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Creating a modern, integrated railway structure

The functionality of railways in the 21st century has evolved to new dimensions not found in earlier years. Most rail networks were initially created as stand-alone transport routes for passengers and freight, without substantial regard for how the rail network integrated with other elements of the transport network or with other key infrastructure components.

In some cases, the early organic growth of the rail network led to inefficiencies and redundancy, with the need for radical changes at a later date. A prominent example was the railway network in Britain in the 1960s, in which the controversial Beeching reforms removed one third of the network with the aim of making the railways profitable and more efficient with the creation of freight hubs. These radical changes failed to predict future trends, neglected the need to create full integration with the road network, and some areas of the country were left without adequate access to the rail network, with negative economic and social consequences.

Similar situations have occurred elsewhere, in which a railway network created in the 19th or early 20th century is inadequate for the commercial and demographic requirements of the 21st century. There are important lessons to be learnt.

Critical factors for development and modernisation of a rail network

  • Reconfiguring a rail network requires forward planning to cover many decades in the future
  • An effective and efficient rail network must be fully integrated with all other elements of transport infrastructure, including roads, ports, airports and inland waterways
  • High speed networks must integrate with the older conventional network
  • With increased density of traffic, the integration of freight and passenger services becomes even more critical

CIP partners can provide advisory services for engineering, commercial & financial, strategic planning and infrastructure integration factors for upgrading rail networks and creating new rail connectivity, drawing on their experience with rail systems in Europe. Development of the rail network must take into account overall considerations for economic and social development. In India, for example, new rail routes are being planned in conjunction with the planning of new highway networks, smart cities and Special Economic Zones (SEZs).