to reflect an additional five minutes of travel time between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Last fall, Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced faster travel times, additional departures and more reliable service following the rehabilitation of the Philadelphia-Harrisburg route. Traveling over the all-electric route, Keystone Service trains operate at speeds of up to 110 mph.


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EVENTS...  EVENTS...

Virginians for High Speed Rail
meet May 15

From VHSR

ALEXANDRIA, VA--- Rick Harnish of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association will keynote the annual meeting May 15 of the Virginia High Speed Rail Association, who will speak about his organization’s success in helping to improve passenger rail service in the Midwest.

Sign up on line at www.vhsr.com/amf, by phone at 804-864-5193 or by check by mailing your payment to VHSR 5101 Monument Ave, Richmond, Virginia 23230. Individual tickets for the Annual Meeting are $25.00.

The conference will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Alexandria’s Union Station (Next to the King Street Metro Station), 110 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22301.

Also speaking will be Sharon Bulova, Fairfax County Supervisor and former Chairwoman of the Rail Advisory Board; John Lewis, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of GRTC Transit System; and William D. Euille, Mayor of Alexandria.

Amtrak has provided two pairs of roundtrip tickets from Newport News to New York City (valued at $550.00 per pair) to raffle at the VHSR Annual Meeting. Tickets will cost $10 for one and $25 for three.

The PDF version of the agenda is at: www.vhsr.com/system/files/Annual+Meeting+Flyer.pdf. [ Requires PDF reader - Ed. ]


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CORRIDOR LINES...  Corridor lines...

A selection from this week’s
Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports e-Bulletin

By Chalmers (Chop) Hardenbergh, publisher and editor
e-mail: C_Hardenbergh@juno.com
To subscribe go to: www.atlanticnortheast.com

Vermont Senate provision would require DMU
“flexibility” in Amtrak’s Vermonter equipment
Colorado Rail Car DMU unit

Photo: Colorado Rail Car  

MONTPELIER --- The Vermont Senate has voted to require Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) “flexibility” in any agreement governing Amtrak service in Vermont, the ANRP Bulletin reports.

In H 527 the Senate conditioned use of Colorado Railcars instead of regular equipment for the Vermonter. In section 36 [of the bill], the senior body approved the purchase of the cars, subject to certain conditions. Most of them expressed the known elements of the agreement, but the Senate added: ‘(9) Any agreements between the state of Vermont and Amtrak or the FRA must be flexible enough to permit redeployment of the DMU equipment in the event of the reconfiguration of Amtrak service to Vermont.’

Study of passenger routes

In section 37, the Senate asked VAOT to study options, consisting of: ‘(1) Terminating Amtrak’s Vermonter service in its entirety; (2) Converting Amtrak’s Vermonter or Ethan Allen service from conventional locomotive-hauled trains to diesel multiple units (DMUs); (3) Making White River Junction the northern terminus for Amtrak’s Vermonter service, either with conventional locomotive-hauled trains or DMUs; and (4) Coordination of all modes of transportation, including intercity bus and other bus systems, park and rides, Amtrak passenger train services, and air travel.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)90.4488.87
Canadian National (CNI)51.4051.71
Canadian Pacific (CP)64.7164.59
CSX (CSX)46.0143.74
Florida East Coast (FLA)74.4671.80
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)27.2127.23
Kansas City Southern (KSU)38.5938.59
Norfolk Southern (NSC)53.9253.62
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.9120.35
Union Pacific (UNP)116.64115.84


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

Moving new-tech corn by rail banned

Railroads show caution when it comes to transporting bio-engineered crops

DF Staff and Internet Sources

MAY 3 -- Last week Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) announced it would not accept for transport any corn or corn products that contain the MIR 604 trait, a new hybrid corn developed to resist the European corn borer. It is sold by Syngenta Seeds, one of the largest seed dealers in the industry.

The agriculture industry has been experimenting with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for decades for the purpose of increasing crop yield and producing strains of corn that resist pests such as the rootworm and the European corn borer.

The hybrid in question, called Agrisure RW corn, has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It has not, however, been approved for sale by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and farmers who may have purchased the Syngenta “Agrisure RW MIR 604” from their seed dealer are being advised not to plant it.

Japan, also, has not approved this strain.

Risks to human health, the environment and biodiversity in the development of GMOs are well known in the global market and can be addressed by research on bio-safety measures. Crops that have been bio-engineered in one country and imported to another can present a threat to the bio-diversity and indigenous crops of that country.

In India, for example, a new bio-safety research center is being planned. At a recent workshop on bio-safety issues in Chandigarh, it was announced that the Punjab Government would establish a Knowledge City in S.A.S. Nagar (Mohali) comprising the National Institute of Agri-Food Biotechnology and a Biotech Park for research and development.

