Railway Industry Resources on the Internet

Review: The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization

The rail industry has been an enthusiastic adopter of the Internet with organisations initially developing their web pages to promote their products, services and technologies, and provide copies of annual reports and press releases. More recently, staff recruitment and e-commerce applications have started to appear.

This review concentrates on English language sites and describes several key pages which can be used by surfers to explore the sector in more depth. The links discussed here form a part of my own collection of rail industry web addresses, which is recommended as first stop for an industry search [1].


In the UK, privatisation of the rail industry has split the former British Rail into over 100 companies, most of which have developed web sites. The Railway Forum [2], formed to represent the interests and views of the new breed of train operators and their suppliers, has a membership of over 50 of the largest rail companies. The Forum’s site provides summaries and links to its members and publishes useful fact sheets and statistical information on topics such as levels of investment and rolling stock. The operators also have their own trade association – the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) - whose site includes summaries of national passenger surveys [3]. The Railway Industry Association (RIA) represents over 100 equipment and system suppliers, and its site includes links to the members and briefs about recent activities of those members [4].

Regulation of the rail industry is handled jointly by the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) and the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA). The ORR approves access agreements, enforces competition law and protects the public interest. Documents, policy papers and keynote speeches can be downloaded from its web site [5]. The SRA provides the strategic direction for the industry and manages the passenger franchises, many of which are currently being re-negotiated. Its site [6] includes a helpful chart of the complex UK rail industry structure. Quarterly bulletins of train operator performance and details of public subsidies are also available.

The professional engineering institutions for mechanical engineering [7], electrical engineering [8] and signal engineering [9] all have railway divisions which hold seminars and conferences on rail industry topics.

International Links

The International Union of Railways (UIC) is a trade association for rail operators worldwide and acts as a focal point for the promotion of rail transport and commercial/technical cooperation between railways. The UIC web site [10] contains substantial statistical information on the world’s railways (a lot of which is available for free). Standardisation leaflets and technical reports can also be ordered online. The site contains a very comprehensive links pages to over 700 transportation companies worldwide, searchable by country, transport mode or technical activity. Further statistical information on the size and performance of the world’s railways is published by the World Bank [11], while the European Union issues similar information for the main European systems [12].

Over 100 suppliers to the European rail sector are represented by the Union of European Railway Industries (UNIFE). UNIFE’s web site [13] provides links to their members and publishes regular newsletters on European issues, and details of rail industry events and exhibitions.

The European Rail Server (Mercurio) is managed by rail enthusiasts but is an excellent one-stop shop for information on Europe’s rail systems and companies [14]. There is probably a photograph of just about every class of rail vehicle in Europe, as well as outline data on their technical characteristics. The site also provides links to many national and cross border rail timetables.

In North America, the American Public Transport Association (APTA) promotes all modes public transport, and its site [15] includes a long list of rail transit web sites for the US and Canada. This list also includes planned systems, a very useful feature for the researcher. The interests of the big American freight railways and Amtrak (the national passenger operator) are represented by the Association of American Railroads (AAR), whose site contains statistical information, position papers on industry issues and details of rail research initiatives [16]. The Australian Railway Association (ARA) is similar to the Railway Forum in the UK, with links to over 120 operator and supplier members and facts /factsheets on the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand [17].

Technical Links

Individual company sites are an excellent source of technical information for rail products. Adtranz [18], Alstom [19], Siemens [20] and Bombardier [21] are four of the largest equipment/system suppliers to the industry and each of them provides detailed data on its products along with photo galleries and industry newsletters. Rail consultants are also big users of the medium to promote their skills and expertise, a good example of which is the wide range of capability statements and case studies from the international consultancy group Interfleet Technology [22].

Details of rail research projects supported by the European Rail Research Institute (ERRI) are outlined on its web site [23] and reports of completed projects can be purchased online. Similar information on research initiatives in North America and Japan can be accessed at the Transportation Research Board [24] and the Railway Technical Research Institute [25].

