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Old 20th March 2017, 22:38   #1
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Default Density of railway lines in European countries

Interesting infographic presenting the ratio of length of railway lines and area of European countires.

http://www.observationzone.com/2017/...ilometres.html
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Old 20th March 2017, 23:04   #2
Cambus731
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I wonder if England was considered on its own if it would be in the densest bracket.
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Old 21st March 2017, 00:18   #3
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Presumably this is based on the current networks.
GB would have been much higher at its maximum extent.
Many EU countries are still shrinking their networks (eg in Eastern Europe).
Even France is closing rural lines, and others like Portugal and Greece have severe funding problems with their current networks.
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Old 21st March 2017, 02:33   #4
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Originally Posted by LNW-GW Joint View Post
Even France is closing rural lines,
this makes it sound surprising, but actually railways in France have been progressively closing for over 80 years. At its maximum extent, before the French version of the 'Beeching' there were about 60,000km of lines. This figure is now around 28,000km, but with many of those lines moribund or rarely used (eg for occasional seasonal cereal traffic)


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Old 21st March 2017, 06:19   #5
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this makes it sound surprising, but actually railways in France have been progressively closing for over 80 years. At its maximum extent, before the French version of the 'Beeching' there were about 60,000km of lines. This figure is now around 28,000km, but with many of those lines moribund or rarely used (eg for occasional seasonal cereal traffic).
(My bolding above.) I feel that it may be pertinent to wonder whether the quoted survey concerns passenger lines only; or whether it also takes in freight-only lines -- including those, as above, used only on rare occasions. The general trend throughout Europe nowadays would seem to be against freight-only rural lines "of most shapes and makes" -- but it would appear certain that the incidence of sections carrying freight only will be to some extent, greater / lesser between different countries.
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Old 21st March 2017, 12:08   #6
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Switzerland must be the most dense.
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Old 22nd March 2017, 02:40   #7
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Originally Posted by Calthrop View Post
(My bolding above.) I feel that it may be pertinent to wonder whether the quoted survey concerns passenger lines only; or whether it also takes in freight-only lines -- including those, as above, used only on rare occasions. .

Quite agree. I tend to pay scant attention to this type of 'third party' statistical data view of the railways, especially one that like this one does not state all the parameters up front (they miss the key parameter - all lines or passenger only). I would pay more attention to a document produced by UIC


It is even possible that data received from each countries was slightly different. There are so many ways to count 'length' of transport systems (for example comparing tram network lengths can be a nightmare as some operators will quote the public route length and some the track extent)


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Old 22nd March 2017, 21:21   #8
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While – as discussed in Gordon's and my exchange, above – the degree of accuracy in surveys such as the one which is the subject of this thread, is likely not wonderfully high; I can accept their giving a meaningful indication of tendencies.

An interesting feature to me of this survey, is the Czech Republic’s coming in second place for number of kilometres of line per 1,000 square kilometres. One trait of Cold War-divided Europe was the tendency of Communist-bloc countries (both from policy, and from economic necessity) to use rail transport more, and road less, than their Western counterparts. Though this has varied somewhat between different Eastern European countries; some of same kept in use to a late date, far more of their rail systems as at “peak”, than did the more rail-forsaking of their West European contemporaries.

The East European country which I know best, is Poland. When I first went there in 1980 it occasioned delight on my part, that the Polish State Railways’ then active passenger network was, at a guess, on approximately the same level re lines still in passenger use, as British Railways had been around 1955 – innumerable rural local lines still with passenger services, and a good number of lines above and beyond this, which had lost their passenger services but still carried freight. The same seemed – from the published timetable, and from a couple of first-hand visits which I made – to go for Poland’s neighbour Czechoslovakia. This situation continued pretty much to obtain in Poland, until the end around 1990, of the overall Communist-bloc situation. A couple of years later, massive bouts of passenger-service withdrawals on lesser rural lines in Poland began, and carried on year after year – the picture is also got, that freight use of such lines has very sharply declined. In the survey’s “km. per 1,000 sq. km.” “league table”, Poland’s figure is 62: three points lower than the UK.

