Today, high-speed rail (HSR) remains a powerful symbol of a nation’s commitment to infrastructure. But for a planner, engineer or government official charged with considering it, HSR presents a complex decision-making process, especially at a time when fiscal constraints demand prudent prioritization. HSR can play an important role in a nation’s transportation network, depending on a range of demographic, geographic, social and economic factors.
Determining when it is the right solution is as much an art as a science, requiring a view that balances local preferences with big-picture economic and engineering practicalities. Making that judgment goes to the heart of properly deploying HSR today. This issue of Gridlines investigates why and when high-speed rail works best by examining some of the overarching considerations. The issue also reviews several examples of HSR around the world.