Two independent rail technology sites are highly recommended. Railway Technical Web Pages [26] is based on personal research of an industry manager and provides a series of concise reviews of specific rail subjects such as signalling, train design and railway operations. Railway Technology [27] published by Net Resources International is an excellent collection of project information and has a catalogue of the products and services of suppliers and rail contractors. This site also lists over 30 railway newsgroups worldwide and contains a comprehensive table of forthcoming conferences/seminars.

Rail accidents often provide the impetus for new areas of research. The site Danger Ahead [28] compiles information on accidents worldwide, pulling together news reports and official publications. The response time of this site to incidents is particularly impressive and readers can be kept updated through an e-mailed newsletter.

The specialist railway trade press is another essential source of information about technical (and commercial) developments, with Railway Gazette International (RGI) and the International Railway Journal (IRJ) the two most widely read journals in the industry. The RGI site provides an archive of article summaries as well as a comprehensive list of industry links [29]. IRJ includes full text of some of their feature articles in the current issue but has not yet introduced an archive facility [30].


This brief review of rail industry sources should provide the researcher with a route into the many official and unofficial web sites that are available for the rail sector. The amount of accessible information and the quality of web sites continue to grow strongly, but finding what you want in a timely fashion is important. Structured collections of regularly updated links provide a short cut. The web site outlined in reference [1] is just one such collection.

Good luck!


[1]   Rob Armstrong’s Rail Industry Pages are at  http://www.geocities.com/WallStreet/5541/
[2]   The Railway Forum is at  http://www.railwayforum.com/
[3]   The Association of Train Operating Companies is at  http://www.rail.co.uk/atoc/public/
[4]   The Railway Industry Association  http://www.riagb.org.uk/
[5]   The Office of the Rail Regulator is at  http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/
[6]   The Strategic Rail Authority is at http://www.sra.gov.uk/
[7]   The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (Railway Division) is at http://www.imeche.org.uk/railway/index.htm
[8]   The Institution of Electrical Engineers (Rail Industry Group) is at http://www.iee.org.uk/Industry/Rail/
[9]   The Institution of Railway Signal Engineers is at http://www.irse.org/
[10] The International Union of Railways (UIC) is at http://www.uic.asso.fr/
[11] The World Bank Railways Page is at http://www.worldbank.org/html/fpd/transport/rl_over.htm
[12] The European Railway Statistics “Transport in Figures” is at http://europa.eu.int/en/comm/dg07/tif/Mode%20pages/rail.htm
[13] The Union of European Railway Industries (UNIFE) is at http://www.unife.org/
[14] The European Rail Server is at http://mercurio.iet.unipi.it/home.html
[15] American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is at http://www.apta.com/
[16] Association of American Railroads (AAR) is at http://www.aar.org/aarhome.nsf?OpenDatabase
[17] Australasian Railway Association (ARA) is at http://ara.net.au/
[18] Adtranz is at http://www.adtranz.com/
[19] Alstom is at http://www.transport.alstom.com/alstom/alstom.nsf/HTML/Home
[20] Siemens is at http://www.siemens.de/vt/
[21] Bombardier is at http://www.transportation.bombardier.com/htmen/4_0.htm
[22] Interfleet Technology is at http://www.interfleet.co.uk
[23] Transportation Research Board (TRB) Academic Transportation Internet Sites is at http://www.erri.nl/
[24] Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) is at http://www.rtri.or.jp/index.html
[25] Railway Technical Web Pages are at http://www.trainweb.org/railwaytechnical/
[26] Railway Technology is at http://www.railway-technology.com/
[27] Danger Ahead – Historic Railway Disasters is at http://danger-ahead.railfan.net/index.html
[28] Railway Gazette International is at http://www.railwaygazette.com
[29] International Railway Journal is at http://www.railjournal.com/


Author Details

  Rob Armstrong
Principal Consultant 
Interfleet Technology 
Interfleet House 
Pride Parkway 
Derby DE24 8HX 
Email: armstrong.r@interfleet.co.uk
Web Site: www.interfleet.co.uk
Phone: 01332 223334 Fax: 01332 223331 
Date published: 
Thursday, 23 March 2000
Copyright statement: 

This article has been published under copyright; please see our access terms and copyright guidance regarding use of content from this article. See also our explanations of how to cite Ariadne articles for examples of bibliographic format.