Transportation infrastructure standards vary from country to country. Some countries drive on the left side of the road, while other countries drive on the right side of the road. Furthermore, the railroad tracks are wider or narrower in some countries depending on what standard railroad gauge they typically use. This is a significant impediment on travel, since people and freight need to change trains. Although, this impediment has been seen as a positive for a country’s defenses. In addition, some countries have a mix of different railroad gauges. In general countries that border each other tend to have the same standards. This article will look at the most common configurations.
Right-Hand Traffic, Standard Gauge Railroad
This configuration is the most common in the world. Over 50% of railroads now use the standard gauge, which is 4 feet 8.5 inches or 1,435 mm. More than 50% of the world’s roads have right-hand traffic as well. The majority of countries in North America, Continental Europe, and the Middle East use it, as well as China and Korea.
Right-Hand Traffic, Russian Gauge Railroad
All countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, adopted the Russian railroad gauge instead of the Standard gauge. It is a wider gauge, at 1,520 mm. Finland was once part of the Russian Empire, while Mongolia and Afghanistan are some other Central Asian countries that were heavily influenced by the Soviets.
Right-Hand Traffic, Meter Gauge Railroad
Most countries that drive on the right, but have meter gauge railroads happen to be in tropical regions of the world. This configuration is often seen in South America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. Many were once colonies of France. Meter gauge railroad was once common in France, before it switched to Standard gauge.
Right-Hand Traffic, 3’6″ Gauge Railroad
Countries that drive on the right, but have 3’6″ gauge railroad are most common in Africa. Many of them are former British colonies that switched to driving on the right side of the road, since most of their neighbors drove on the right side. Since the railroads are thinner than the Russian and Standard gauges, they are cheaper to build.
Left-Hand Traffic, 3’6″ Gauge Railroad
Another common combination in Africa is left-hand traffic with 3’6″ gauge railroads. They are typically former British colonies in Southern Africa. Interestingly enough, Japan and New Zealand also typically have this configuration. Not only is this gauge cheaper to build, it is also more suitable for tight curves around mountainous terrain.
Left-Hand Traffic, Meter Gauge Railroad
Southeast Asia and parts of East Africa adopted left-hand traffic with one meter gauge railroads. The meter gauge is another narrow gauge railroad that is relatively cheap to build and works well in countries with a lot of mountains.
Left-Hand Traffic, Indian Gauge Railroad
Almost all countries in South Asia drive on the left (influenced by the British Empire) and use the Indian broad gauge railroad. However, this configuration is exclusive to this region, with the exception of Brunei. Interestingly enough, Bangladesh is mostly meter gauge, unlike its neighbors.