Global rail market still growing, buoyed by green hopes: World Rail Market study

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[BERLIN] THE global rail market is expected to experience an average annual growth rate of 3 per cent through 2027, reaching a global market volume of 211 billion euros (S$294.6 billion) per annum between 2025 and 2027, according to the latest edition of the World Rail Market Study.

While the highest growth rates are expected to be seen in smaller markets such as Africa and the Middle East (7.1 per cent) and Eastern Europe (6.1 per cent), the report noted that more mature markets, including the Asia-Pacific, will grow significantly and account for the largest share of absolute growth.

This ninth edition of the study was conducted by Munich-based consultancy firm Roland Berger, on behalf of the European Rail Supply Industry Association (UNIFE). The findings were announced at InnoTrans 2022, an international trade fair for transport technology, in Berlin.

The report pointed out that much progress has been made in infrastructure development around the world. Since the last edition of the study was published in 2020, the amount of track currently in operation has grown by some 39,000 km, primarily in mainline and high-speed tracks. 

Most of the additional track was laid in the Asia-Pacific region, led by China's acceleration of its infrastructure development plan and India's efforts to expand its mainline and freight corridors. The report added that the total global track infrastructure now stands at 1.7 million km of urban and inter-urban tracks.

China's state council announced in January that it was pushing forward all major projects in key areas identified within its 14th 5-year Plan. Earlier this month, Beijing said it will speed up fund injections in a bid to expedite project construction and boost local consumption.

UNIFE chairman Henri Poupart-Lafarge, who is also the chairman and CEO of French rolling stock manufacturer Alstom, said that the world's rail industry, having gone through "turbulent times" during the Covid-19 pandemic, has shown its resilience to global shocks.

"Now, despite ongoing economic and geopolitical challenges, the world rail market will continue to thrive," he said in a statement.

Andreas Schwilling, a senior advisor at Roland Berger, added: "From a product segment perspective, the largest contribution to overall growth in absolute terms - with a projected growth rate between 2.5 per cent to 3.8 per cent - is predicted for the services, rolling stock and infrastructure segments. Together, these account for 89 per cent of current market volume."

Rolling stock refers to locomotives, carriages, wagons, or other vehicles used on a railway.

In its report, UNIFE said that flagship initiatives like the European Green Deal, which has the aim of reaching climate neutrality by 2050, will have a positive effect on demand for rail solutions, including hydrogen- and battery-powered trains.

"As the most sustainable mode of transport, rail has the best potential to become the backbone of sustainable mobility worldwide and achieving the climate targets," the report said.

One of the trains showcased by Alstom at InnoTrans - a 4-day event that ends on Friday (Sep 23) - was the Coradia iLint, billed as the world's first passenger train to be powered by hydrogen. It currently runs on the world's first fully hydrogen-operated route in Lower Saxony, Germany.

The Coradia iLint is the world's first passenger train to be powered by hydrogen and runs on the world's first fully hydrogen-operated route in Lower Saxony, Germany.

During a long-distance journey on Sep 15, this train covered 1,175 km without During a long-distance journey, an unmodified serially-produced Coradia iLint train covered 1,175 kilometres without refuelling the hydrogen tank, only emitting water and operating with low levels of noise.


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