The Czech Republic, on the other hand, scores 121 – which would seem to indicate that the Czech railways have kept in service, a large proportion of the lines which they had thirty years ago. Its nearest “competitor” in Eastern Europe – Hungary – rates a very significantly-less 77. The figure for the Czech Rep.’s now-separate sister nation Slovakia is slightly less still, at 74. While my impression is that Slovakia is a bit wilder and hillier than the Czech Republic – hence figurably a bit less, ever, in the way of railways – it always struck me that in Communist times, the area was amply-railwayed in its own right. Suggesting a scenario of a lot of rail closures in Slovakia in recent decades.

All this promotes thoughts of potential pleasant visiting of the Czech Republic for a “time-warp” feast of country-branch-line travel, albeit with modern traction...
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Old 22nd March 2017, 23:06   #9
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All this promotes thoughts of potential pleasant visiting of the Czech Republic for a “time-warp” feast of country-branch-line travel, albeit with modern traction...
Indeed so. There are some lines closed to passengers, and some with only a limited service, but they are the exception to the rule. However, modernisation of stations and lines is steadily going ahead, so don't leave it too long.
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Old 23rd March 2017, 00:03   #10
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It would be interesting to see a similar infographic showing railway mileage per head of population (Norway would probably have a rather higher place than it does on a per-area basis).

As other people may have noticed before, the map of the Polish railway system before the closures of the post-communist era shows an obvious difference in density between the areas that before 1918 were in Germany and those that were in Russia or Austria. See here for the same map with the border superimposed (approximately).

Apologies if anyone thinks this is off topic, but I'm reminded of this blog post, showing the appearance of the long-vanished border on the map of results of the Polish general election of 2007. The comments on the post no longer seem to be available, but my recollection is that after various people had got the wrong end of the stick (for example confusing the pre-1918 border with the inter-war one), someone posted a map of the railway system and suggested that railway density was an indicator of the degree of industrialization and economic development, which could (despite all the population movements at the end of World War 2) plausibly show up in voting patterns all these years later.
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Old 23rd March 2017, 10:05   #11
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Originally Posted by 181 View Post
It would be interesting to see a similar infographic showing railway mileage per head of population (Norway would probably have a rather higher place than it does on a per-area basis).

As other people may have noticed before, the map of the Polish railway system before the closures of the post-communist era shows an obvious difference in density between the areas that before 1918 were in Germany and those that were in Russia or Austria. See here for the same map with the border superimposed (approximately).

Apologies if anyone thinks this is off topic, but I'm reminded of this blog post, showing the appearance of the long-vanished border on the map of results of the Polish general election of 2007. The comments on the post no longer seem to be available, but my recollection is that after various people had got the wrong end of the stick (for example confusing the pre-1918 border with the inter-war one), someone posted a map of the railway system and suggested that railway density was an indicator of the degree of industrialization and economic development, which could (despite all the population movements at the end of World War 2) plausibly show up in voting patterns all these years later.
A map of the GB 2015 GE and 2016 referendum results would be equally revealing of the pre-1707 border along the Cheviots! Superimposing a map of heavy rail re-openings in the last 40 years for 60 miles north and south of this "border" would also show a rather different approach to recent rail development.

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Old 23rd March 2017, 13:15   #12
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Indeed so. There are some lines closed to passengers, and some with only a limited service, but they are the exception to the rule. However, modernisation of stations and lines is steadily going ahead, so don't leave it too long.
For me, ability to afford this undertaking would be a fine thing ! It's nice to dream, though...

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As other people may have noticed before, the map of the Polish railway system before the closures of the post-communist era shows an obvious difference in density between the areas that before 1918 were in Germany and those that were in Russia or Austria. See here for the same map with the border superimposed (approximately).
Thank you for the PKP maps (1952 / 53 and 1963 / 64) -- absolutely fascinating. Certainly as regards standard-gauge lines: what was still running with passenger services in 1980, was not a great deal less than as shown by the '52 / '53 map -- a lot of narrow gauge was closed, in some cases to passenger only, in the intervening three-odd decades, but a lot, also, remained in 1980 and for long onward. (Comparing the early-1950s, and early-1960s, maps, gives an interesting indication of what had succumbed over those ten years or so.)

For sure, the rail network shows as noticeably more scanty in what had been Russian Poland pre-1918, than further west. (And I believe Poland did a fair bit of building of new lines in the ex-Russian areas, post-independence.) The relative thin-ness of the network in the former Austrian part of the country, may I feel owe something to Austria's share of Poland having been the hilly far south -- the only bit of Poland with proper high hills and mountains ! (Poland's mountain borderlands further west, were German until 1945.)

