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Main article: "Loading gauge

The loading gauge on the main lines of Great Britain, most of which were built before 1900, is generally smaller than in mainland Europe, where the slightly larger "Berne gauge (Gabarit passe-partout international, PPI) was agreed to in 1913 and came into force in 1914.[1][2] As a result, British (passenger) trains have noticeably and considerably smaller loading gauges and smaller interiors, despite the track being standard gauge.

This results in increased costs for purchasing trains as they must be specifically designed for the British network, rather than being purchased "off-the-shelf". For example, the new trains for "HS2 have a 50% premium applied to the "classic compatible" sets which will be able to run on the rest of the network, meaning they will cost £40 million each rather than £27 million for the captive stock (built to European standards and unable to run on other lines), despite the captive stock being larger.[3]

Cross-border operation[edit]

Operational high-speed lines in Europe

The main international trains operating in Europe are:

Additionally, there are a lot of cross-border trains at the local level. Some local lines, like the Gronau to Enschede line between Germany and the Netherlands, operate on the signalling system of the country the line originates from, with no connection to the other country's network, whilst other train services like the Saarbahn between Germany and France use specially equipped vehicles that have a certificate to run on both networks. When there is an electrification difference between two countries, border stations with switchable "overhead lines are used. "Venlo railway station in the Netherlands is one such example, the overhead on the tracks can be switched between the Dutch 1500 V DC and the German 15 kV AC, which means a change of traction (or reconfiguring a multiple-voltage vehicle) is necessary at the station.

Metres of European railways and motorways per capita in 2013.


European rail subsidies in euros per passenger-km for 2008[4]
Rail subsidies

EU "rail subsidies amounted to €73 billion in 2005.[5] Subsidies vary widely from country to country in both size and how they are distributed, with some countries giving direct grants to the infrastructure provider and some giving subsidies to "train operating companies, often through "public service obligations. In general long-distance trains are not subsidised, but short-distance trains are, for example in 2013 59% of the cost of short-distance passenger rail transport in Germany was covered by the state.[6]

Total railway subsidies by country[edit]

Country Subsidy in billions of Euros Year
 "Germany 17.0 2014[7]
 "France 13.2 2013[8]
 "Italy 7.6 2012[9]
 "Spain 5.1 2015[10]
 "United Kingdom 4.4 2016[11]
  "Switzerland 4.3 2012[12]
 "Belgium 2.8 2012[13]
 "Netherlands 2.5 2014[14]
 "Austria 2.3 2009[15]
 "Denmark 1.7 2008[16]
 "Sweden 1.6 2009[17]
 "Poland 1.4 2008[16]
 "Ireland 0.91 2008[16]

Harmonising rules[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Berne loading gauge
  2. ^ A Word on Loading Gauges.
  3. ^ "HS2 Cost and Risk Model Report" (PDF). p. 15. 
  4. ^ "European rail study" (PDF). pp. 6, 44, 45. 2008 data is not provided for Italy, so 2007 data is used instead 
  5. ^ "EU Technical Report 2007". 
  6. ^ "Market Analysis: German Railways 2014" (PDF). 
  7. ^ "German Railway Financing" (PDF). p. 2. 
  8. ^ "Efficiency indicators of Railways in France" (PDF). 
  9. ^ "Public Expenditure on Railways in Europe: a cross-country comparison" (PDF). p. 10. 
  10. ^ "Spanish railways battle profit loss with more investment". 17 September 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "GB rail industry financial information 2015-16" (PDF). Retrieved 9 March 2017. £3.2 billion, using average of £1=1.366 euros for 2015-16 
  12. ^ "Kosten und Finanzierung des Verkehrs Strasse und Schiene 2012" (PDF) (in German). Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Statistical Office. 10 December 2015. pp. 6, 9, 11. Retrieved 2015-12-20. 4.7 billion Swiss francs 
  13. ^ "Implementation of EU legislation on rail liberalisation in Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands" (PDF). 
  14. ^ "ProRail report 2015" (PDF). p. 30. 
  15. ^ "ANNEX to Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 concerning the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail" (PDF) (COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT: IMPACT ASSESSMENT). Brussels: European Commission. 2013. pp. 6, 44, 45. 2008 data is not provided for Italy, so 2007 data is used instead 
  16. ^ a b c "European rail study report" (PDF). pp. 44, 45. Includes both "Railway subsidies" and "Public Service Obligations". 
  17. ^ "The evolution of public funding to the rail sector in 5 European countries - a comparison" (PDF). p. 6. 
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