As rail transport demand continues to rise around the world, WSP’s expertise in transport infrastructure is propelling rail and transit networks toward sustainable mobility. Stakeholders are encountering greater complexities as expanding metropolitan areas redefine emerging transport landscapes. Moving forward, WSP is pioneering systemic solutions to tackle challenges and maximize opportunities for rail transportation development.

According to SCI Verkehr, an independent consultancy company for the global transportation sector, freight, passenger and urban rail transport around the world has been on the rise since 2005, with the latter two segments showing constant positive development that is expected to continue. Rail transport demand is particularly on the rise, responding to the growing demands of rapidly expanding metropolitan areas. According to research conducted by the International Railway Research Board (IRRB) and the International Union of Railways (IUR), demand for long distance rail, demographic evolutions and lifestyle changes will continue to drive this expansion, as will technological advancements towards more energy-efficient systems for rolling stock and infrastructure. IRRB/IUR research foresees convergence towards a global rail system with a maximum degree of interoperability, as well as a global railway supply market.

That being said, many rail and transit networks around the world are under enormous pressure to bolster their infrastructures and enhance their services, while facing the realities of decreasing public investment to respond to steadily increasing demand. There are significant challenges for stakeholders in achieving overall cost-reductions, while simultaneously improving the reliability, availability and maintainability of their rail systems.

Looking forward, the key to sustainable prosperity will be sustainable mobility, thus placing increasing emphasis on public transport components, such as asset management, active transportation, connected/automated vehicle technologies and more. With years of experience advancing these fields, WSP will continue to grow its expertise in public transport infrastructure on almost all continents. WSP has played a critical role in the rail and transit sector since the 19th-century design of the New York City subway system, and provides a full range of planning, design, engineering and management services for the complete rail project lifecycle. WSP’s expertise also includes strategic advice for high-speed rail systems, mainline railways, and passenger and freight rail projects.


Fueled by economic growth and rapid urbanization, investment in the rail and transit sector will remain intact. Substantial budgets have been set aside for ambitious new projects as well as upgrades and extensions to existing systems by transport authorities, including those in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, among others. 

Interest in high speed rail will remain strong.  WSP is currently serving as the Joint Development Partner to assist the Malaysia MyHSR and Land Transport Authority of Singapore on the 350km Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project, which is slated to be completed by 2026. In Thailand, WSP completed the feasibility study and definitive design for the proposed Northern and North Eastern HSR Lines for the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning. China will continue to be a key player in this market, seeking opportunities to support regional nations to develop HSR networks as part of the One Belt One Road initiative. 

Funding is also in place to expand the mass transit system in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The development of rail projects in Malaysia will continue to make headlines and attract global interest.  The reference design of the third MRT line in Kuala Lumpurthe 40km mostly underground Circle Linecommenced in the latter part of 2017, while the full-scale construction of LRT Line 3 is set to start soon. WSP was appointed as the Rail Systems Consultant on both projects.

Similarly, in Thailand, Bangkok’s transit system is being extended with new lines and a new monorail network to improve connectivity and address traffic congestion. In Hong Kong and Singapore, investment will continue to be available for network extensions and system upgrades to their aging mass transit networks.   

WSP is continuing to support owners, operators, investors and contractors to deliver these projects in Asia. 


Australia/New Zealand

Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are each forecast to double in size by 2050 to over 8 million people. The Australian government’s Smart Cities Plan emphasizes the importance of connectivity to shape the public transport investment landscape for rail and transit. This includes construction of separate new multibillion dollar metrorail systems in Sydney and Melbourne crossing underneath heavily congested central business districts, harbours and rivers.  Existing passenger rail networks are being extended, made safer through level crossing removals and grade separations, and undergoing capacity upgrades by employing latest signalling technologies, such as CBTC and ETCS. Light rail systems are also experiencing a resurgence with two new lines in Sydney, and within smaller cities including Gold Coast Newcastle, Canberra, and Adelaide. 

