Electrification of railways is on a general upswing globally owing to many regions coming forward to promote greener rail systems and improve air quality. Replacement of diesel-powered locomotives with electric or alternative powertrains such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen power are becoming popular with the successful operations of hydrogen-powered rail vehicles in Germany. Europe and Asia are leaning towards complete electrification of passenger rail systems. The demand for digitalisation of rail systems to enhance customer convenience in both freight and passenger operations is increasing rapidly. European freight operators have ordered their large fleet of freight locomotives and wagons to be retrofitted with advanced sensor technology and telemetry to keep track of freight cargo being moved. They use the technology to monitor the condition of cargo, temperature, humidity and other factors that help determine if any pre-processing of cargo is required before distribution from the final point. Passenger rail systems carrying digital technology to provide information to the passengers, monitor rail vehicle components, transmit data to control operations and to improve passenger experience such as on-board entertainment are becoming an integral part of rolling stock production. Existing passenger rolling stock is also being upgraded to carry some of the new technology to meet the growing demand for connectivity in rail systems. The establishment of high-speed rail (HSR) infrastructure is progressing in parts of Asia, and the United States although some of these projects face financial and political barriers. Some manufacturers are facing heavy capital expenditure owing to both the United States and China imposing punitive trade tariffs on a variety of products used in the production of rail systems and components.
Heavily set on the developments in the United States and the European Union (EU) which represent the most advanced passenger rail vehicles and huge freight rail market, this research entails the latest trends in rail vehicles, planned railway expansions and intercontinental trade networks. The rail freight transportation line connecting Europe and Asia (the Eurasian rail project) and its impact moving into the next decade, Positive Train Control (PTC) and Tier 4 emissions standards in the United States, and China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative are some of the key industry developments which are included in this research. Digitalisation technology trends in rail systems for both freight and passenger services as well as forecasts covering rolling stock deliveries for passenger coaches, locomotives, multiple units, total length of railway lines in all regions, length of electrified tracks, total passenger traffic, and freight volumes are provided by individual countries globally.