Rail transport in Europe
is characterised by its diversity, both technical and infrastructural.
Rail networks in Western and Central Europe are often well maintained and well developed, whilst Eastern and Southern Europe often have less coverage and infrastructure problems. Electrified railway networks operate at a plethora of different voltages AC and DC varying from 750 to 25,000 volts, and signalling systems vary from country to country, hindering cross-border traffic.
The European Union
aims to make cross-border operations easier as well as to introduce competition to national rail networks. EU member states were able to separate the provision of transport services and the management of the infrastructure by Directive 91/440/EEC
. Usually, national railway companies
were split to separate divisions or independent companies for infrastructure, passenger and freight operations. The passenger operations may be further divided to long-distance and regional services, because regional services often operate under public service obligations
, while long-distance services usually operate without subsidies.
Differences between countries
While most railways use the standard gauge
of 1435 mm, some countries, especially Spain
and the former member states of the Soviet Union
have widespread broad gauge
tracks (1,520 mm). Likewise, electrification of lines
varies between countries. 15 kV AC
is used in Germany
since 1912, while... Read More