We profile the 10 largest railway networks in the world based on total operating length according to Railway-technology.com.
1. United States – 250,000km
The US rail network is the biggest in the world. Freight lines constitute 80 per cent of the country’s total rail network, while the total passenger network spans 35,000km.
The US freight rail network consists of 538 railroads operated by private organisations. Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway are among the largest freight railroad networks in the world.
A plan is in place to build a 27,000km national high speed rail system in four phases by 2030.
2. China – 100,000km
China’s rail network ranks second in the world. The extensive network, operated by state-owned China Railway Corporation, carried 2.08 billion passengers and 3.22 billion tonnes of freigh in 2013. Rail is the principal mode of transport in China.
The country’s rail network consists of over 90,000km of conventional rail routes and approximately 10,000km of high-speed lines.
3. Russia – 85,500km
Russia’s whole network is operated by state-owned monopoly Russian Railways. In 2013, the network carried 1.08 billion passengers and 1.2 billion tonnes of freight – the third highest freight volume after the US and China. The Russian railway network incorporates12 main lines.
The Trans-Siberian Railway, spanning a length of 9,289km, is the longest and one of the busiest railway lines in the world.
4. India – 65,000km
The Indian nationwide rail network, the fourth longest in the world, is owned and operated by state-owned Indian Railways and includes an operating route length of more than 65,000km.
The network carried about eight billion passengers and 1.01 million tonnes of freight in 2013. The Indian railway network is divided into 17 zones and operates more than 19,000 trains per day, including 12,000 passenger trains and 7,000 freight trains.
5. Canada – 48,000km
Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway are the two major freight rail networks operating in the country, while Via Rail operates the 12,500km intercity passenger rail service.
There are smaller railways providing passenger services to certain rural areas in the country. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have extensive commuter train systems. Canada, however, does not have a single high-speed line on its railway network.
6. Germany – 41,000km
State-owned Deutshe Bahn dominates Germany’s railway network, accounting for about 80 per cent of the total freight traffic and 99 per cent of the long-distance passenger traffic.
More than 150 private railway companies operate on the network, providing regional passenger and freight services. The S-Bahn serves major suburban areas, while the Hamburg Cologne Express (HKX) is the major long-distance passenger operator.
7. Australia – 40,000km
Most of Australia’s railway network infrastructure is owned and maintained by the Australian government either at the federal or state level.
The majority of the trains on the network are, however, operated by private companies. The Australian railway network does not have a high-speed line yet.
8. Argentina – 36,000km
Argentina’s current rail network is ranked as the eighth largest in the world. Decline of profits and the rise of highway construction in the subsequent decades reduced the network 47,000 km at the end of Second World War to 36,000km today.
The Argentinean railway was privatised between 1992 and 1995. The much talked-about Argentine high-speed railway is not a reality yet.
9. France – 29,000km
The French railway network is the second biggest in Europe and the ninth biggest in the world. The French railway network is predominantly passenger-centric and more than 50 per cent of the country’s lines are electrified.
State-owned Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) is the principal railway operator in the country. SNCF brought into operation the TGV high-speed rail in 1981.
10. Brazil – 28,000km
The first railway line in Brazil came into operation in 1984. The railway network was nationalised in 1957 with the creation of Rede Ferroviária Federal Sociedade Anônima.
The 28,000km network is predominantly freight-focussed and includes major iron ore rail lines. The country’s passenger rail services are mostly concentrated in urban and suburban areas. Eight Brazilian cities have metro systems, São Paulo Metro being the biggest among them.