Overview of rail operations, investment and structure in selected countries

Country Profiles

Australia

Australia

Most rail investment has focused on heavy-haul mineral traffic. Booming iron and coal mining activity in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales have triggered capacity upgrades on lines carrying exports, together with some new construction…

Austria

Austria

Austria’s geographical position makes it a key European transit route for both east – west and north – south rail traffic, especially since EU enlargement in 2004/7, 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.

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

The Ministry of Railways has concentrated on the construction of high-speed lines, with stimulus funds made available to accelerate construction. Until 2007 it had no railways operating at 200 km/h or more, but in just five years China created the world’s largest high-speed network by far.

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)

The backbone of the Eswatini (Swaziland) rail network was constructed in the 1960s to export iron ore from the Ngewnya mine through Maputo. The line west of Matsapha was lifted following the closure of the mine, but subsequently connections to South Africa were built to provide a cut-off for South ...

Finland

Finland

Finland has seen steady investment in its rail sector. Rolling programmes of electrification and incremental upgrades for the expansion of faster inter-city passenger services are nearing their end, 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 the reunification of Germany in 1991, much investment has been channeled into ‘unity projects’ meant to facilitate better integration between the eastern and western parts of the country, as well as other high speed railway projects. There has also been significant spending on freight rolling stock and infrastructure, both for domestic traffic and transit flows through the country. Recently resources have been focused more on rolling stock maintenance and vehicle noise reduction, due to public outcries about safety and environmental impacts.

India

India

Indian Railways has benefited from high levels of investment in network expansion and electrification to accommodate growing traffic volumes, plus the conversion of many metre and narrow-gauge routes to broad gauge. Significant expenditure is going on additional locomotives and rolling stock, to relatively conservative designs developed through technology transfer agreements ...

Indonesia

Indonesia

Having seen decades of under investment, Indonesian national railway PT KAI is seeing resurgence in investment and traffic. Several sections of the four different networks on Java and Sumatra are being doubled, resignalled and/or upgraded for higher axleloads.

Italy

Italy

Italian network investment has focused on constructing the high speed and high capacity network Alta Velocità/Alta Capacità between the main cities. This has led to the completion of a spine between Torino in the north and Salerno in the south, having some of the highest frequencies of high speed trains ...

Japan

Japan

The railways of Japan operate intensive passenger train services on a relatively fragmented network. The split-up of the debt-laden Japanese National Railways in 1987 gave Japan six integrated regional railways and a national freight company, all under the JR Group brand. Three of the regional companies have subsequently been fully ...

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Kuwait

Having relied on car transport, in addition to some public buses, Kuwait is now planning extensive investment in national and metropolitan rail networks.

Morocco

Morocco

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

Mozambique

Mozambique

The three mainly separate colonial Mozambican rail networks were originally built to cater for inland mineral and agricultural developments, in addition to serving other colonies. Shortly after the modern CFM was created following Mozambican independence in 1975, civil war broke out. This did little to help the state of the ...

Myanmar

Myanmar

Myanmar is the second largest country in southeast Asia by area, but has few road vehicles, so Myanma Railways plays an important role in the country’s economic and social development. This prominent role has led MR to construct more than 2200 km of new lines between 2004 and 2013, in ...

Netherlands

Netherlands

Increasing network congestion, due to frequent passenger services and the country being home to some of Europe’s largest ports, has led the Dutch government to upgrade and extend an already complex network, with particular focus on eliminating bottlenecks.

Norway

Norway

The state owned railway network is mostly single track, but covers most major transport corridors south of Bodø. The majority of passenger traffic is carried within the inter-city triangle around Oslo, with some long-distance trains linking the capital and the biggest cities, together with local traffic around the cities.

Panama

Panama

After seeing its one railway line between Panamá City and Colón deteriorating under national ownership, the Panamanian government decided to let the line out to a concessionaire. In 1998 the Kansas City Southern – Mi-Jack Products joint venture Panama Canal Railway Company was selected for a 25-year concession, with an ...

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Poland

With increasing EU grants for railway investment, Poland had grand plans for its network towards the end of the 2000s. These included a new 350 km/h high speed Y-route between Warszawa, Poznan and Wrocław and a staged upgrade of the Central Trunk Line between Warszawa and Katowice to 250 km/h. ...

Russia

Russia

Russian Railways (RZD) is owned by the state, although far reaching reforms are underway. Network operations and maintenance are managed through regional divisions, and other activities through subsidiary companies, which are being partially or fully privatised. Industrial railways are mostly owned and operated by the industries themselves.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Railway Organisation owns and operates the 1 400 km legacy network linking Riyadh and Dammam. A double-trackroute runs from the Gulf Coast port at Dammam to Al Hufuf, from where two parallel single lines lead towards Riyadh. One is operated as a passenger line, with the other mainly carrying ...

Slovakia

Slovakia

After the breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Slovakian assets of the former state railways were put into the newly-created Železnice Slovenskej Republiky. In preparation for Slovakia’s EU membership ŽSR became a joint-stock company responsible for infrastructure management. Operations were split into the ŽSSK and ŽSSK Cargo, both companies directly owned by ...

South Africa

South Africa

Most of the rail network is owned and operated by Transnet Freight Rail, a division of multimodal state-owned freight corporation Transnet. After a period of decline, TFR’s freight volumes recovered during the late 2000s, due to a focus on heavy haul and trunk flows. This led to the development of ...

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Sweden

Following high levels of investment in the 1990s, with new passenger routes constructed and other lines upgraded, the Swedish government used the 2000s to focus on efficiency and capacity enhancements. However, construction continued on the difficult Hallandsås tunnel, begun in 1992, now expected to be completed in 2015, and the ...

Switzerland

Switzerland

The mountainous country has long been a central part of the European transport system, with much trans-alpine traffic crossing its borders. In order to limit the volume of road traffic, the Swiss government introduced a policy to disincentivise transit traffic by road tolls and using the funding to invest in ...

Thailand

Thailand

As Thailand has experienced strong growth over the last decade, rail investment is high on the political agenda. Although progress was between 2000 and 2010 due to political instability and funding constraints after the completion of the Bangkok airport link, both the national double-tracking programme and Bangkok metro expansion have ...

Turkey

Turkey

Until the mid-2000s the Turkish network had seen only sporadic investment since the Second World War; it comprised mainly of out-of-date single track lines, often with very slow operations. This led to rail’s passenger market share falling from 42% in the 1950s to 1·7% by 2009.

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UK

The UK rail industry was privatised during the 1990s, with infrastructure ownership, operations and rolling stock ownership fully separated to facilitate competition and improve efficiency. The government devised a franchising system, under which passenger operators bid to run different routes. This gives the government the power to influence rolling stock ...

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United Arab Emirates

Formed as a federation in 1971, the United Arab Emirates is now building its first main line rail network to diversify the economy away from oil production. The Etihad Rail project is led by Abu Dhabi, by far the biggest of the emirates. Dubai is also heavily, but has less ...

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USA

The US rail network was mainly developed by private companies, reaching a peak of around 350 000 route-km. This was subsequently reduced to around 225 000 km through closures and consolidation. Declining traffic and tight regulation saw many railways running into financial problems during the 1960s and 1970s, leading to ...