On a national scale, the $10.4 billion Inland Rail Program will provide a 1700km freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane. The result will be increased capacity and reduced travel time and costs to regional centres. The project is well under development, and the initial contractor packages will be awarded in 2018.  The Government is looking at “Faster Rail” network improvements to provide travel solutions for regional-area access to the main cities in support of the urban spread.

Neighbouring New Zealand is also becoming highly urbanized, particularly in Auckland and Wellington. The country is looking ahead to build smarter cities that include a new underline rail system below the Auckland central business district to address the heavily congested surrounding road network. A recent change of government will likely bring a shift in funding, with investment likely to favour rail projects over highway projects. Recent disaster recovery projects, traditional maintenance, replacement of life-expired equipment and minor improvement projects are also necessities that require funding.

WSP is currently working with owners, operators and constructors in some form across all of these projects, whether it be metro, passenger, freight, heavy haul or the implementation of new train technology. Applying our technical expertise and robust delivery and system integration systems, WSP assists in enhancing and maximizing the benefits of these projects for communities and customers through the delivery of world-class transport infrastructure.


The Canadian federal government remains committed to infrastructure spending, with up to $3.4 billion to be allocated through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF). The PTIF will fund up to 50 percent of the eligible cost of transit projects, including the rehabilitation of public transit systems, planning of future system improvements and expansions, enhanced asset management, and system optimization and modernization. The Canadian Infrastructure Bank will also invest $35 billion in federal seed money aimed at attracting a 4-1 ratio of private-public funding, while $5 billion sourced from the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan is earmarked for public transit systems. The newly introduced National Trade Corridor Fund (NTCF) will fund up to $2 billion over 10 years with private industry, including railways as eligible recipients. The NTCF will match up to 50 percent of eligible costs.

VIA Rail, Canada’s national intercity passenger rail provider, has embarked on a fleet renewal program worth up to $1.3 billion. VIA will also invest as much as $3 billion to build a dedicated new corridor between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, which is expected to boost ridership by as many as 7 million passengers. The Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) is seeking to move forward with an environmental assessment of a potential High Speed Rail (HSR) line between Toronto and Windsor, Ontario at a total cost of $20.9 billion. These projects will require the type of experience and capabilities that WSP provides, including planning, environmental, design, and construction management services. With a strong presence across Canada, WSP foresees a bright future for continued work and expansion of our rail and transit business.

Middle East

Despite significant downscaling of capital projects investment in the Middle East due to falling oil prices, the region is adjusting and new projects are emerging. These include signs of renewed government impetus on rail infrastructure investment, particularly in passenger rail systems in major regional cities. Construction of major metro design-and-construct schemes in Riyadh, Doha and Dubai will continue through to completion, though proposed schemes in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi have been put on hold. Governments are considering private financing options for delivery of these projects.

Government transport agencies are issuing a number of planning and design tenders aimed at re-evaluating the scale of rail schemes. There is renewed interest in rail-based transport modes as a means of addressing an emerging middle class in the region, with an emphasis on the use of technology and greater value for money. WSP continues to be at the heart of transportation project delivery in the region and is poised to provide its expertise to advance projects that embrace these new technologies. WSP involvement in Middle East rail and transit projects includes the Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi metro systems, the Qatar Education City People Mover System, the Al Maktoum International Airport People Mover, the Downtown Dubai Trolley and the Bluewaters Island GRT.

South Africa

South Africa’s rail and transit sectors face major challenges, including rail’s declining share of the public transport market. Market conditions are currently turbulent, but the National Development Plan foresees major investments in urban transit through to 2030. Recent years of heavy investment in rolling stock have left South African rail systems short on capital for infrastructure investment, thus no new rail projects are foreseeable for a number of years ahead.

The passenger rail market has historic shortcomings, as it remains unable to service the potential market reliably, while the passenger road transport market remains buoyant. The freight rail market share has also declined due efficient road-based solutions. Road, although not ideal due to higher costs of transport, safety and congestion, has now evolved to become a major industry. Therefore, any future investments in passenger and freight rail infrastructure will need to incorporate the nuances of the road transport status quo.

