Paying for rail’s upkeep has never been harder

Copyright: Enio F. /

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It seems it’s easier to get funding for brand new projects than upkeep of old ones. And rail faces many more problems besides - including the scarcity of communications frequencies…

What are the problems facing urban rail?

Urban rail is very popular. Over 3,500 km is currently under construction around the world, and another 12,000 km is in the planning or design stage. China alone is rumoured to be planning 1,200 km of tramlines. But if metros and trams are unrivalled in terms of comfort and reliability, they also require higher investment costs, which is their main weakness. Yet to obtain funds to create new systems often proves to be easier than obtaining funds to maintain existing systems.

Finding innovative financing schemes is one of the main challenges for the development of urban rail.

But no investment in maintenance can lead to collapse – for example the 2005 savings plan turned to be catastrophic for Berlin’s S-Bahn system: due to the expenditure reductions, insufficient inspections and maintenance led to reduced service for months.

Finding innovative financing schemes is thus one of the main challenges for the development of urban rail.

Besides that, the sector faces less known difficulties: with the growth of mobile applications and the connected ecosystem, the available frequencies are becoming an increasingly scarce resource. Urban rail is at risk of losing its own dedicated frequency spectrum for safety-critical applications such as CBTC (Communication-based train control). The sector has therefore to lobby radio communication regulators to obtain available frequencies.

The obsolescence of electronic equipment and software is another threat affecting the railway sector. To learn more about it, read the full article below:

In an article published by Metro Report International in June, Laurent Dauby, Director Rail Transport at UITP, pointed out the different challenges the urban rail sector currently faces.

“Inconvenient truths and opportunities”, Laurent Dauby, Metro Report International, June 2015.


The UITP International Rail Conference will take place in Munich, Germany, from 28 to 30 October. A few weeks before the event, we highlight the rail sector’s challenges, latest developments and priorities.

About “Go Smart – Go Rail”, the UITP International Rail Conference

“Go smart- go rail” is an international conference about urban rail organised by UITP and hosted by MVG, the municipal public transport operator in Munich, Germany. It will take place from 28 to 30 October 2015 in Munich and will focus on the role of the rail sector for smart cities.

160 delegates have already registered.

  • For more information about the event and registration, please visit:
  • For questions about the programme: Laurent.dauby(at)
  • For questions about your registration: Nathalie.simon(at)
  • Follow the event on Twitter: #GoRailUITP


In order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the topics related to investment in public transport infrastructure, UITP has prepared a number of key reference documents available in the members-only service MOBI+. Click on the banner below and enjoy your reading. Note that only UITP Members can access this information. Click here to find out how to become a UITP member.

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