FOCUS: Global rail revival - why and where?

FOCUS: Global rail revival - why and where?
Peter Newman, professor of sustainability, Curtin University.
Published: 12 September 2017 - 2:34 a.m.
By: ASC Staff

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In Saudi Arabia, Riyadh’s metro network of 6 lines will be open in 2019 with a major Hi-speed Rail linking Jeddah International Airport to Mecca and Medina. In Dubai, there are now 2 lines of metro with 45 stations (3 extra lines are being planned) and an integrated light rail and bus system is largely completed. A metro is being built for Kuwait and will be open in 2023.

Light rail is emerging in small cities - there are now 118 cities with less than 150,000 people who have adopted light rail. This trend is also very obvious in the US where the transit patronage is now 23% higher than in 1993, and is growing faster than car usage.

All of the growth in US transit patronage since 1993 has been on rail-based modes. Rail modes have increased their shares of total patronage, particularly heavy rail (from about 25% to 35% of the total); bus share has significantly declined from 65% to 50%. The patronage on light rail has increase rapidly from a relatively small base of 168 million to 481 million over the same period.

If this trend to urban rail was just a fashion it would be likely to stop and revert to the old kind of car dependent urban planning. However the signs are that there are serious structural limits and economic changes setting in that will continue to drive the on-going switch to more sustainable urban transport systems.

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