The 6 Most Expensive Ongoing Rail Projects in the World, 2023

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With the increased rate of urbanization, governments around the globe are turning to the development of rail system projects in a bid to curtail subsequent traffic congestion and improve connectivity not only within the developing cities but also outside with other cities in and out of their countries.

These infrastructure projects, however, coupled with the government’s need to offer its citizens the best in terms of comfort, speed, longevity, sustainability, etc. come at huge costs, some of which are surprisingly huge, as you will see below in our list of the most expensive ongoing rail projects in the world.

1. High Speed 2 (HS 2)

High Speed 2 (HS2), a high-speed railway line that is under construction in the United Kingdom to link London, the Midlands, Manchester, the North, and Scotland, is currently the most expensive railway project in the world.

This project is being developed in phases the first of which connects London and the West Midlands while the second and the third link the West Midlands and the North via Crewe, and Manchester, the East Midlands and the North respectively.

Developed by HS2 Ltd at an estimated cost of US$ 137bn, the project broke ground in November 2020, and it is expected to be completed in phases as well starting from 2029 to 2045.

2. California High-Speed Rail

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California High-Speed Rail (CHSR) is a 1,300km long high-speed rail system that is under construction in the U.S. state of California. It will connect the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center in Anaheim, and Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, with the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco.

Developed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the project started back in January 2015 and it is scheduled for completion in 2040 at a cost of more than US$128 billion.

3. Chuo Shinkansen Maglev Line

The Chūō Shinkansen, which is also known as the Tokaido Shinkansen Bypass or Japan’s Maglev High-Speed Rail is a new rail line that is being constructed between Tokyo and Nagoya, with plans for an extension to Osaka.

The project is being executed in phases, the first of which covers a total length of 285.6km between Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and Nagoya Station broke ground in December 2014. This phase is expected to become operational in 2027.

The second phase on the other hand, which connects Nagoya to Osaka, is planned to come online in 2037.

The entire Chūō Shinkansen project is developed by Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) and it is expected to cost not less than US$ 95bn.

4. Alta Velocidad Española (AVE), the fourth most expensive railway project in the world 2023

With a length of more than 3,200km, Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) is a high-speed railway system, the longest of its kind in Europe and the second-longest in the world after China’s bullet train service, connecting Spanish cities in a matter of hours at speeds of up to 310 km/h.

The project began back in 1992, and currently a total of ten main lines, and two spur lines in five corridors, are in operation.  Ten more lines in six corridors are under construction with the last one of them expected to be operational in 2023.

The entire project has an estimated price tag of more than US$ 69.9bn.

5. Grand Paris Express

Grand Paris Express is a heavy rail (commonly known as Mass Rapid Transport, MRT) network under development, since Mid-June 2016, in the Ile-de-France region of France.  The project involves the construction of four new lines for the Paris Métro, extensions of existing Lines 11 and 14, and the construction of 68 new stations. In total 200 kilometres of new track will be laid.

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in 2024, while the entire project is set to be delivered in 2030.

A total of US$ 40bn has been earmarked for the Grand Paris Express development, including a provision of US$ 8bn for risks and contingencies, which brings the full cost of the project to about US$ 40bn.

6. Riyadh Metro

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Riyadh Metro is a heavy rail system that is being constructed in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The project comprises 6 main lines that cut across most of the highly populated districts, government facilities, and educational and commercial outlets for a total distance of 176 kilometres.

The implementation of the project, the cost of which is estimated at US$ 22.5bn, started in April 2014. The Riyadh Metro is expected to open to passengers in the First Quarter of 2022.

The cost and completion date of the 6 most expensive ongoing rail projects in the world

Name Location Cost Start date Completion date
1. High Speed 2 (HS 2) UK US$ 137bn+ 2020 2045
2. California High-Speed Rail USA US$ 120bn+ 2015 2040
3. Chuo Shinkansen Maglev Line Japan US$ 95bn+ 2014 2037
4. Alta Velocidad Española (AVE)


Spain US$ 68bn+ 1992 2023
5. Grand Paris Express France US$ 40bn+ 2016 2030
6. Riyadh Metro  Saudi Arabia US$ 22.5bn+ 2014 2022