World’s Top 10 Countries Having Largest Railway Network as of 2023
The railway is a mode of transportation that is used for both passenger transportation as well as goods transportation. The countries with the largest railway network are among the most developed or developing countries. Railway has been the backbone of many countries for their growth.
The first time the wagon was used with the lap of the horses who pulled them. But in 1802, the first steam engine was made. In 1825, the first steam engine was used to carry passengers.
Over the years we have seen how railways spread all over the world and with every passing year reached new landmarks. We will take a look at 10 countries that have the largest railway networks as of 2023, and know about them in more detail.
1. United States of America
The United States of America is the country with the world’s largest spread railway network. The total length of the USA’s railway network is 257,560 km. However, a majority of the network is used in America for freight transportation. The freight network has even tracks internationally as well.
The passenger service is mainly restricted to the major cities, with few intercity routes to connect the major cities of the USA. Throughout the country at present standard gauge is used.
If we take a look at the history of the USA, we will find that the first railroads were built in the 1820s and 1830. The location of the first railroad was New England and the Mid-Atlantic region. The first organization which was started was Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Its growth was very prominent in the years which followed.
The first intercontinental railroad was built after the American Civil War and was used to connect California with the rest of the nation. World War I was a massive boost for the railway and was responsible for massive growth. However, with the great depression, railways were very badly affected.
World War II helped in its growth again but after that due to increasing demand for the airline and the automotive industry started its decline again. This came as a huge blow as many private companies went bankrupt which led to the creation of Amtrak in 1971. Amtrak was given the responsibility to look after the intercity public transport.
After many rule relaxations of the government, many companies were bought and combined to make a new entity. Freight has however stayed as the major contributor to the railway of the USA. The railway of the US is both nationalized as well as owned by private companies.
Besides Amtrak, BNSF Railway, Canadian National Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad, CSX Transportation are some of the popular railroad companies in the United States at the present time. Read Also: Top 10 Busiest Railway Stations in the US
The second-largest railway network in the world is in China. According to the latest surveys, the total length of the railway tracks is more than 150,000 km. Moreover, the length of the High-Speed Rail track is 40000 km which is the longest in the whole world.
The operations of the railways are controlled by a state-run company known as China State Railway Group Company, Ltd., formed in 2013 after the Ministry of Railway was dissolved. The company comes under the Ministry of Finance directly.
According to the statistics of 2019, about 3.660 billion passengers were delivered. Meanwhile, a total of 4.389 billion tonnes of freight was delivered as well. China has witnessed a five-times increase in freight services from 1980 to 2013. Moreover, during the same period, the passenger turnover increased by seven times.
These numbers themselves show how important and busy the railway of China is. About 68.35 percent of the total length of the railway is electrified in China. With the success of the railway, China is planning for expansion and has set a target of 274,000 kilometers by the year 2050.
The largest country in the world is Russia. So, seeing Russia third on the list is not a big surprise. Although Russia is a country having the third-largest railway network, a major part of the country is not connected to railways due to the population density and the extreme climate.
This is the reason that Russia has been described as the economic wonder of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The size is the reason that we can see that long-distance travel is very common. However, the majority of long-distance travel is under the JSC Russian Railway which has a 98.6 percent market share as of 2017.
Although the size of Russia is bigger than the USA and China, the density of railway tracks is still smaller than both the above-mentioned countries. Freight transportation is also small and about one-third of the freight consists of coal and coke. Meanwhile, ferrous metals make up only 10 percent of the freight. The total length of the railway network in Russia is around 85,600 km.
In Russia, the main means of transportation of goods are railways because of the extreme weather and terrain. The Russian railway is freight dominant and passenger service is not very huge because of its population as well.
The Ministry of the Means of Communication was the main governing body that looked after the smooth running till 2003. After 2003, the responsibility of the railway was taken by the Joint Stock Company Russian Railways.
Russia has International tracks connecting it to many neighboring countries. The countries like Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Finland, Poland, China, and North Korea. The railway of Russia is fully nationalized with 51.17 percent of the railways being electrified.
India is fourth on the list of the largest railway network in the world. In India, the railway is one of the major means of transportation for both passengers as well as freight. The railway of India is operated by the Indian Railway, an organization under the Ministry of Railways.
Through Indian Railways, an average of 22.15 million people and 3.32 metric tons of freight were transported on a daily basis from 2019 to 2020. In India, private organizations only have service of the freight trains. Meanwhile, the passenger trains are under public organization.
In 2020, the government tried to privatize the passenger sector as well. Indian railway is on the eighth spot in the list of largest employers. Over the year the management and the running of the railway were done perfectly by the government of India.
This proper management had led to the improvement of the railway massively. Indian Railway has set a target to fully electrify the tracks by 2023. The project like new trains which would be capable of running at 200 km/hr speed in the old tracks as well as Indian high-speed rail projects that will see speeds above 300 km/hr.
Indian Railway has also been an important part of developing the railway of the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka as well. India the proposal for the railway was first made in Madras in 1832.
However, the first train in India ran in 1837. But the first passenger train of India ran from Bombay to Thane on 16th April 1853. Two Indian stations are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with one being the Chhatrapati Sivaji Maharaja Terminal and the Mountain railways of the hills.
India has a total route length of 70,225 kilometers with a total track length of 126,366 km, and about 71 percent of the tracks are electrified. Indian railway has 7,325 stations, and around 40% of routes are double or multi-tracked. Read Also: Top 10 Super Fast & High-Speed Trains in India
Canada ranks fifth in the list of countries with the longest railway network. The total length of the railway is 49,422 kilometers. The first railroad company in Canada was the Champlain and Saint Lawrence Railroad which was started in 1836. The railway of Canada is mainly used for freight purposes. The majority of the railway is used for the transportation of goods only.
