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Recent report finds most extensive high-speed rail network works with a fraction of the usual cost — here's why it matters

Other countries can take that framework and implement their own railways that will be both more economical and more productive.

Other countries can take that framework and implement their own railways that will be both more economical and more productive.

Photo Credit: iStock

A recent report published by Ineco, an engineering consultancy, found that Spain has developed the most extensive high-speed rail network in the European Union and saved substantially more than other countries taking on similar projects.

The report, commissioned by the Ministry of Transport, stated Spain's high-speed network had the lowest average construction cost in the eurozone. According to the report, Spain cut costs by 61% compared with other high-speed railways in Europe, placing it third in the world with the lowest cost per kilometer.

The report also drew comparisons with the HS2 project in the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently canceled a key section of the railway because of rising costs, per Reuters. This angered many people and businesses in northern England who would have benefitted, as the rail was expected to reduce regional economic disparity.

Some critics took issue with the comparison of the Spanish high-speed rail project and the U.K.'s HS2. They noted Spain's railway does not intersect many populated areas, while the HS2 would intersect central England's densely populated area. This would be a substantial obstacle, incurring more costs. Another point that factored into Spain's low cost of construction was that it has a much lower labor cost than the U.K., as reported by Electric and Hybrid Rail Technology.

Still, Spain's ability to control costs and do so productively and efficiently means the country can export the skills and experience required to budget high-speed rail projects, as RailTech.com noted.

In addition to the economic significance of this feat, the environmental sustainability aspect cannot be overlooked. In the United States, transportation creates roughly 30% of the economy's planet-warming pollution, which is more than any other sector. 

High-speed rails can be utilized as both a tactic to combat carbon pollution and a tool that can efficiently stimulate the economies of urban cities. These railway systems would surround suburbs, shifting everyday drivers to trains and therefore mitigating planet-warming pollution since trains produce far less pollution per passenger than cars do.

Further, it has been shown that taking public transportation of any kind leads to a decrease in depression and loneliness in adult populations. 

Thereon, new high-speed rails present opportunities for economic gain. More frequent and higher-quality transit can lead to an increase in ridership, bringing wealth to local economies and small businesses across the areas connected by railway. This may inevitably correlate to further public transit investment to sustain and expand railways.

By using Spain's approach, other countries can implement their own railways to be both more economical and more productive for a sustainable future.

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