Major Gauges of the Global Rail Systems, 2008
Although there are numerous gauges being used around the world, six
major gauges dominate the global rail systems with the Standard Gauge
(1435 mm) being the most common. Several countries have more than one
gauge but the above map depicts the most prevalent lengthwise. Since
North American railways have the same gauge, its rail system is well
integrated (transnational ownership and operations), while in Europe
interoperability is an issue for the Iberian Peninsula and former Soviet
Republics. For South America and most of Africa rail systems are national
and un-integrated, which tend to limit their market potential as they
are mainly penetration lines from a port to a resource-oriented hinterland.
The main advantages of integrated gauge systems are:
- Lower equipment costs. Standard equipment tends
to be cheaper since it benefits from economies of scale.
- Allocation of equipment. An equipment pool
can be made available and allocated on different segments of the
system based on fluctuations of the demand. This leads to a better
level of asset utilization.
- Market penetration. An integrated rail system
can be seen as one transport market that favors competition between
different gateways. This eventually leads to the formation of mega-carriers.