The United States possesses the largest railway network in the world, in terms of total operating length. China and India trail behind as the second and third largest railway networks respectively. Detailed profiles of the top five railway networks worldwide, taking into consideration their extensive coverage. These profiles are based on the measurement of total operating length, which serves as a key indicator of the scale and magnitude of each country’s railway infrastructure.
United States: 250,000km
The US rail network, with an operating route length over 250,000km, is the biggest in the world. Freight lines constitute about 80% of the country’s total rail network, while the total passenger network spans about 35,000km.The US freight rail network consists of 538 railroads (seven Class I railroads, 21 regional railroads, and 510 local railroads) operated by private organisations.
China’s rail network, with a route length of over 100,000km, ranks as the second biggest rail network in the world. The extensive network, operated by state-owned China Railway Corporation, carried 2.08 billion passengers (the second highest after Indian Railways) and 3.22 billion tonnes of freight (the second highest after the US railway network) in 2013. Rail is the principal mode of transport in China
Russia’s whole network, operated by state-owned monopoly Russian Railways (RZD), runs for over 85,500km. In 2013, the network carried 1.08 billion passengers and 1.2 billion tonnes of freight, the third highest freight volume after the US and China. The Russian railway network incorporates12 main lines, many of which provide direct connections to the European and Asian national railway systems such as Finland, France, Germany, Poland, China, Mongolia and North Korea
The Indian nationwide rail network, the fourth longest in the world, is owned and operated by state-owned Indian Railways and includes an operating route length of more than 65,000km. The network carried about eight billion passengers (the highest in the world) and 1.01 million tonnes of freight (fourth highest in the world) in 2013.The Indian railway network is divided into 17 zones and operates more than 19,000 trains per day, including 12,000 passenger trains and 7,000 freight trains.
Canada’s 48,000km of rail lines makes its national network the fifth longest in the world. Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) are the two major freight rail networks operating in the country, while Via Rail operates the 12,500km intercity passenger rail service. Algoma Central Railway and Ontario Northland Railway are among the other smaller railways providing passenger services to certain rural areas in the country.