What do the railways of the future look like?
A handful of countries are so pioneering in rail today that they give us a glimpse of things to come.
Most countries in the world operate a railway system of some sort, but there are a few who have taken it to the next level. They show the rest of the world how it should be done.
When it comes to efficiency, punctuality, technology, number of customers, and customer satisfaction, we believe that these five countries are ahead of the game. Their railways are so good that looking at them is literally like looking into the future.
You have to see it to believe just how good Hong Kong’s Mass Transit System is.
The MTR is an absolute pleasure to ride. It’s cheap, it’s easy to buy tickets, it’s well sign-posted, and it’s extremely clean. Free Wi-Fi is provided in all 93 stations, and wheelchair access is second-to-none.
Not only that, the Hong Kong MTR maintains incredible punctuality, with 99.9% of metro trains running on time, carrying around 4.65 million passenger trips per day.
Despite its low fairs, the MTR’s incredible service pays off – the Hong Kong MTR is one of the most profitable metro systems in the world, with a fare recovery ratio of 186%.
Rail in Japan is reliable, punctual, and fast. But there are several ways that Japanese railways stand out above the rest as the railways of the future.
Japan’s Shinkansen high-speed ‘bullet train’ network is the fastest in the world. Using maglev technology, it was the Shinkansen that broke the world record in April 2015, reaching speeds of 603kmph.
Japan’s railways are also some of the busiest in the world.
The sheer volume of people that the Japanese railways carry is overwhelming. With 27,268km of rail across the country, Japan’s railways carried 7.289 billion passengers in 2013-14. Compare this with Germany’s 40,000km of rail that carries just 2.2 billion passengers per year.
46 of the world’s busiest 50 stations are in Japan. And the original Shinkansen line, connecting the cities of Tokyo and Osaka, is the busiest high-speed rail line in the world.
How do they do it? It comes down to an exemplary level of collaboration by the Japan Railways Group – a group of 7 private companies that work together extremely well to deliver a world-leading service.
Singapore is one of the top countries in the world for its infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum.
It’s no surprise then that Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) runs like a slick, well-oiled machine. Like pretty much everything in Singapore.
With 100 stations across the city-state, the MRT comfortably transports 2.6 million daily users in air-conditioned carriages.
Further kudos goes to Singapore for their impressive high-speed project which will connect them to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, crossing the Strait of Johor by bridge.
The Swiss do railways exceptionally well.
For starters, over 99% of the Swiss rail network is electrified, making Swiss railways amongst the greenest in the world.
Switzerland also has one of the densest rail networks in the world. Great rail coverage, combined with excellent integration with other transport, contributes to the Swiss being the biggest rail users in the world, with the average citizen travelling 2,449km per year – a clear indication of a high-functioning service.
It is no wonder that the World Economic Forum rank Switzerland as second in the world for railway infrastructure, beaten only by Japan.
In case all this isn’t futuristic enough, the Swiss are making driverless trains a reality.
Switzerland already boasts driverless systems on closed-off lines at Zurich airport, and on the Lausanne metro. The Swiss are now set to become the first to use driverless trains on major routes, as the Südostbahn prepare to operate driverless trains on stretches between St Gallen and Lucerne.
The Spanish railways are consistently top-quality across the board. But Spain is especially noteworthy for excelling at high-speed rail. With 3,100km of track, the Alta Velocidad Espanola (AVE) is the longest high-speed network in Europe, and the second longest in the world.
As well as clocking speeds of up to 300km, their punctuality rate is terrific. 99% of AVE services arrive on time across the network as a whole.
The crowning glory of Spanish high-speed is the 600km Madrid-Barcelona service. Commuters are able to make the 600km journey in just over 2 and a half hours.
Once a popular air passage, the Madrid-Barcelona AVE has turned many towards rail. Not even cheap flights are enough to tempt commuters away from the AVE service that is a more comfortable, more convenient, and ultimately quicker way to travel.
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