Low-income countries (LICs) in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are investing in new railway lines to replace deteriorated infrastructure from the 19th and 20th century. These actions, despite financial and economic constraints, have been justified in common visions of continent-wide efficient networks to cope with the demands of growing populations. However, most of the recent rail infrastructure projects are driven by international suppliers’ preferences and financing rather than creating railways that match the requirements of interoperable regional networks. This paper therefore explores the current status of rail infrastructure in these LICs and the operational performance achieved to understand specific capability gaps in each regional network. Drawing from the experience of European countries in transforming regional future visions into applied research, a technical strategy for rail infrastructure in LICs is proposed. The strategy captures the key capabilities to be addressed in order to achieve future performance goals, while emphasizing the need for emerging technologies to be used in fit-for-purpose solutions. It is envisioned that the strategy will provide the basis for the development of continental technical strategy programs with specific technology roadmaps towards a common goal.
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