Globally, 2017 is marked by ongoing works to some of the most extended rail projects which emphasizes both the authorities and the population’s determination that this important segment of national economies makes the difference in environment protection, traffic safety, fast transport and increased comfort.
Either taking about a new metro line in Tehran, Melbourne or Istanbul, the ambitious cross-border project developed in Kenya, new high-speed railways in Great Britain, Spain or France, new light rails in Iran or Tunisia, major rail projects move forward in 2017.
Standard Gauge Railway
This railway project from Africa is truly the definition of “large scale” effort. Kenya Railways Corporation, with support from Chinese investments, is building a new standard gauge railway (SGR) for passengers and freight transport between Mombasa, one of the largest ports of Eastern Africa and the capital, Nairobi.
The 609 km railway, estimated at approximately USD 3.8 billion, could be completed by December 2018. The project is believed to be the biggest in Kenya since the country obtained its independence in 1963. The conducted analyses say that travel time between Mombasa and Nairobi will be reduced from the present ten hours to just four hours, after completion.
But this is only the beginning of a Master Plan for the Standard Gauge Railway which, as part of Kenya Vision 2030 development agenda, plans to connect Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, a project with a cost of over USD 17 billion. A huge challenge, but which, if successful, could revolutionize cross-border transport and trade in the region.
High Speed 2
After the first high-speed project, High-Speed 1, the British chose to go further and announced the construction of a second high-speed railway, a surprisingly ambitious project called High Speed 2. However, ever since the official announcement, there have been few infrastructure projects that generated so much fury and dissatisfaction as High Speed 2.
Estimated to cost GBP 50 billion (USD 64 billion), High Speed 2 will be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever developed in Great Britain, but the Government could not be convincing enough in explaining the necessity of this project.
The project includes two major phases, the first one consisting of the construction of London-Birmingham line where works are expected to begin at the middle of 2018 and to be completed in 2026. The second phase of works will focus on separate routes, one to Manchester and the other to Leeds. In this case, works could be completed by 2033.
Developed in London, Crossrail – officially called Elizabeth Line – will be inaugurated in 2018 and will have a completely new fleet of rolling stock including 66 trains. Crossrail will transform rail transport in London and that in the south-east, boosting transport capacity by 10%. Crossrail route will be over 100-km long with 40 stations, including 10 brand new stations in Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood.
At the same time, Crossrail will carry a daily number of 1.5 million passengers to the centre of London and will connect important business areas such as Heathrow, West End, the City, Docklands, facilitating an even greater economic development.
Transport for London estimates that around 200 million passengers will use Crossrail services every year and that the line will bring a further GBP 42 billion (USD 54 billion) to the British budget.
Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed line
In 2016, the governments of Malaysia and Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding detailing the way in which the project will advance until the inauguration planned for 2026. Tender procedures are in the planning process and are expected to be launched in the next months.
Trains will travel at a maximum speed of 300 km/h, between Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat, Iskandar Puteri and Singapore. The authorities declared that the route from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore could be covered in less than 90 minutes.
The extended high-speed railway project, that will connect two countries, was estimated by the authorities at USD 20.4 billion.
Estimates show that the population of the Australian city will double by 2050 from the present 5 million to ten million residents. A new metro line is, therefore, necessary to take over the additional transport demand.
The metro line is still in the engineering and planning phase and the authorities received bids from three consortia. The beginning of construction works was announced for 2018. The line is expected to be completed and opened to public in 2026 with 9 km of tunnels, five new underground stations and another two above-ground, connected to Melbourne Central Station. The whole project is estimated to cost USD 11 billion.
North-South Railway, Saudi Arabia
The beginning of 2018 is the reported date for the inauguration of railway passenger services on the North-South Railway in Saudi Arabia, a major project with costs of over USD 5.3 billion. The 2,400 km route, under construction by the Saudi Railway Company, is divided into a transport route of 1,486 km for freight trains and a 1,250 km route for passenger transport. In February 2017, the first passenger train was tested between Riyadh Station and Qassim. The network includes six passenger stations, eight intermodal terminals and three terminals for mining products.
It is important to mention that this is the longest railway to be equipped with the European traffic control system, ETCS.
Saudi Railway Company estimates that over four million tonnes of freight will be shipped on this route every year, as well as over two million passengers.