Though there are proven advantages and commercial potential of GMOs in both agriculture and heathcare, proper safety measures must be adopted, said S. Ramesh Inder Singh, Chief Secretary Punjab, at the Training Workshop. The government is committed to implementing rules and regulation for the manufacture, use, import, export and storage of hazardous microorganisms, he added.

When BNSF announced they would not transport genetically altered corn, they cautioned that anyone shipping such corn “shall be responsible for any damages to BNSF resulting from the shipment of the carload containing the product.”

Two other rail lines instituted similar “until further notice” bans on the product, including the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad and Canadian Pacific Railway.

A known risk of GMOs is cross-pollination, where one hybrid trait might cause harm if mixed with a different strain. To date, research has not come up with procedures that ensure prevention of that occurrence.


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TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT...  Transit-Oriented Development...

Rail line drives Utah development

DF Staff and Internet Sources

 

(Editor’s note: We wish to thank Keith Snarr, Director of Murray City’s Economic Development Office for his help in providing information and visuals for this article.)

 

The tall smokestacks of lead smelting factories were the landmarks of Murray City, Utah, many decades ago. Nestled at the base of the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains, this suburb of Salt Lake City was famous for having the tallest smokestacks in the west. Murray Smelter factories produced the lead used in bullets and other war material during World War II , but by the late 20th century, Murray City faced a daunting challenge – what to do with the deserted industrial sites and how to turn the tide of the city’s economic future.

First, city officials took the lead in working with the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the hazardous waste from the smelting industry. Named as a superfund site, money was available for the clean-up.

Second, they revitalized their intermodal transportation system which had served them well in the past but had been overwhelmed by the rise of the auto/highway system that has dominated our transportation investments since th 1950’s.

 

 

As city officials drafted the 2003 general plan, they gave careful consideration to the interface of residential neighborhoods with transportation systems, parks, commercial areas and retail business. The result has been the emergence of neighborhoods employing the principles of new urbanism and transit-oriented development (TOD).

A third factor in Murray’s redevelopment is its municipal electrical utility, the only one in the Salt Lake City Valley. Murray City Power is nationally recognized for exceptional power system reliability, outstanding customer satisfaction, and lowest practical cost.

When working with developers, city leaders hold to their vision: high quality design, walk-able neighborhoods, vibrant mixed-use developments, and environmental conservation of local creeks and wooded areas.

Intermountain Healthcare chose to locate its Intermountain Medical Center hospital campus in Murray because of the integrated transit system and the availability of a large, re-mediated industrial site. The campus will have five hospitals and bring about 6,000 new jobs to the area. The Medical Center will be served by the light rail and commuter rail systems, giving developers the impetus to build a number of mixed-use living centers along the transit corridors.

Buyers are looking for places to live and work where they do not have to be entirely dependent on driving. One such development, Birkhill at Fireclay built by Hamlet Homes, is a 97-acre transit-oriented district close to the Murray North station.

“People can go where they want and won’t have to get in a car,” said Keith Snarr, the director of Murray City’s economic development office, who helped negotiate the agreement with Hamlet Homes. “It may not be the lifestyle for everybody, but there are a lot of people around here now that understand what it means to be urban and find this attractive.”

Hamlet Homes, the largest developer in the local region, is about to break ground for a complex of 420 homes and 200,000 square feet of office and retail space, all located along the TRAX light rail system.

Murray City, Utah, has a colorful history of trains since the days of the transcontinental railroad. In 1869, the famous golden spike was driven into the ground at Promontory Point north of Salt Lake City to connect the east and west railroad lines. Before long, railroads were criss-crossing southern Utah, connecting the state with Denver and Los Angeles. Twice daily, the California Zephyr (and later Amtrak) passed through Murray City carrying passengers between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Both freight and passenger rail served Murray for many decades before the 1960’s. The smelting factories were served by both Union Pacific and the Rio Grande Western Railroad.

Until the 1960’s, Murray City and Salt Lake City enjoyed an excellent transit system. A commuter rail line called the Bamberger Railway served the large population (today it’s about 2 million) in Utah’s Wasatch Front area, and Salt Lake City had an active trolley system.

Eventually, when the automobile and buses took over, both the Bamberger Railway and the trolley system were discontinued.

The Utah Transit Authority, which had been created in 1953 to organize the bus lines, turned its focus to transit when population growth and congestion became an increasing problem. (Ironically, one of the bus lines in UTA was National City Lines, a holding company funded by the auto/oil industry in the 1930’s which bought out over 100 streetcar systems across the nation and dismantled them in favor of buses.)

UTA bought the Union Pacific Rail line and converted it to light rail, called TRAX. The TRAX system, constructed and operational by 1999, was a huge success for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Today, TRAX light rail, the new Frontline commuter railway, which will extend to Ogden and later to Provo, and the UTA buses provide an integrated transit system for the entire region.