And I'd suggest that the highly-railwayed nature of ex-German Poland -- much of which was, again, Germany proper until the 1945 adjustments -- is a function in part, of a particular German attribute. While it must be admitted that for a long period most of a century and more ago, Germany was in many ways a "bad lad" in its relations with other European lands; it did have the endearing trait of being a strong proponent and big initiator of -- in great numbers -- branch / light / narrow-gauge railways, complementing an impressive system of greater lines. This showed up wherever Germany directly ruled, including the country's pre-1918 chunk of Poland.


Quote:
Apologies if anyone thinks this is off topic, but I'm reminded of this blog post, showing the appearance of the long-vanished border on the map of results of the Polish general election of 2007. The comments on the post no longer seem to be available, but my recollection is that after various people had got the wrong end of the stick (for example confusing the pre-1918 border with the inter-war one), someone posted a map of the railway system and suggested that railway density was an indicator of the degree of industrialization and economic development, which could (despite all the population movements at the end of World War 2) plausibly show up in voting patterns all these years later.
Certainly an interesting curiosity, how closely people’s political and social attitudes would seem to match the long-ago border between empires – by whatever means that conclusion might have been arrived at. (I’m intrigued by the anomalous red blob around the Białowieza Forest area. Wonder whether under the Polish electoral system, bison have a vote ?)
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Old 24th March 2017, 21:11   #13
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There still is the UIC-Union International des Chemins de Fer-as anyone knows, trains speak French and not english-just like the international mails. They collect and provide all these kinds of statistics etc.
What one can easily see when one travels on those impossible looking small sidelines in CZ or PL-most had some sidings to local factories, and much more as the socialist people it was the freight that had to be kept on rails and not roads. So when that remaining factory closes-and thus also all the jolly workers to there-the fate of that line was clear. In PL they followed the economists that said a total and complete turnover to capitalist would be best-and that led to all those closures in a short span of time. In other countries over there its simply the time-no maintenance, so in due time most get too much restrictions to keep them alive (ROmania, Bulgaria).
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Old 25th March 2017, 06:14   #14
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Originally Posted by Cambus731 View Post
I wonder if England was considered on its own if it would be in the densest bracket.

Well Northern Ireland has 303 route km, Scotland has 2,763 km, (not sure exact route km though Scotrail Franchise has just over 3000 route km and operates inside England) That leaves England and Wales 13,143 route km approx.

That would give England and Wales a score of 115 just behind Belgium, Czech and Switzerland. Without Wales it would be 121, joint second with Czech Republic.

Probably flatters England having a high ratio of passenger route km to track km though, since we pretty much run passenger services over nearly all of it (16,209 route km over 20,000 network km).

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Old 25th March 2017, 12:10   #15
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Originally Posted by Cambus731 View Post
I wonder if England was considered on its own if it would be in the densest bracket.
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Originally Posted by WatcherZero View Post
Well Northern Ireland has 303 route km, Scotland has 2,763 km, (not sure exact route km though Scotrail Franchise has just over 3000 route km and operates inside England) That leaves England and Wales 13,143 route km approx.

That would give England and Wales a score of 115 just behind Belgium, Czech and Switzerland. Without Wales it would be 121, joint second with Czech Republic.

Probably flatters England having a high ratio of passenger route km to track km though, since we pretty much run passenger services over nearly all of it (16,209 route km over 20,000 network km).
My bolding, above -- this surprises me (not doubting you -- I'm weak on all matters to do with figures, which on their own tend to convey "anything or nothing" to me). This is simply because England has lost so very much trackage, compared to most-of-a-century ago -- yet still, taken without the UK's other countries, it would be right near the head of the pack.

Similar thoughts occurred to me re the survey as linked to, concerning Belgium with its three-figure score, and "position no. 3". Belgium once had much more standard-gauge branch-line kilometrage -- now abandoned -- than it possesses at the present day; and also, a huge amount of long-distance narrow-gauge electric / steam-later-widely-diesel, tramways, overlapping with the s/g system. This situation led to Belgium some ninety / a hundred years ago, being acknowledged as the country with the most dense rail system of any in the world -- one suspects, beating most other countries by a wide margin.

One would indeed suspect that in the era of railways at their zenith, a fair number of Western European countries would -- using the method of the linked-to survey -- have scored way higher than in the 120's.
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