Development of High Speed Train Traffic, 1964-2019

Development of High-Speed Train Traffic, 1964-2019

Source: International Union of Railways.

The development of high speed rail systems around the world can be summarized in two major phases.

  • First phase (development of twin cities corridors). Most high-speed rail systems are initially developed to connect large cities that are within 300 to 500 km. Japan saw the first comprehensive development of a high-speed train system along the Tokyo – Osaka corridor in 1964. High-speed rail services started in Europe in 1991, with two corridors between Paris and Lyon and Paris and Dijon. For Asia, the first corridors were set in 2004 for South Korea, 2007 for Taiwan, and 2009 for China.
  • Second phase (interconnection). The success of the first phase usually incites the development of additional HSR segments and their growing interconnection. However, this may represent some risks. For instance, by the 1990s, the usage of HSR in Japan was peaking, in part because of competition from air transport and limited economic growth. Japan faced diminishing returns as new high-speed lines serviced smaller cities and lower-density areas. For Europe, interconnection was more successful as systems were developed in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. China represents a unique case where the system rapidly developed and interconnected because of massive subsidies, so the Chinese HSR bypassed the first phase, and China now accounts for the majority of global HSR trips.