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Top 10 Global Rail Networks

Supply Chain Digital looks at 10 of the largest rail networks worldwide.

10 | Brazil - 28,000km+

Brazil’s railway network was nationalised in 1957, following the creation of Rede Ferroviária Federal Sociedade Anônima (RFFSA). The network is primarily freight-focused and includes major ore rail lines.

9 | France - 29,273km+

France has the second largest train network in Europe. Its network is primarily passenger-orientated, with over 50% of the country’s lines electrified.

8 | Australia - 33,168km+

Aurizon, Genesee and Wyoming Australia and Pacific National are among the leading freight operators in Australia. The majority of the railway network is owned and maintained by the Australian government at both federal and state level.

7 | Argentina - 36,917km+

Despite still having one of the largest railway networks worldwide, Argentina previously had over 47,000km of railway at the end of the Second World War and was considered one of the most extensive worldwide at the time. However, a decline in profits and the rise in highway construction meant a reduction to the network.

6 | Germany - 38,594km+

Germany is considered the largest railway network in Europe. Deutsche Bahn controls the majority of Germany’s rail network, consisting of 80% of total freight traffic and 99% of the long-distance passenger traffic. The S-Bahn caters to major suburban areas, while the Hamburg Cologne Express is the major long-distance passenger operator after Deutsche Bahn. 

5 | Canada - 49,452km+

Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway are recognised as the two major freight rail networks in the country, while Via Rail operates the 12,500km intercity passenger rail service. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver operate extensive commuter train systems in the country.

4 | India - 68,525km+

The Indian rail network has one of the highest population per kilometre track in the world at 19,656. It is divided into 17 zones and operates over 19,000 trains every day, including 12,000 passenger trains and 7,000 freight trains.

3 | Russia - 85,500km+

Russia’s network is operated by state-owned Russian Railways and runs for more than 85,500km. The network incorporates 12 main lines, with many providing direct connections to the European and Asian national railway systems such as Finland, Germany, Poland, France, China, Mongolia and North Korea. The Trans-Siberian railway line between Moscow and Vladivostok spans a length of 9,289km and is the longest and busiest railway line worldwide.

2 | China - 100,000km+

China’s rail network ranks second with over 100,000km of track. Operated by state-owned China Railway Corporation, it carried more than two billion passengers and three billion tonnes of freight in 2013. Rail is considered the number one route of transport in the country, due to the spacious landscape of China. By 2050, China aims to have over 270,000km of track.

1 | USA - 250,000km+

With an operating route length of more than 250,000km, the United States’ rail network is renowned as the biggest in the world. Freight lines consist of around 80% of the country’s total rail network, while the total passenger network makes up about 35,000km. In total. The US freight rail network is formed of 538 railroads, (seven Class 1 railroads, 21 regional railroads and 510 local railroads) operated by private organisations.

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10 | Brazil - 28,000km+

Brazil’s railway network was nationalised in 1957, following the creation of Rede Ferroviária Federal Sociedade Anônima (RFFSA). The network is primarily freight-focused and includes major ore rail lines.

9 | France - 29,273km+

France has the second largest train network in Europe. Its network is primarily passenger-orientated, with over 50% of the country’s lines electrified.

8 | Australia - 33,168km+

Aurizon, Genesee and Wyoming Australia and Pacific National are among the leading freight operators in Australia. The majority of the railway network is owned and maintained by the Australian government at both federal and state level.

7 | Argentina - 36,917km+

Despite still having one of the largest railway networks worldwide, Argentina previously had over 47,000km of railway at the end of the Second World War and was considered one of the most extensive worldwide at the time. However, a decline in profits and the rise in highway construction meant a reduction to the network.

6 | Germany - 38,594km+

Germany is considered the largest railway network in Europe. Deutsche Bahn controls the majority of Germany’s rail network, consisting of 80% of total freight traffic and 99% of the long-distance passenger traffic. The S-Bahn caters to major suburban areas, while the Hamburg Cologne Express is the major long-distance passenger operator after Deutsche Bahn. 

5 | Canada - 49,452km+

Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway are recognised as the two major freight rail networks in the country, while Via Rail operates the 12,500km intercity passenger rail service. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver operate extensive commuter train systems in the country.

4 | India - 68,525km+

The Indian rail network has one of the highest population per kilometre track in the world at 19,656. It is divided into 17 zones and operates over 19,000 trains every day, including 12,000 passenger trains and 7,000 freight trains.

3 | Russia - 85,500km+

Russia’s network is operated by state-owned Russian Railways and runs for more than 85,500km. The network incorporates 12 main lines, with many providing direct connections to the European and Asian national railway systems such as Finland, Germany, Poland, France, China, Mongolia and North Korea. The Trans-Siberian railway line between Moscow and Vladivostok spans a length of 9,289km and is the longest and busiest railway line worldwide.

2 | China - 100,000km+

China’s rail network ranks second with over 100,000km of track. Operated by state-owned China Railway Corporation, it carried more than two billion passengers and three billion tonnes of freight in 2013. Rail is considered the number one route of transport in the country, due to the spacious landscape of China. By 2050, China aims to have over 270,000km of track.

1 | USA - 250,000km+

With an operating route length of more than 250,000km, the United States’ rail network is renowned as the biggest in the world. Freight lines consist of around 80% of the country’s total rail network, while the total passenger network makes up about 35,000km. In total. The US freight rail network is formed of 538 railroads, (seven Class 1 railroads, 21 regional railroads and 510 local railroads) operated by private organisations.

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