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Metadata Glossary

Indicator NameRail lines (total route-km)
Long definitionRail lines are the length of railway route available for train service, irrespective of the number of parallel tracks.
SourceInternation Union of Railways (UIC)
TopicInfrastructure: Transportation
Statistical concept and methodologyRail lines are the length of railway route available for train service, irrespective of the number of parallel tracks. It includes railway routes that are open for public passenger and freight servies and excludes dedicated private resource railways.
Development relevanceTransport infrastructure - highways, railways, ports and waterways, and airports and air traffic control systems - and the services that flow from it are crucial to the activities of households, producers, and governments. Because performance indicators vary widely by transport mode and focus (whether physical infrastructure or the services flowing from that infrastructure), highly specialized and carefully specified indicators are required to measure a country's transport infrastructure. The railway transport industry a vital engine of global socio-economic growth. It is of vital importance for economic development, creating direct and indirect employment, supporting tourism and local businesses. Economic growth, technological change, and market liberalization affect road transport throughout the world. Railways have helped in the industrialization process of a country by easy transportation of coal and raw-materials at a cheaper rate. As railways require huge capital outlay, they may give rise to monopolies and work against public interest at large. Even if controlled and managed by the government, lack of competition sometimes results in inefficiency and high costs. Also, many times it is not economical to operate railways in sparsely settled rural areas. Thus, in many developing countries large rural areas have no railway even today. Rail transport is a major form of passenger and freight transport in many countries. It is ubiquitous in Europe, with an integrated network covering virtually the whole continent. In India, China, South Korea and Japan, many millions use trains as regular transport. In the North America, freight rail transport is widespread and heavily used in for transporting gods. The western Europe region has the highest railway density in the world and has many individual trains which operate through several countries despite technical and organizational differences in each national network. Australia has a generally sparse network, mostly along its densely populated urban centers.
Limitations and exceptionsUnlike the road sector, where numerous qualified motor vehicle operators can operate anywhere on the road network, railways are a restricted transport system with vehicles confined to a fixed guideway. Considering the cost and service characteristics, railways generally are best suited to carry - and can effectively compete for - bulk commodities and containerized freight for distances of 500-5,000 kilometers, and passengers for distances of 50-1,000 kilometers. Below these limits road transport tends to be more competitive, while above these limits air transport for passengers and freight and sea transport for freight tend to be more competitive. Data for transport sectors are not always internationally comparable. Unlike for demographic statistics, national income accounts, and international trade data, the collection of infrastructure data has not been "internationalized". The data from IUC is based a reporting by the railway companies and it can show a drastic increase or decrease for some of the years because of no reporting by some of the companies of a country.
Notes from original sourceInternation Union of Railways (UIC Railisa Database): Var 1112 Total length of lines worked at the end of the year. Gauge: N standard gauge (1,435 m) L broad gauge (exact rail gauge inserted); E narrow gauge (exact rail gauge inserted). The length of railway lines worked is obtained by taking these sections including main-line track listed in the Capital Expenditure Account. Sections not worked are deducted only in cases where they are permanently out of use that is to say, if they are no longer maintained in working order. Lines temporarily out of use continue to form part of the length of lines worked. The length of a section is measured in the middle of the section, from centre to centre of the passenger buildings, or of the corresponding service buildings, of stations which are shown as independent points of departure or arrival for the conveyance of passengers or freight. If the boundary of the rail network falls in open track, the length of the section is measured up to that point. The section situated between a station approach and the join to the main line of two lines or more which is used by all trains in either direction over these lines, is only counted once. However, if for one or more of these lines, tracks are normally allocated, the length of these lines is counted separately. On the other hand, if between two stations there are one or more parallel tracks (siding-lines) to the main line, only the length of the latter is counted. In the case of regular lines worked exclusively during part of the year (seasonal lines), their length is included in the end-of-year statement.
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