How do Europe's trains compare?
The good people at Boston Consulting have created an index to compare the performance of different country's train services (source). The only problem is it's not easy to read much into the information, so I've created a series of tables which should help.
Throughout these figures, "spending" has been adjusted for the population of the country. For clarity I should stress that the UK is represented as Great Britain, as trains in Northern Ireland are managed very differently to those on the mainland.
Total Score vs. Spending
The country which has the best trains is on the top-left, the country that invests the most has on the top-right.
The idea is that the two columns should be the same. For Britain and Ireland this seems to match, but Britain could do better. Lithuania seems to be getting excellent value for money, while Latvia is pouring money down the same.
Safety vs. Spending
The study looked at each country's railway's safety record, coverage and quality. You would think that the best would be the best in all three, but they aren't.
Britain and Ireland both have excellent safety records - which we do, with injuries occuring very rarely. On the other hand the bottom three all have appalling safety records - particularly concerning for Slovakia who are spending a lot of money on their railway.
Note that Switzerland, often said to have the best trains in the world, doesn't do so well on this measure.
Quality vs. Spending
This looks at the reliability and speed of services.
This is where Britain and Ireland begin to do poorly. In the case of the UK, it's noted that both unreliable and expensive services are the culprits. But we can take some solace that the Netherlands - normally praised for their transport - performs even worse.
Ireland has the additional problem that scheduled journey times are high: to be fair to Britain, there are quite a few lines that are supposed to run at 100mph+.
Coverage vs. Spending
Just for completeness, the study also looked at how many people and how much freight is moved by rail. The study notes that this is unfair on small countries where there aren't many cities to serve. It is the only section which considers freight - all the others are just about passenger services.
To be fair a lot of the UK is served by rail (nowhere near as much as used to be), the problem is that people are put off using it. Ireland's score is, again, appalling, although to be fair it does have a very sparse population.
Improvement vs. Investment
This section takes a look at countries which have increased how much they are spending on their railways, and notes whether that money has produced results.
Luxembourg has been getting excellent value for money, while Belgium seems to have an issue.
2012 vs. 2017
The best way to see who's improving is to compare the two side-by-side. Note that falling down a rank doesn't necessarily mean the performance is getting worse, just that it has been overtaken.
|2012 Score||2017 Score|
Finland and Hungary have done well while Romania is doing badly, and Bulgaria hardly has anything to be proud of. Denmark wasn't involved in the 2012 study.