Switzerland opens world’s steepest railway

The Stoos Bahn has opened to the public in Switzerland and is now the world’s steepest railway – or funicular with the exact terminology.

It runs from the town of Schwyz up 110m to the car-free Alpine village of Stoos and the steepest gradient is 110%. Due to the gradients involved it also has specially constructed cylindrical wagons with tilting floors in order to make the short journey more comfortable for the riders.

Source: BBC News

Australia gets the world’s largest battery

The largest lithium-ion battery pack ever constructed has been successfully deployed in the state of South Australia. The 100 MW battery aims to be the solution for South Australia’s problems with fluctuating energy demand which at times have been able to severely strain the state’s power grids.

The battery is constructed by Tesla and is one of its high-profile visionary man Elon Musk’s latest projects. He even went as far as vowing that it would be built within a 100-day period or the state could have it for free. And finished within the narrow time-frame it was.

Source: BBC News

Emperor Akihito hints at abdication

Emperor Akihito in 2014
Emperor Akihito in 2014. Photo: William Ng, US State Department

In only his second televised speech ever, Akihito, the emperor of Japan, hinted that he may want to be able to abdicate sometime in the future due to his advanced age and declining health. The Japanese constitution in its current form bars the emperor from abdicating, meaning that a change would be necessary in order to allow Akihito to step down in favour of the crown prince Naruhito.

While the opinion of the public seem to be that the emperor should be allowed to retire and formally abdicate, there is considerably more resistance to such a change in the current government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and in particular among its conservative minor coalition partner party.

Akihito, now 82 years old, has been emperor since 1989 when he succeeded his father emperor Hirohito (Showa) on the chrysanthemum throne.

Helsinki-Stockholm hyperloop

FS Links, a consortium dedicated to lay the foundation work for the use of hyperloop technology in northern Europe, has presented a pre-feasability study on how the Finnish and Swedish capital cities Helsinki and Stockholm could be connected by a hyperloop network. A connection that would reduce travel time down to approximately 28 minutes! The construction cost would be an estimated 19 billion euro, which at a first glance sounds like a lot of money, but in comparison to some estimates recently published for a conventional high-speed railway connecting Sweden’s three biggest city it actually no longer feel all that extreme. Of course this is all a very early study and not a formal prospect.

Helsinki-Stockholm hyperlink proposal
Helsinki-Stockholm hyperlink (Source: Golem.de)

Sources: Golem.de and Hyperloop-One.com

World’s longest tunnel is inaugurated

The Gotthard Base Tunnel had its official inauguration ceremony on June 1. Even if normal traffic will not start until December.

With a length of 57.5 km it is the current record-holder of longest tunnel, overtaking the earlier longest tunnel – Japanese Seikan tunnel between the tho islands of Honshu and Hokkaido – which is 53.9 km. The new Gotthard tunnel is simultaneously the world’s deepest tunnel with 2.3 km of mountain above its deepest point.

Source: BBC News

Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia to be protected

After long negotiations there has been what is hailed as a landmark deal in the efforts to protect one of western Canada’s most magnificent landscapes and its flora and fauna for the future.

The temperate forests is rather unique to the North American west coast and in the Great Bear Rainforest lives among other species the spirit bears – a rare subspecies of the grizzly bear with white fur instead of the common brown-black.

Source: BBC News

A future tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn?

Architect composite depiction of rail connection
Architect composite depiction (Sweco).

A preliminary feasibility study on a tunnel between the Finnish capital Helsinki and the Estonian capital of Tallinn concludes that the future construction of such a connection is worth more study.

A rail transport connection between the two cities would include the construction of a tunnel under the Gulf of Finland at a current cost estimate of 9 to 13 billion euros.

Source: YLE

Second metro line in Warsaw nearing completion

The first section of the Polish capital’s second underground metro line has been completed and are now subject to final inspections and checks before opening. Originally intended to be completed in time for the Euro 2012 football world cup, delays changed the time plan and the seven stations spread over six kilometres of track are now to be operative in mid-November this year.

Polish PM Donald Tusk becomes new president of the European Council

2014 - Donald Tusk (16)
Current Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has been designated as the next president of the European Council and as such tasked with chairing the meetings of the council which consists of the heads of government of the European Union member states as well as being the figurehead of the EU, a role he will officially take over from current president Herman Van Rompuy on December 1.

The selection of Tusk, an influential and high-profile liberal-conservative politician from one of the newer EU member states of central Europe could be seen as an acknowledgement of the growing importance of central and eastern Europe in European affairs, with Poland emerging as the regional heavyweight.