Overview of rail operations, investment and structure in selected countries

Country Profiles

Australia

Australia

Most rail investment has focused on heavy-haul mineral traffic in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. A 1700 km Melbourne – Brisbane Inland Rail freight corridor is under construction.

Austria

Austria

Austria’s geographical position makes it a key European transit route for both east – west and north – south rail traffic, with freight traffic increasing its modal share by a third between 2000 and 2010.

Belgium

Belgium

Belgium’s network has seen considerable investment throughout the 2000s. Following completion of HSL 1, built to connect Brussels with the French section of LGV Nord Europe, Infrabel has overseen the construction of three more high speed lines.

Brazil

Brazil

After suffering from decades of under-investment, the Brazilian state operator RFFSA was split up and privatised into concessions in 1997. The freight concessions were auctioned directly by the federal government.

Canada

Canada

Mainline freight operations are dominated by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. Major cities are served by metro and commuter rail networks, and increasingly by light metro or light rail.

Chile

Chile

Chile has both metre and broad-gauge networks, with a mix of private and concessioned operations. In Santiago, investment in passenger services, especially the metro, has seen network expansion.

China

China

Until 2007 China had no railways operating at 200 km/h or more − but by 2012 it had built the world’s largest high-speed network, and is now creating an 8x8 grid of routes. It has also opened more than 30 new metros since 2000.

Denmark

Denmark

Considerable investment has gone into fixed links across the Great Belt and Øresund, and the København Metro. Denmark is currently focusing on maintenance and renewals, and has ambitious plans for electrification, network and metro expansion.

Eswatini

Eswatini (Swaziland)

Much of the network has become moribund, leaving the network handling only sugar exports through Mozambique and some imports via its Matsapha yard, but the Swazilink project could bring significant investment.

Finland

Finland

Rolling programmes of electrification and incremental mainline upgrades have improved inter-city passenger services, with most of the network now fit for use by Pendolino and double-deck inter-city trains.

France

France

One of the pioneers of high-speed railways, France has invested heavily in developing its Paris-centred long-distance railway network by building new high-speed lines.

Germany

Germany

Since reunification much investment has been channeled into ‘unity projects’ meant to integrate east and west, into other high-speed railway projects, rolling stock and station modernisation.

India

India

Electrification, conversion of metre and narrow-gauge routes to broad gauge and construction of new lines have expanded capacity on India’s network; dedicated freight corridors are under construction.

Indonesia

Indonesia

Having seen decades of under investment, Indonesian national railway PT Kereta Api Indonesia is seeing resurgence in investment and traffic.

Italy

Italy

Italian network investment has focused on constructing the high speed and high capacity network Alta Velocità/Alta Capacità between the main cities.

Japan

Japan

There has been slow, but steady expansion of the Shinkansen network, with a government programme of extensions to the network until at least 2035.

Morocco

Morocco

Experiencing high traffic growth, ONCF has launched major investment in a high speed network and upgrades of the legacy network to support a fledging logistics business.

Mozambique

Mozambique

After decades of conflict and decline, the country’s rail network is being steadily rehabilitated and developed, in part through concessioning agreements.

Myanmar

Myanmar

MR has built more than 2200 km of new lines between 2004 and 2013, in addition to upgrading many of its existing routes and double-tracking the Yangon – Mandalay main line.

Netherlands

Netherlands

With a dense network of intensive passenger services and some of Europe’s largest ports, upgrading and extending the network is focussed on eliminating bottlenecks.

Norway

Norway

Several major renewal and capacity upgrading projects have been given go-ahead, with the inter-city triangle around Oslo seeing the most investment; double-tracking of the 450 km network is planned by 2030.

Panama

Panama

The country’s one railway line, between Panamá City and Colón, was let out to a concessionaire in 1998; the government is pushing ahead with metro construction and planning in Panamá City, with the first line opened in 2014.

Poland

Poland

EU funding has been refocused on maintenance and renewals of the previously underfunded legacy network, with upgrading for higher speeds and some ETCS Level 1 signalling. Network rationalising is ongoing.

Qatar

Qatar

The first phase of the Doha metro opened on May 2019, and the Lusail City tramway is due to open in 2020. Further metro is due to open in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with main line railways planned.

Russia

Russia

Russian Railways (RZD) is owned by the state, although far-reaching reforms are underway. Increased investment is tackling a backlog of maintenance and renewals. Urban rail is dominated by Moskva’s extensive and growing metro.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Two vertically-integrated government companies operate the networ, being expanded through heavy-haul, land bridge and high-speed projects. Metros are being built in Riyadh, Jeddah and Makkah.

Slovakia

Slovakia

Restructuring to separate infrastructure management from operations during the 2000s has been followed by private sector and open access services; infrastructure modernisation has improved efficiency.

South Africa

South Africa

TFR’s freight volumes recovered during the late 2000s, due to a focus on heavy haul and trunk flows. PRASA run extensive mainline commuter services serving the suburbs around the big cities, along with a handful of long-distance inter-city services.

Spain

Spain

Spain has built the world’s second largest high-speed network, with several more lines under construction. State-owned operator RENFE faces some limited competition from open-access freight companies.

Sweden flag

Sweden

Some high-speed line construction has taken place alongside capacity upgrades, with long-term plans for new lines. Passenger services are delivered by a mix of state-owned, open access and contract operators, with frieght open to full competition.

Switzerland

Switzerland

The Bahn 2000 infrastructure development strategy completed in 2004 has helped passenger numbers to increase, and a new Bahn 2030 plan was launched in 2009. Construction of Alpine base tunnels aims to restrict freight transit traffic by road.

Thailand

Thailand

Network upgrades including double-tracking have aimed at increasing capacity and reducing freight transit times. High speed plans remain at the development stag. Bangkok’s urban network is expanding.

Turkey

Turkey

A major programme of network renewal and expansion has included high speed lines, with the first from Ankara to Eskisehir opened in 2009, and to Konya in 2011. Istanbul’s metro has expanded greatly, and a dozen cities have built light rail lines.

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

A national network for freight transport is under development, with the first section in service. Dubai’s now has urban rail, with Abu Dhabi advancing its plans.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Since restructuring and privatisation in the 1990s, infrastructure has now returned to public ownership. An electrification programme has stalled, and franchise renewal and the HS2 high-speed line are under review.

United States Of America

United States of America

The rail freight sector dominates the USA rail network, with 40% tonne-km market share from high volumes over long distances; outside of the Northeast Corridor, long-distance passenger traffic is limited. Major cities have metro and light rail systems.