Density of railway lines in European countries

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by 1mark, 20 Mar 2017.

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  1. 1mark

    1mark New Member

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  2. Cambus731

    Cambus731 Member

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    I wonder if England was considered on its own if it would be in the densest bracket.
     
  3. LNW-GW Joint

    LNW-GW Joint Established Member

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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.
     
  4. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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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)


    .
     
  5. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    (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.
     
  6. duesselmartin

    duesselmartin Member

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    Switzerland must be the most dense.
     
  7. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    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)


    .
     
    Last edited: 22 Mar 2017
  8. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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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...
     
  9. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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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.
     
  10. 181

    181 Member

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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.
     
  11. daodao

    daodao Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: 23 Mar 2017
  12. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    For me, ability to afford this undertaking would be a fine thing ! It's nice to dream, though...

    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.


    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 :) ?)
     
  13. dutchflyer

    dutchflyer Member

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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).
     
  14. WatcherZero

    WatcherZero Established Member

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    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).
     
    Last edited: 25 Mar 2017
  15. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    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.
     
  16. WatcherZero

    WatcherZero Established Member

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    Yes a huge amount of colliery capillaries have been lost and the track km is a lot less than it used to be in its heyday (about half?) but the survey was passenger route km, so freight only lines, passing loops and marshalling sidings wouldn't affect the figure and as I said is probably why England is quite flattered as we don't have much freight only lines anymore compared to other countries.
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2017
  17. MarcVD

    MarcVD Member

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    In Belgium the rail network at its peak was some 5500 km. Now 3600 of which 3200 see passenger traffic.

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  18. dutchflyer

    dutchflyer Member

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    Back to the original topic: Now I remember what I had to learn in grammar school (60ies):
    BElgium had the densest network then (as km of track per km2), Switzerland-as always-the highest use (in nr of trips/year) per inhabitant. But since then BE has closed quite a few minor lines and CH hardly any.
     
  19. WessexEclectic

    WessexEclectic Member

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    It's easier to shift a T-54 by rail...
     
  20. duesselmartin

    duesselmartin Member

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    East Germany also had active policy to keep freight in rails whereever possible. I assume it was cheaper than investing in decent roads.
     
  21. MarcVD

    MarcVD Member

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    And also much easier to control, of course. And could use electric energy, that ex-comecon countries produced more easily than oil-based products.

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    Last edited: 1 Apr 2017
  22. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    What I find mind-boggling about the Belgian rail-density scene "at peak", is that on top of the tight-packed standard-gauge network, there was another extremely extensive, country-wide narrow-gauge essentially "tramway" network, the Vicinaux / Buurtspoorwegen (overwhelmingly metre-gauge; at one time a bit of 1067mm gauge, "box-and-cox" with Dutch lines just across the border in the area concerned). (I don't claim to be numerate -- don't know whether the quoted 5500 / 3*** figures, take account of the one-time narrow-gauge tramway set-up.)

    From what I understand, very little indeed remains today of the Vicinaux / Buurt... -- if I'm right: the busy coastal electric route Knokke -- Ostend -- De Panne; the short line at the Grottes de Han (a part in its own right, of that tourist attraction); and a couple of shortish preserved stretches.

    A bit of an exception as I perceive it, as regards East Germany’s once abundant narrow gauge; which DR decided was in the main, obsolete -- gradual phasing-out began in the mid-1960s. There was a lot of it, and the phasing-out was quite slow. Also -- if I’m right, in the 1980s DR decided to keep 6 - 8 then-surviving narrow-gauge lines / systems -- including retaining steam traction on them -- essentially as tourist / gricer bait (East Germany was the first European Communist country to get the message that railway enthusiasts were not Western spies, but a potential asset; and to welcome them). However, on these n/g lines (still running in the east of Germany under various managements, largely with steam, today) spared for -- bottom line -- “entertainment” purposes; trains continued to be scheduled at times making sense for “real” passengers; and freight traffic was retained, till reunification of Germany and in some cases, after. General picture got, is that there wasn’t much good to be said about the German Democratic Republic; but for sentimental railway enthusiasts such as me, “kudos where due,” re the above-recounted.

    And they also had plenty of coal to fuel steam locos...
     
  23. U-Bahnfreund

    U-Bahnfreund Member

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    And parts of the M1 and M2 of Charleroi Métro in Anderlues.
     
  24. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    Thanks -- I tend to forget that one !
     
  25. MarcVD

    MarcVD Member

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    Specially the double tracks between Charleroi and Gosselies, and the single track between Fontaine and Anderlues, are pure SNCV heritage. That network was also about 5000 km long, so in total 10.000 km in Belgium. Sic transit gloria mundi...

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  26. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    A further aspect is that, the further east you go, the more extreme the winters are, and in earlier times the less practical the roads are for travel in winter, both the standard of former Socialist-era vehicles (both cars and buses) and of the road surface and winter maintenance.

    One of the aspects of detail about the Nazis being "defeated by the winter" in the Soviet Union was, in the absence of rail facilities (both wrong gauge and scorched-earth by the Soviets) the road vehicles they used elsewhere across Europe became unusable. For the same reason tramways survived in urban areas to a much greater extent than in the west - they were the only reliable form of transport for many months.

    Another incidental aspect of this is the very low number of motorcycles in Eastern Europe - they are just impractical for many months of the year.
     
  27. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    Thanks for the distances. I'm recalling now, that-- "icing on the cake" as it were -- the Vicinaux / Buurtspoorwgen had a few standard-gauge sections too. One of these, between Poulseur and Sprimont, I believe continued in use for freight well into the 1960s; using to the end, steam tram locos with enclosed motion.


    Interesting -- the "further east you go, the harsher the winters" factor hadn't occurred to me in this connection.

    North-south, rather than east-west, "axis": but have the above characteristics tended to apply to Scandinavia as well?
     
  28. duesselmartin

    duesselmartin Member

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    I think population density is important here. Climate hasnt stopped eastern Europe from Beeching style cuts in the 1990s.
     
  29. Giugiaro

    Giugiaro Member

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    The density of the Portuguese Railway Network is currently at 27m/km2

    In its maximum extent it reached 39m/km2

    Just for comparison, the National Motorway Network currently clocks at 37m/km2, mostly concentrated on the shoreline.

    The figures above do not include Underground nor Tram networks.
     
  30. exile

    exile Established Member

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    In fact, the French "Beeching" occurred in 1938, immediately after nationalisation. A large number of passenger services were replaced by buses. There was also an extensive narrow-gauge network in France, most of which had disappeared by 1950.
     
    Last edited: 8 Apr 2017
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