High speed rail (HSR) is a top agenda initiative for governments around the world looking to alleviate air traffic congestion.
It is not a new phenomenon – it was first seen in Japan in the mid-1960s. Since then it has spread throughout Europe; in Spain, France, Germany and Italy, it is a necessary form of transport. These fast trains can spur economic growth while moving people quickly, covering medium distances more efficiently than planes and reducing ground traffic.
So at first glance, HSR seems an ideal transportation solution, especially in densely populated urban areas. But there are big considerations. For one, costs can be prohibitively high, especially in a lagging economy.
Moreover, HSR projects may be the most complicated of all infrastructure initiatives, requiring sizable land acquisitions, expensive components, phased construction, and significantly more complex financing.
For HSR projects to succeed, it’s critical to map approaches to land acquisition, long-term funding, phasing techniques, and design and construction before breaking ground. Gaining the support of local authorities is also essential.
Structuring capital for HSR projects often requires partnership between the private and public sectors, combining self-liquidating financing with public funding.
Underlying all these challenges is an abiding reality: the need for high speed rail will endure, and grow.