High-speed rail (HSR) is increasingly becoming popular in many parts of the world with many countries investing more in this means of transport. High-speed rail is faster than the normal rail with speed exceeding two hundred kilometers per hour bringing a big difference between the two rail means of transport. Japan is the first country to venture into the high-speed rail in 1964 with the Tokaido line which brought together Tokyo and Osaka. The highly populated cities, well-interconnected cities provided better conditions for launching the HSR system. European HSR was launched in 1981 and other countries have also started their own HSR systems however China is leading in HSR development since its first inauguration in 2009.
How the HSR system function Currently, high-speed rail operates on two unique technologies:
A. Improved conventional rail
Improved conventional rail uses existing rail networks with improvement in speed, performance, and design of the train. Although this technology is not fully considered as fully high speed the train can reach a maximum speed of between 200km/h and 250 km/h. The major setback in using this system is the fact that for it to operate it shares the line with other regular trains hence limiting the slots allocated for HSR.
B. Exclusive high-speed network
In this system, the high-speed train operates on a separate and independent line which are separate from the regular rail system. On this rail network, the train can make a speed of between 250 km/h to 300 km/h since there is no interference from other traditional trains. The exclusivity of tracks in this system enhances great improvement in the efficiency of rail transport.
Considerations of setting HSR systems In order for the high-speed rail system to achieve its maximum benefit, some of the following factors are considered.
a. Distance between stops
For a train to accelerate and achieve a high speed maximize on high speed the distance between stops should be reasonably far. The minimum distance which is recommended is approximately fifty kilometers. Many stops with a shorter distance between them are most likely to undermine the high speed expected in this system.
b. Land available
The high-speed lines and stops require a large piece of land and sometimes this may be a challenge mostly in metropolitan areas. The
development of HSR often results in using the suburban areas which may come with some challenges however the use of central traditional stations may help to mitigate the problem.
c. Economic benefits
HSR systems may reap more economic benefits in highly and large metropolitan areas where there are more
people and most likely many economic activities. A large number of passengers would prefer taking the high-speed train due to its convenience and efficiency.
d. Right of way for high-speed train
The challenge of a high-speed train entering and leaving the central station using the conventional rail may be a serious issue in the success
of the HSR system. An effective system should be put in place to enable the high-speed train given a right of way in order to achieve maximum benefit of the system.
Impact of the high-speed rail network
The growth and development of the HSR network have come with some of the following effects:
a. Economic growth
The efficiency and ease of movements lead to the economic growth of different cities which are connected by the HSR system. Economic
growth is spurred by the fact the countries which are developing HSR invest a huge amount of resources which great job for more people and impacting positively on the economy.
b. Changes in technology
For HSR network to remain competitive against other means of travel like air improvement to the operations of the system must be carried
out. Innovations and new technologies are developed to ensure more efficiency of the network is attained and ensure more people would be glued to using the HSR system.
c. Growth of new cities
The development of HSR opens an opportunity for new towns and cities to emerge due to the set up of different activates. New HSR stations maybe
set up in remote or less developed areas and as a result, the economic activities of this area increased leading to the growth of more cities.
The merit of the high-speed rail network
a. Transportation benefits
HSR comes with many transportation benefits due to the ease of movement of people from one place to another. People are able to move from
one town to another in a very short time as well as benefiting from low transportation costs. There is less or no congestion unlike using road transport, therefore, saving time and increasing economic activities.
b. Saving energy
HSR network is very efficient in energy saving that other modes of transport like the use of roads and air transport. HSR enhances less demand for oil unlike when cars are used and it is more energy-efficient than flying.
c. Environmental friendly
A high-speed rail network offers a less greenhouse gas emission means of transport as compared to the use of cars. As many countries move toward cutting down carbon emissions HSR is the best mode of transport to achieve this goal.
The demerit of the high-speed rail network:
a. Environmental damages
The development of HSR needs the big size of land and therefore more land is occupied and in most cases, it leads to damage to forest and other natural vegetation. Many people are displaced and sometimes buildings and structures destroyed as the lines may be forced to pass through residential and occupied areas.
b. Huge cost
The cost of building HSR network is very high and these projects use such a huge amount of money which would otherwise be used in other
projects. In some cases, the HSR may have a low income as compared to the amount invested in the project. The cost of maintaining the project is also very high and this fact may undermine the benefits of the HSR network.
The high-speed rail network will continue to grow as many governments look forward to investing more in these projects. The competition from another mode of transport mostly air travel is very stiff however HSR remains the best due to lower cost and fewer procedures when traveling. As many counties develop and link their HSR systems with others the HSR network is with no doubt heading to better days.