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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

High-speed rail operations to spike globally in coming years, research institute says


The number of countries operating high-speed rail service is expected to nearly double during the next several years, according to research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for Vital Signs Online.

By 2014, high-speed trains will be running in 24 countries — including the United States — up from 14 countries today, according to the organization. While there is no universal speed definition for high-speed rail, it can typically be considered 250 kph (155 mph) on new tracks and 200 kph (125 mph) on existing, upgraded tracks, according to a Worldwide press release.

The increase is due largely to high-speed rail’s reliability and ability to cover vast geographic distances in a short time, investments aimed at connecting once-isolated regions and the diminishing appeal of air travel, Worldwatch says.

“The rise in HSR has been very rapid,” said Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner, who conducted the research, in a prepared statement. “In just three years, between January 2008 and January 2011, the operational fleet grew from 1,737 high-speed trainsets worldwide to 2,517. … By 2014, the global fleet is expected to total more than 3,700 units.”

Between 2009 and 2011, the total length of operational track has grown from about 10,700 kilometers to nearly 17,000 kilometers. Another 8,000 kilometers is currently under construction and an additional 17,700 kilometers is planned.

Worldwatch is a Washington, D.C.-based research organization that focuses on energy, resource and environmental issues.

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More News from 11/9/2011