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Exploring Global Railways: A Closer Look at Worldwide Infrastructure Investments

Susanne Stock

Susanne Stock


The future of mobility is on the rails – and investment in rail transport is booming worldwide! Now that Federal Minister Volker Wissing of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport has given the green light for an additional budget of an impressive 31.5 billion euros in the coming years, the largest refurbishment programme for Deutsche Bahn has been launched. But it’s not just Germany investing in rail! We have put together some exciting figures that show how the whole world is expanding its rail network and investing in infrastructure. Take a look at the development of global railways!

ICE Train by Deutsche Bahn at Berlin Central Station ©Daniel Abadia

High-Speed Rail in Europe

As per the 2022 UIC High-Speed Rail (HSR) Atlas, Europe’s high-speed rail system spans a combined operational length of 11,990 km, and an additional 3,062 km is currently under construction. The report also indicates intentions to develop more than 9,200 km, with over 5,900 km in the planning phase and over 3,300 km designated for long-term projects. (Source: railwaypro, February 2023)

Stretching over 870 kilometers, Rail Baltica facilitates a seamless link between Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland with Central Europe’s rail network © Rail Baltica

Three Seas Region

Let’s examine a specific area of Europe: The Three Seas Region, which includes Rail Baltica. The study titled “Benefits of HSR development and integration between EU countries of the 3Seas Initiative” indicates that by 2050, the High-Speed Rail (HSR) network suitable for both passenger and freight transportation will span approximately 4,500 km. The projected total cost for developing the entire HSR network in the Three Seas region is estimated to be around EUR 60 billion. These investments are expected to yield significant benefits, estimated at close to EUR 120 billion. (Source: Steer, July 2023)

Middle East

In the Middle East, there are over $150 billion worth of ongoing rail projects. Saudi Arabia leads with more than a third of these projects, accounting for 35%. Iraq follows in second place with 28% or $43 billion of active rail projects, while Oman ranks third with 18% or $27 billion of rail projects. Out of the total $150 billion, $36 billion is currently under construction, while $114 billion is in different pre-execution phases. (Source: ABiQ Business Intelligence, Jan. 2023) 2023)

High Speed Trains in Al Madinah Al Munawwarah, Saudi Arabia ©Yusuf Mansoor


During the initial 11 months of 2023, investments in China’s railway sector rose by 7.4%, reaching 640.7 billion yuan (around $90 billion). This notable financial growth is aimed at expanding the network, with the total length of Chinese railways exceeding 155.5 thousand kilometers as of November 2023. (Source: railway.supply, November 2023)

Trains link almost every town and city in China – here: Beijing ©Kua Yue


The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the most significant investment in passenger rail since the inception of Amtrak, with a total investment of $66 billion allocated to rail projects. For instance, President Biden has announced $16.4 billion in new funding for 25 passenger rail projects along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, advancing the United States closer to his vision of establishing a world-class passenger rail system. (Source: Das Weiße Haus, November 2023)

Amtrak’s distinctive trains are well known. But also private railway companies will benefit from the government subsidies. ©Stephen Mease


One project to watch in Africa is the Afrail Express, a proposed high-speed passenger rail network intended to link the entirety of Africa. Scheduled to commence construction in May 2024 at various locations across different countries, the initial phase of the project aims to connect Cape Town, South Africa, to Casablanca, Morocco, passing through key cities such as Windhoek, Luanda, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Lagos, and Dakar. Estimated to cost $90 billion, the initiative is anticipated to generate over 50 million employment opportunities across the continent, potentially contributing more than five trillion dollars to the African GDP. (Source: Energy Capital & Power, December 2023)

Afrailways is developing Afrail Express as a high-speed passenger train system based on magnetic levitation technology to connect the entire African continent ©Afrailways

South Africa

South Africa boasts the largest railway infrastructure across Africa. Nonetheless, the decrease in rail capacity for both freight and passenger services, along with limitations in port capacity, continues to impede domestic and regional trade, particularly in the current challenging business landscape. The South African Government’s initiative to allocate R900 billion (approximately $47 billion) by 2027 for railway infrastructure enhancements faces obstacles due to regulatory and organizational hurdles, as well as incidents of theft involving cabling, railway tracks, and station infrastructure. (Source: International Trade Administration, January 2024)

The central railway station in the city of Johannesburg, Johannesburg Park Station, is the largest railway station in Africa. ©Ingo Stiller


Indian Railways is set to invest a minimum of ₹7 trillion (approximately $84 billion) in the upcoming decade to lay an unprecedented 50,000 kilometers (km) of fresh railway tracks. This endeavor aims to modernize the network and enhance train speeds. The establishment of new tracks will form a crucial aspect of the newly drafted Vision 2047 blueprint for the national transporter. Under this plan, Indian Railways anticipates incorporating 100,000 km of new alignments, including replacements, doubling, and gauge conversion initiatives over the next 25 years, with an estimated expenditure ranging from ₹15-20 trillion (approximately $180-240 billion). (Source: Mint India, December 2023)

A train is entering Sabroom railway station in South Tripura, India © Sourav Debnath

These fantastic news reinforce our belief that rail transport plays a key role in sustainable mobility. We at AXO are thrilled about these positive developments and see a clear path to a greener, more efficient future.

Let’s continue to drive the rails of innovation and sustainability forward together!