With 3,000 km of high speed lines, nearly 970 trains in circulation and more than 100 million passengers per year, Western Europe is by far the main market for very high speed rail travel, accounting for 70% of the market. 6,000 additional km of high speed lines are due to be built by 2020. The overall length of the European network is therefore expected to treble, introducing a new age of very high speed travel across Europe.
Europe at very high speed
Paris-Frankfurt, Marseilles-Barcelona, Bordeaux-Madrid, Lyons-Turin……a huge network of high speed connections between major European cities is in the process of being developed. We could eventually see the creation of railway “hubs” based on the air travel model, with the creation of the concept of fleets of very high speed trains with flexible and complementary capacities, just like fleets of aircraf
New projects in development from Argentina to China
Other regions of the world are beginning to show an interest in very high speed rail travel. In Asia, as well as Japan, already an established player in this market, the technology has now been adopted by South Korea. Soon China will follow suit and expects to build another 3,000 km of high speed lines within 15 years.
In January 2008, Argentina confirmed its plans to build Latin America’s first very high speed railway line, awarding the project to a consortium led by Alstom. The 710 km line will cut journey times from Buenos Aires to Cordoba to three hours instead of the fourteen hours today. Two other lines are on the drawing board: Buenos Aires – Mar del Plata (400 km) and Buenos Aires-Mendoza (1200 km). Brazil is also considering using very high speed rail travel to give a boost to its socio-economic development, with plans for a 400 km line between Rio and Sao-Paulo.
1500 km line planned in Morocco
Various countries in North Africa and the Middle East are in the process of launching major railway programmes spanning the next ten years. In October 2007, Morocco signed an agreement with France which should pave the way for the construction of a 300 km high speed line between Tangiers and Casablanca, awarding the building of this line to Alstom and its partners. The plan is to extend it eventually to Marrakech. This line will be the first phase of a 1,500 km project aiming to connect the country’s main cities.
Saudi Arabia has issued an invitation to tender for a high speed line between the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, via Jeddah, and Alstom and its partner, Bouygues have been short-listed to submit bids. Algeria and the United Arab Emirates are also looking into building high speed rail links.
Even the United States has begun to look again at building modern and fast railway lines. In early May 2007, the Governor of California declared that he was in favour of financing a San-Diego – Los Angeles – San Francisco line.