How do Europe's trains compare?

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 is on the top-right.

Total ScoreSpending
  1. Switzerland
  2. Denmark
  3. Finland
  4. Austria
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. Sweden
  8. Lithuania
  9. Great Britain
  10. Netherlands
  11. Luxembourg
  12. Czech Republic
  13. Spain
  14. Norway
  15. Belgium
  16. Italy
  17. Solvenia
  18. Ireland
  19. Hungary
  20. Latvia
  21. Slovakia
  22. Poland
  23. Portugal
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Solvenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

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.

Safety ScoreSpending
  1. Denmark
  2. Luxembourg
  3. Great Britain
  4. Ireland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Switzerland
  7. Finland
  8. France
  9. Sweden
  10. Lithuania
  11. Germany
  12. Spain
  13. Norway
  14. Austria
  15. Italy
  16. Belgium
  17. Czech Republic
  18. Solvenia
  19. Portugal
  20. Hungary
  21. Latvia
  22. Bulgaria
  23. Slovakia
  24. Poland
  25. Romania
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Solvenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

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.

Quality ScoreSpending
  1. Spain
  2. Finland
  3. France
  4. Lithuania
  5. Denmark
  6. Switzerland
  7. Germany
  8. Latvia
  9. Austria
  10. Italy
  11. Portugal
  12. Norway
  13. Czech Republic
  14. Hungary
  15. Belgium
  16. Poland
  17. Sweden
  18. Slovakia
  19. Great Britain
  20. Netherlands
  21. Luxembourg
  22. Bulgaria
  23. Romania
  24. Solvenia
  25. Ireland
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Solvenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

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.

Coverage ScoreSpending
  1. Switzerland
  2. Austria
  3. Sweden
  4. Germany
  5. Finland
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Hungary
  8. Slovakia
  9. France
  10. Denmark
  11. Solvenia
  12. Lithuania
  13. Belgium
  14. Latvia
  15. Poland
  16. Netherlands
  17. Norway
  18. Great Britain
  19. Italy
  20. Luxembourg
  21. Romania
  22. Spain
  23. Bulgaria
  24. Portugal
  25. Ireland
  1. Austria
  2. Switzerland
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Great Britain
  8. France
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Sweden
  11. Denmark
  12. Slovakia
  13. Germany
  14. Solvenia
  15. Hungary
  16. Italy
  17. Netherlands
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Finland
  21. Portugal
  22. Poland
  23. Lithuania
  24. Romania
  25. Bulgaria

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.

ImprovementInvestment
  1. Finland
  2. Luxembourg
  3. Norway
  4. Netherlands
  5. Switzerland
  6. Austria
  7. Germany
  8. Spain
  9. Great Britain
  10. Sweden
  11. Czech Republic
  12. France
  13. Belgium
  14. Italy
  1. Switzerland
  2. Norway
  3. Finland
  4. Belgium
  5. Netherlands
  6. Austria
  7. France
  8. Luxembourg
  9. Great Britain
  10. Germany
  11. Czech Republic
  12. Spain
  13. Sweden
  14. Italy

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 Score2017 Score
  1. Switzerland
  2. France
  3. Germany
  4. Sweden
  5. Austria
  6. Finland
  7. Great Britain
  8. Netherlands
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Spain
  11. Belgium
  12. Italy
  13. Luxembourg
  14. Norway
  15. Ireland
  16. Slovakia
  17. Lithuania
  18. Romania
  19. Solvenia
  20. Latvia
  21. Poland
  22. Hungary
  23. Portugal
  24. Bulgaria
  1. Switzerland (no change)
  2. Finland (up 4)
  3. Germany (no change)
  4. Austria (up 1)
  5. Sweden (down 1)
  6. France (down 4)
  7. Great Britain (no change)
  8. Netherlands (no change)
  9. Luxembourg (up 4)
  10. Spain (no change)
  11. Czech Republic (down 2)
  12. Norway (up 2)
  13. Belgium (down 2)
  14. Italy (down 2)
  15. Lithuania (up 2)
  16. Solvenia (up 3)
  17. Ireland (down 2)
  18. Hungary (up 4)
  19. Latvia (up 1)
  20. Slovakia (down 4)
  21. Poland (no change)
  22. Portugal (up 1)
  23. Romania (down 5)
  24. Bulgaria (no change)

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.

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