Knowledge Note

"What may other countries learn from the unprecedentedly rapid growth of China's rail system?"

Over the past decade, China has built 25,000 km of dedicated high-speed railway—more than the rest of the world combined. So what may be learned from this remarkable experience? This Overview of a World Bank Group report examines the Chinese experience to draw lessons and best practices for other countries considering investing in high-speed rail.

Scrutinized in particular are the planning and delivery mechanisms that enabled the rapid construction of China's high-speed rail system. Highlighted within the narrative as well is the role of long-term planning, consistent plan execution, and a joint venture structure that continually ensured the active participation of provincial and local governments throughout the project's planning and financing.

Finally, this Overview analyzes the financial and economic sustainability of investment in high-speed rail. It finds that a developing country can price high-speed rail services affordably and still achieve financial viability, but this requires very high passenger density. Economic viability similarly depends on high passenger density. To access the full World Bank Group report upon which this Overview is based, please click here. This Overview and report were authored by Martha Lawrence, Richard Bullock, and Ziming Liu.