“The basic reason that transit-oriented development is working in Utah and other places is largely demographic,” said Gloria Ohland, vice president for communications at Reconnecting America, a national transit research group based in Oakland, Calif. “American households are older, smaller and more diverse,” she said. “Singles are 41 percent of the population. People who are single and couples that have no children — those are the people who gravitate to cities.”

Even with a new tide of people heading their way, transit-focused builders say there are plenty of impediments. Assembling parcels large enough to be attractive requires considerable work in city and town centers. It took Hamlet Homes more than two years to amass the 30 acres for Birkhill at Fireclay.

And in most communities, including Murray City, the zoning regulations that directed homes and businesses to be spread far apart have to be rewritten. Murray City passed a transit development ordinance in 2005 that allows narrower streets, encourages trees and pocket parks, and is designed to produce a new district that is not too densely built up, but also won’t look or feel anything like a typical single-use suburban subdivision.

The city hired Peter Calthorpe of the Congress of New Urbanism to help rewrite the regulations. “He came in with a 270-page handbook of instructions for how to design walkable, attractive neighborhoods in transit-oriented developments!” Snarr said in an interview with DF staff.

Michael Brodsky, the chairman of Hamlet Homes, which he founded in 1995, said the difficulties involved in developing around the Salt Lake region’s transit stops are compensated for by the market response. Along with Birkhill at Fireclay, the company is constructing two more housing and business developments near the TRAX stations immediately north and south of the Murray North stop.

Mr. Snarr says he is convinced that the confluence of fast-rising energy and land costs, static incomes and the region’s swift population growth are producing the market conditions for the new neighborhood being built in his city’s industrial backyard. The existing 23 rail stations, and the roughly 40 more stops on the way, offer developers dozens of opportunities to design and build transit-focused home and business districts at the center of the Salt Lake Valley’s towns and cities.


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

Rail Team verses Sky Team

 

Deutsche Bahn forms international alliance in bid
to win back passengers from low cost airlines

A Deutsche Bahn AG Intercity (IC) train

Photo: David Beale

A Deutsche Bahn AG Intercity (IC) train formed of former Metropolitan train coaches with DB locomotive 101 126 on the front on a scheduled trip from Cologne to Berlin via Hannover blasts through Hohnhorst, Germany in June 2005. NJ Transit’s ALP-46 locomotives are a derivative of the DB 101 series made by ADTranz (now Bombardier). Cologne is an important international rail hub with passenger trains operating to Holland, Belgium and France from its busy main station on the west bank of the Rhine River.

Berlin - Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) - German Railways - will increase the effort to win passengers back from its main competition, the new breed of low cost airlines in Europe, and thereby increase market share on international routes. According to Karl-Friedrich Rausch, Sr. Vice President of DBAG’s intercity passenger train division, DB will form this year an inter-rail company alliance with other passenger train companies in Austria, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Great Britain, which will operate under the name “Rail Team”. Rail Team will function in a similar roll as airline alliances such as Sky Team, Star Alliance and One World, thereby streamlining ticket sales, reservations and international train connections for passengers of its member rail companies.

International connections on high speed trains such as ICE, TGV, Eurostar and similar products will become easier to book and connections between international trains will become better coordinated via the Rail Team alliance, which has been an issue in recent years, such as 45 minute or longer waiting time commonly experienced in Köln (Cologne) between Thalys TGV trains from Paris and ICE trains to Hamburg or Berlin. Unlike airlines, Europe’s rail companies developed over the last century mostly within national borders with rolling stock configurations, rail side equipment standards and operating procedures changing at each country’s border. Mr. Rausch added: “For example, today it is rather difficult to book and purchase tickets for an international journey via trains on the internet, something which low cost airlines have made into a standard procedure.”

DBAG’s passenger operations have continued in 2007 with the growth trend of 2006, when 1.85 billion passengers rode on DB trains from S-Bahn commuter trains to ICE high speed trains. Rausch stated: “in the first quarter of 2007 there was a 2.2 percent increase in passenger trips compared with the same period in 2006. In DBAG’s intercity / long distance train operations the average load factor increased by 1.1 percent to 40.7 percent.


Photo: Flughafen Hannover-Langenhagen GmbH

Three B737-800s and a B737-300 operated by low cost airlines Air Berlin, HLX.com, and TUI/HapagFly at Langenhagen (Hannover) airport in autumn 2006. Low Cost Airlines such as these have drained large numbers of passengers away from European passenger railroads, especially on long distance international routes such as Hannover - Paris, Munich - Rome, Amsterdam - Berlin, Brussels - Munich, Vienna - Nuremberg, Frankfurt - Prague, and many other similar city pairs.

NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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