World’s leading HST networks and Turkey

4 years ago, we were introduced with high speed trains in Turkey for the first time. By then,more than 10 million passengers traveled with these trains, and this becomes maybe the most popular policy of government. Not only the Turkish citizens, but also the countries with high speed rail technology carefully  follow the future plans of Turkey.

Turkey is the most aggressive investor in high speed trains after China, but these trains had already been introduced to more than 10 countries all over the world. Here are the most characterizing features of high speed rail networks in the world:

The Largest Network

China, by far, has the largest high speed rail network in the word with about 9760 km as of December 2012. 2664 km network in Japan and 2515 km network in Spain are the following networks in the world[1]. Turkey has a network of 888 km for now[2].

The First to Have Technology

Japan’s high speed trains, Shinkansen, meaning “new trunk line”, had started running in October 1964 with a speed of 210 km along 515 km, 5 years after the kick-off of project. France and then West Germany were the following countries to develop high speed rail technology[3]. Turkey had opened its first high speed train in 2009, and will open a new tender of 106 high speed train sets. Production of sets in a plant in Turkey will be a must, so Turkey will not only own the sets, but also have a part of technology.

The Fastest Train in Service

The fastest operating conventional trains are the French TGV POS, German ICE 3 and Japanese E5 Series Shinkansen with a commercial maximum speed of 320 km/h[3]. The commercial speed used to be 350 km/h in some lines of China, but reduced to 300 km/h since 2011. Turkey is currently using 12 CAF train sets in 2 different routes, and has a certificate of commercial speed upto 250 km/h[2].

The Most Desirous

China plans to spend $300 billion to build a 25,000 km high speed rail network by 2020. 9000 km of it is already under construction. France with 3150 km new high speed rail and Spain with 3000 km (planned or under construction) is reported by UIC[1]. Turkish government had announced a plan of reaching to 10,000 km network by 2023.

The Busiest Network

Not surprisingly, 486 million of annual ridership (2012) brings China the leadership in this category. 307 million with Shinkansen of Japan (2011) and 114 million with TGV of France are the followers[3]. In Turkish high speed rail network, 3.3 million passengers had traveled in 2012[2].

The Market Leader

Korea Train eXpress (KTX), high speed train service of South Korea, has a market share of 57% over all other transport modes for travels above 300km, the biggest market share within all high speed rail networks[3]. Shinkansen accounts for about 88% of the market share for passengers between Tokyo and Osaka[4]. Although seems small, 25% market share of  whole passenger transportation in China must be awarded in this category as well[3]. TCDD’s market shares for specific routes are also impressive. 72% for Ankara-Eskisehir and 65% for Ankara-Konya[5].

The Most Profitable Operation

High peed rail networks are under discussion in terms of economics almost in every country. Governments are accused of preparing the plans based on votes rather than efficiency. China, Spain, Japan, USA have had significant discussions on this. On the contrary, the high speed trains became hero of the rail network in France. In 2007, SNCF generated profits of €1.1 billion driven largely by higher margins on the TGV network. By the mid-1990s, the trains were so popular that SNCF president Louis Gallois declared TGV “The train that saved French railways”[6]. With a net profit of $250 million (2008), South Korea has the most profitable network per km[3].

The Most Cautious

Huge capital, big numbers of passengers, long distances, experience in rail network should have taken USA forward in list. However, almost fully liberalized railway market (98% of rail network including the infrastructure is private) has a lot of hesitations about speeding up. USA has only one line connecting Boston to Washington DC. Despite a huge investment plan of Obama announced in 2009, USA seems to take a step carefully.


Written by Onur Uysal

Railway consultant. Owner of RT Media & Consultancy. Founder and editor of Rail Turkey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s