While the state has historically serviced passenger rail in South Africa, the new Gautrain high-speed rail network was developed through a public-private partnership. WSP provided independent design review services for the structural and civil components of the Gauteng Nerve Centre (GNC), a state-of-the-art control centre that permits the centralized management of passenger information across the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) network in Gauteng Province. New models of strategic partnerships can be leveraged to align with South Africa’s economic objectives of supplier development, the provision of training, exposure to higher levels of technology, youth development and preferred local procurement.

The country’s capacity to develop and realize major infrastructure investments through public-private partnerships remains immature mainly due to the need to get organized labour support. Business confidence in the ability of government to develop major infrastructure projects remains low. 


UK train passenger numbers are at an all-time high, with projections of doubling over the next 30 years. In response, the UK government has committed to invest CAN $83 billion between 2019 and 2024 to renew and maintain the rail network. Phase 1 of the $96 billion HS2 high-speed rail line connecting London with Birmingham has received approval, with Phase 2, connecting London with Manchester and Leeds, aiming for approval in 2022. London’s city-crossing Elizabeth Line, also known as Crossrail 1, is set to open in 2018. Planning for Crossrail 2 is also underway, responding to projections that London’s population will grow by one million residents by 2020.

WSP is providing rail system design engineering on phase 1 of HS2 and will continue to deliver similar services for Phase 2a (between Birmingham and Crewe) and Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester). We provided multidisciplinary services to Network Rail, from phased construction planning to conceptual design, to ensure the iconic London Bridge station opened by deadline.  Our dedicated station design team is also helping Crossrail 1, HS2 Euston and HS2 Manchester stations to become the transport hubs of the future. As the UK’s rail industry continues to emerge as a hotbed of innovation, WSP is recruiting specialized talent in record numbers.

High Speed 2, UK


As an exporting nation and a high-tech and transit country, Germany relies on smoothly-functioning passenger and freight transport. Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company, carries in Germany more than 5.5 million customers every day in the passenger transport segment, and ships via rail about 596,000 tons of freight. Deutsche Bahn operates more than 40,000 train runs daily on its more than 33,300km-long modern rail network, and manages 5,681 train stations.

Following the adoption of the 2030 Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (FTIP) in 2016, federal railway infrastructure, including first-priority rail projects, will receive 112 billion EUR.

The Performance and Financing Agreement (LuFV II) concluded between Deutsche Bahn AG and the German Federal Government forms the basis for the comprehensive rehabilitation and modernization of the rail network concerning tracks, signalling and telecommunications systems, traction power supplies and overhead catenary systems, as well as equipment for workshops and stations modernization. This is providing some 28 billion EUR for the current funding period between 2015 and 2019. Already in 2018, the German Federal Government and Deutsche Bahn AG are starting negotiations on a subsequent Performance and Financing Agreement (LuFV III) to be ready for continuous project funding for another period until 2024, presumably reaching out for a 20-percent volume increase.


WSP has been a major player in the planning and engineering of railway projects in Germany and Europe for the last 30 years. Our long-standing experience in the market enables us to be involved in the first-priority rail projects of the coming years and decades, such as the upgrade and new build of the Karlsruhe (Germany)–Basle (Switzerland) HSR line as well as the upgrade and new build of the Nuremberg—Erfurt HSR line.

United States

While a growing number of decision-makers in the United States support higher public transport investment to achieve more sustainable development and greater urban mobility, there has been essentially no growth in federal funding, which is frozen at 2016 levels for the foreseeable future. Yet, the nation continues to experience public demand for transit and rail investments, and public transport funding at the local level continues to grow. As greater policy control is exercised by city, county and state governments, the focus remains on innovative financing and public-private partnerships.

Additionally, local ballot measures passed in 2016 at the citizen level will infuse taxation into infrastructure investment. The largest of these, Measure M, was passed in Los Angeles and will generate $1.4 billion in transport investment over the next 40 years. With the US population expected to grow by 80 million by 2050, rapid growth in emerging public transportation modes, such as bus rapid transit, will complement continued expansion of light rail. WSP is well positioned to capitalize on the opportunities that will arise from these trends, with a local presence in markets across the United States and depth of expertise and resources available to our clients who make essential investments in rail and transit.



Maryland's Purple Line, USA