Main line railway transport is well known as an effective system for the
movement of people and freight between cities, towns and industrial
centres, while metros, light rail and tram systems serve the same
purpose in urban areas. Several low income countries (LICs) were served
by rail based transport from the late 19th and early 20th century,
although some of the railways were neglected and closed, when road
transport became more widely available. In general, the routes had been
built to carry export and import traffic and achieved rather limited
penetration of the hinterland. Today, both LICs and the relevant funding
agencies ignore the potential contribution of the different rail modes
of transport towards solving some of the pressing physical communication
needs in these countries and their major cities.
One reason for this lack of interest may be linked to the fact that,
today, railways, metros and tramways are viewed as expensive solutions
that can only be funded by relatively wealthy nations. Unfortunately,
little research appears to have been conducted on how to design, build
and operate affordable railways, given the specific constraints and
requirements of LICs, even though many national and international bodies
have invested a great deal of effort into identifying means of financing
railway projects and into the political administration of railways and
similar public services.
The authors of this report briefly examine the available know-how to
support the design and operation of railways in LICs and determine the
gaps that exist in research into railways for LICs. They have discovered
that much effort has been expended in finding suitable financing and
sustainable economic systems for transport in developing countries but
only very limited research has been conducted on the specific technical
issues peculiar to LICs. Most of the research gaps identified relate to
the technical development of systems capable of providing low-cost,
sustainable railways in countries with finite funds, limited technical
resources and a lack of robust maintenance cultures.
In the view of the authors of this paper, the most critical gaps in the
research for railways in LICs are the design of a long-term reliable and
affordable types of railway track design and the development of high
resilience railway control (signalling) and communications systems.
Research is also needed into ways of getting a sustainable and long term
financial and operational management structure, both of which are
crucial to allow success for railways in LICs.
This report has been produced by PRC Rail Consulting for Evidence on
Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International
Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment,
Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied
Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by HTSPE
Limited and IMC Worldwide Limited.
Connor, P.; Schmid, F. Rapid desk-based study: Research gaps in rail engineering and technical aspects of high volume transport in low income countries. Evidence on Demand, UK (2014) iii + 18 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_hd.jan2014.connor]