No passengers, no moneyHS rail services are mainly used for passenger transportation; therefore, an essential travel reduction will directly affect them. The movement restrictions imposed in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic affected hardly the HS industry across the globe. For instance, in Japan, HS passenger traffic dropped by more than half in 2020, recovering slightly in 2021, reaching a ridership of almost 200 million passengers.
Another big player in the HS market is Europe, where rail companies also reported significant losses in 2020. The European leader, Spain, experienced a decrease in passenger traffic on its AVE service of more than two-thirds, contributing to a substantial drop in total revenue of the rail company in charge (Renfe). In France, the story was no different, with the SNCF reporting revenues 14.6 percent lower than the previous year.
The future looks fasterEven if the pandemic hit the industry hard, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with passenger traffic recovering and big plans to use and expand HS infrastructure more than ever. In terms of planned expansions of the HS rail lines, the Asia-Pacific region is again the front runner, intending to build more than 25,000 kilometers in the coming years, followed by Europe with almost 20,000 kilometers of rail planned. The latter got a massive project off the ground to connect, modernize, and expand the HS network in the old continent. This project, also called the TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network), has been going around since the 90s, but it was only in 2021 that the main nine corridors planned extended significantly. The nine corridors linking the most critical nodes in the continent are to be completed by 2030.
The third region in the world with the most ambitious HS plans is North America, mainly driven by the U.S., working on implementing HS to connect one of the biggest countries in the world. In 2021, the U.S. Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides around 66 billion U.S. dollars to boost the rail network to offer a faster, safer, sustainable, and more reliable service.