The railway of Canada is fully privatized. Two major companies look after the freight, Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP). As passenger transportation is not so popular, only one company by the federal crown corporation Via Rail provides the service of nationwide passenger movement.
The three major cities of Canada have proper railways for passengers. The service for passengers in the Montreal area is controlled by Exo. Meanwhile in the region of Toronto passengers commute under Go Transit. In the regions of Vancouver, West Coast Express controls the commute of the passengers mainly. There are many metro and small rails as well in Canada.
The railway is also used for tourism as the Rocky Mountaineer and Royal Canadian Pacific provide luxury tours of the Canadian Rockies and the mountain regions of British Columbia and Alberta.
Some of the main companies that work to serve the people of Canada are Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, Hudson Bay Railway Co., Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, RailLink Canada, etc. In Canada, less than a single percent of the railroad is electrified.
Germany is sixth on the list of the countries with the largest railway network. It is a member of the International Union of Railway and has a country code of 80. Germany is ranked fourth in the EU rail system in the performance index for the intensity of use, quality of service, and safety.
The total length of the German railway is 40,682 km. The length of the electrified tracks is 55.38 percent. Deutsche Bahn is the company that looks after the railway of Germany. Deutsche Bahn is a state-owned private company.
In recent years, it’s seen that many such companies have offered their service in state-subsidized for local regions as well as for long-distance services as well. The Deutsche Bahn had about 67 percent of the regional market in 2016 and about 68.7 percent in the freight market.
According to the records, 452 railway operators were registered in 2016. Out of the 452 operators, 124 had regional passenger operators, with 20 being long-distance operators and the rest 163 being freight operators. Deutsche Bahn has four types of long-distance operations in the form of Inter-city Express, Eurocity, Intercity, and Euro night.
Some of the other operators who have long-distance series are Thalys, Transdev, Cisalpino, and Flixtrain. Some of the operators that do the regional services are Regional-Express, RegionalBahn, S-Bahn, U-Bahn and tram and light rail services.
In the continent of South America, Argentina is the country with the largest railway network. It is also the seventh-largest railway network in the world. The railway of Argentina was very much prosperous in the mid-20th century.
According to records, the total length of the railway was about 47000 kilometers after the 2nd World War. However, after that, due to the construction of highways, the importance of the railway decreased. Moreover, with the breakup of the Ferrocarriles Argentinos, things became even worse.
After that, the privatization of the railway was also done. However, in 2012, the government of the country started to nationalize the railways after the mismanagement of the private companies and since then the railway of Argentina has started to grow.
The railways of Argentina have faced many difficulties over the years as the railway was privatized two times in the past and they are again nationalized as the private companies failed to run it properly.
The government has over the years started to pour more and more money into the railways. The railway is also used in tourism in the cities of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Entre Ríos, Mendoza, Misiones, Patagonia, Rosario, Salta and Tierra del Fuego.
Many countries are also connected to Argentina by railway. If we look at the list, we will find the counties of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay all are connected by railways. At present, the total length of the railway is 36,966 kilometers, but a very small part of it is electrified now.
Australia comes in the eighth spot in the list of the countries having the largest railway network. The railway network of Australia is a very important part of the country’s transport system. The majority of the railway is under the government of Australia with some private operators as well.
The policies are made and the funds for the policies are provided by the federal government of the country. The main problem that railways faced over the years is the use of different gauges by different colonies in the past. This has made the joining the railways very much difficult.
Electrification in Australia started in 1919, but it is also a problem because the main standards were not used. The diesel engine was first introduced in 1950. The freight of Australia is also very good as the country is full of natural resources.
Long-distance passenger trains are also operated in Australia. The total length of the railways in Australia is 33,270 kilometers with about 11 percent of the entire length of the track being electrified.
Brazil is in the ninth spot on the list of the largest railway networks in the world. The current length of the railways of Brazil is 30,122 kilometers and with more than 30 percent of the tracks being electrified as well. It is the second largest in the South American continent after Argentina.
The railway was started in the 19th century in Brazil. Many companies owned the railway back then but in 1957, the whole railway of the country was nationalized.
The nationalized railway was under Rede Ferroviária Federal, Sociedade Anônima(RFFSA). However, from 1999 to 2007, the RFFSA was dissolved and at present, both private and public institutions look after the railways of Brazil.
Although having such a big network of railways still the passenger transposition is not very good in Brazil. As the private companies were unable to popularize the passengers which led to the halt of many passenger trains.
Currently, almost all the railway is used for freight transportation. Although there are many plans, it still looks that is going to be very tough to implement all of those works. Brazil is also connected with other countries like Argentina, Bolivia, and Uruguay through the railways.
At the tenth spot on the list of the countries with the largest railway network, we have France. The railway of France is mainly used for passenger services. It should also be noted that what attracts the passengers more is the high-speed rail.
SNFC is the state-owned organization that looks after the railway of France. In France, the railway was first started in 1827, in Saint -Ettienne to Andrézieux. According to records, France has the fifth most used passenger network in the world and ranked second in Europe.
France is also a member of the International Union of Railways and its country code is 87. In the case of freight, only 9 percent of the freight is transported by the railway. Although the urban railway of France is developed still it’s growing.
There are metros in six major cities of France. The six cities are Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Rennes and Toulouse. The length of the railway in France is 29,273 kilometers. Moreover, 53.59 percent of the railway is electrified.