Country Profiles

Overview of rail operations, investment and structure in selected countries


Afghanistan - country profile

Difficult geopolitical and economic conditions have prevented the development of a domestic rail network, although several cross-border links are now operational with further construction proposed.


Australia - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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 40 new metros since 2000.


Czech Republic (Czechia) - country profile

The Czech Republic’s extensive rail network serves key flows of transit freight; open access and operating contracts are increasingly part of service provision.


Denmark - country profile

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.


Egypt - country profile

With a more stable political situation, Egypt’s network is now poised for investment in upgrading and resignalling, along with major projects. Cairo’s metro continues to grow.


Eswatini (Swaziland) - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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.


Hungary - country profile

Forming an important strategic link between eastern and western Europe, Hungary’s network is now starting to receive investment to enhance links to neighbouring countries.


India - country profile

Having largely completed its programme of conversion of metre and narrow-gauge routes to broad gauge, India is pushing ahead with extensive electrification together with construction of high-performance freight and passenger lines


Indonesia - country profile

Having seen decades of under investment, Indonesia is now seeing a resurgece in rail investment covering the existing main line network as well as new high speed projects and metro corridors in Jakarta.


Iran - country profile

Network expansion and upgrading continues, aiming to attract a greater share of domestic and international transit trafffic. Urban railways have been built or are under construction in eight key cities.


Italy - country profile

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


Japan - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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


Myanmar - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

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 - country profile

The sole railway, between Panamá City and Colón, was concessioned in 1998. Metro construction continues in Panamá City, with the first line opened in 2014, a second line added in 2019, and a third under construction.


Poland - country profile

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 rationalisation is ongoing.


Qatar - country profile

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 - country profile

State-owned railway RZD is being reformed, with increased investment tackling a backlog of maintenance and renewals. Urban rail is dominated by Moskva’s extensive and growing metro.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia - country profile

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


Slovakia - country profile

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 - country profile

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


Spain - country profile

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 - country profile

Sweden has focussed on network capacity and speed upgrades with some new construction, with long-term plans for new lines. State-owned, open access and contract operators provide passenger services, with frieght open to full competition.


Switzerland - country profile

Completion of Bahn 2000 infrastructure development in 2004 has raised passenger traffic, with follow-up Bahn 2030 launched in 2009. Construction of Alpine base tunnels aims to restrict freight transit traffic by road.


Thailand - country profile

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


Turkey - country profile

Renewal and expansion has included high speed lines from Ankara to Eskisehir in 2009, and to Konya in 2011. Istanbul’s metro has expanded greatly, and a dozen cities have built light rail lines.


Ukraine - country profile

Heavy usage and long distances makes the world’s thirteenth largest railway by route length also among the biggest by passenger-km and freight tonne-km.

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates - country profile

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 - country profile

Since restructuring and privatisation in the 1990s, infrastructure has now returned to public ownership. An electrification programme has stalled, though a high-speed network is being built.

United States Of America

United States of America - country profile

Rail freight dominates the network, with 40% tonne-km market share from high volumes over long distances. Long-distance passenger traffic is limited away from the Northeast Corridor. Major cities have metro and light rail systems.