The rail industry has been an enthusiastic adopter of the Internet with organizations 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.
The International Union of Railways or UIC is a trade association for rail operators worldwide and acts as a focal point for the promotion of rail transport and commercial and technical cooperation between railways. The International Union of Railways web site contains substantial statistical information on the world's railways and railroad industry. Standardization 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, so site deals with almost everything connected with rail industry.
The European Rail Server is managed by rail enthusiasts but is an excellent one-stop shop for information on Europe's rail industry, rail systems and companies. 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 or APTA promotes all modes public transport, and its site includes a long list of rail transit web sites for the United States and Canada. Individual company sites are an excellent source of technical information for rail products and railroad industry.
The Association of American Railroads or AAR, whose site contains statistical information, position papers on rail industry issues and details of rail research initiatives, represents the interests of the big American freight railways and Amtrak, the national passenger operator.
Details of rail industry research projects supported by the European Rail Research Institute or ERRI are published in the Internet, and reports of completed projects can be purchased online. Similar information on rail industry research initiatives in North America and Japan can be accessed at the Transportation Research Board and the Railway Technical Research Institute.
Rail accidents often provide the impetus for new areas of research. The site Danger Ahead 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.
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.