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Faster, cleaner, greener: what lies ahead for rail transport

Editor’s note – Monthly ticket is a new series from CNN Travel covering some of the most exciting topics in the travel world. In May we ride the rails, exploring the world’s greatest train journeys. Whether you’re looking for travel inspiration or insider knowledge, the Monthly Pass will get you there.

(CNN) – Faster, cleaner, greener and equipped with advanced technologies; Rail is the only mode of transport currently well positioned to meet our future mobility needs.

But while a few niche projects promise superfast travel, much of the industry is focused on keeping the world’s increasingly urban population moving while limiting the effects of climate change.

And then there’s the pandemic.

As with many other sectors of the travel industry, rail operators around the world have experienced one of the most difficult times in the past two years.

Passenger numbers plummeted in 2020 as lockdowns prevented passengers and tourists from leaving their homes.

Two years later, Monday-Friday commuting seems to be a thing of the past as many of us prefer to work from home or only spend a couple of days a week in the office.

This poses a huge threat to the world’s railroad companies, which have relied on this lucrative and predictable source of income since the mid-19th century.

All this makes it unlikely to speak of a “golden era” of rail transport.

But as the 200th anniversary of the first passenger railway approaches in 2025, it is more important than ever for trains to provide sustainable mobility in a world grappling with climate change, increasing urbanization and population growth.

Named after Queen Elizabeth II, the Crossrail line opened in London on 24 May as The Elizabeth line. It connects East and West London like never before.

According to a 2019 report by engineering consultant Arup, the world’s population is expected to reach around 9.5 billion by 2050, 75% of which will live in cities.

The company estimates that the world’s urban population is growing at a rate of two people per second, creating 172,800 new city dwellers every day. While population is declining in some regions of the world, such as parts of Europe and Japan, 90% of population growth is expected to take place in cities and metropolitan areas in the developing world.

To keep these fast-growing cities, regions and metropolitan areas moving, efficient public transport is not only desirable, but essential.

Automobiles, electric or otherwise, cannot absorb such an increase, and rail transport—trains, trams, and subways—will have to take on much of the hard work to keep our cities and national economies from shutting down.

Bullet trains: how fast can they go?

An attendant poses next to the Fuxing smart bullet train on January 6, 2022, China.

Shi Jiaming/VCG via Getty Images

High-speed rail plays a huge role in all of this.

Sleek new “bullet trains” are taking over…

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