Tales from the Fast Trains: Europe at 186 MPH

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The 10 Fastest Trains in the World

Petersburg line, and made its debut in December The German-built Velaro RUS trains, also known as the Sapsan, have cut the travel time for the mile route from eight hours to three hours and 45 minutes. The car passenger trains operate at a maximum speed of mph, but hit a speed record of mph during trials in The country has invited foreign investors to bid on development contracts for new lines that will link its cities. The 30 high-speed trains, which began operations in , are based on the Japanese Series Shinkansen "bullet train" model.


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A record The country's high-speed rail system has been making headlines recently after the government said the network might not last more than 10 years because of sinking land caused by the overuse of groundwater. Last month, the government said it would cap deep groundwater wells that threaten the structural base of the high-speed system. In April , a record , people used the country's high-speed rail network. After 12 years of construction, the first high-speed line was opened in , slashing travel time from the capital Seoul to the port city of Busan to two hours and 40 minutes, half the time it took previously.

The travel time between the two cities was reduced by a further 22 minutes when a second line was opened. The impact of high-speed rail has been felt by the domestic airline industry, which has seen its capacity shrink by more than 30 percent between and Although the introduction of low-cost air carriers in the country has helped demand for air travel grow again, passenger levels are still below what they used to be before high-speed rail was introduced.

The rail line carries passengers at speeds of up to mph. However, a U. Alstom is the world's second biggest train maker and the supplier of all existing Eurostar trains. The Florence-Rome high-speed line made history when more than half of its entire length—the first 86 miles from Rome to Citta della Pieve—opened in Trains on the track reached a maximum speed of mph. Since then, the country's high-speed rail network has grown substantially, with high-speed lines reaching as far north as Torino to as far south as Napoli. Not everyone is happy with the progress, however.

Earlier this month, more than people were injured in a rally against the construction of a planned mile tunnel in the northern Susa valley that would cut three hours off the current seven-hour train journey between Paris and Milan. Protesters say the high-speed line will ruin the area and its construction could release harmful chemicals. With six high-speed train lines and several under construction, the Spanish government aims to have 90 percent of its population within 31 miles of a high-speed station by The country's fastest trains are the AVE series, which is manufactured by several train makers, including Siemens, Alstom and Bombardier.

The Siemens-made AVE Class train began commercial service in , and hit a record speed of mph during a test run between Madrid and Zaragoza. The maximum top speed for commercial trains in Spain is limited to mph for passenger safety. The euro-zone debt crisis and Portugal's austerity plan have halted a major expansion plan, which would have linked Spain's capital Madrid with Lisbon in Portugal. The high-speed train link would have cut travel time between the two cities to two hours and 45 minutes instead of the current nine hours. Train: Transrapid TR Speed: It's home to Siemens, the world's largest manufacturer of high-speed trains.

German companies Siemens and ThyssenKrupp have developed the Transrapid system, high-speed monorail trains operating on magnetic levitation Maglev technology, that can reach speeds of mph. In , the Shanghai Maglev train in China was the first commercial Transrapid train to carry passengers, hitting speeds of mph. Although the magnetic levitation trains are developed in Germany, they have never been used commercially in the country. The technology has faced several setbacks, including high costs and a crash that killed 25 people during a test run in These high-speed trains hit speeds of mph and connect German cities with cities in Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands.

An ICE train disaster near the German village of Eschede in is considered the world's deadliest high-speed rail accident, leading to the deaths of people. Train: CRHAL Speed: mph Capacity: passengers China has the world's longest high-speed rail network with more than 6, miles of routes in service. Compare that frequency level with the air schedule below, of frequencies from Jan to Jul And that does not take into account the many other Amsterdam air services which operate to and from a myriad of UK airports, from where customers could take flights rather than make their way slowly to London to board the international train there.

The final part of the equation though is a less tangible one, namely the impact of the now inherent struggle of air travel. It is not that rail travel journeys have sped up significantly, rather that getting to and through an airport, especially during rush-hour periods, is getting longer and more unpleasant.

While it is not reasonable to claim there are no delays of this nature in the rail travel process the impression is that they are far fewer both in number and intensity. So, high-speed rail will continue to make inroads into European air travel, once it can establish an enhanced frequency pattern that can compete economically with those of the airlines in order to attract the business travellers who will pay the highest fares. But it will do so not so much because of its own service improvements so much as because of the service level inertia in the air transport business.

MAP — The existing high-speed rail network classed by line speed in Europe highlights the expansive network of European rail Source: Unknown. What an overwhelming sense of space; it seems impossible that the structure came so close to being destroyed. And as I ponder how the lines seem to describe the scene so precisely, an American family walks by.

I'm meeting my girlfriend E by Betjeman at noon but there's no sign of her. Has she got caught up in traffic on her bus? She lives quite close by in Shoreditch. Did I give her the wrong time?


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I can't get hold of her as her mobile seems to be switched off or out of reception. Minutes tick by and I begin to wonder if we're going to make our train; it leaves at 1 p. Then I look towards the huge bronze statue depicting lovers embracing near the station clock. I walk across.

She looks at me nonplussed. We take a few pictures by The Meeting Place to mark the start of our adventures: it would, admittedly, have been more romantic to meet here. Then we rush through security no hassles, no queues, no taking off shoes or belts, no confiscated bottles of water or peculiar body scans , up a travelator, and along the platform to carriage number Soon, we're off.

The train pulls away, bang on time, drawing out of Barlow's beautiful station into the August sunshine. It's a lovely day to be heading south.

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And the feeling of 'being on holiday', of getting away from it all, hits us immediately. Psychotic bus drivers, overheated underground carriages, crowds and London in general seem somehow distant, as though by boarding the train we've stepped into another country.

North London may be outside, with its graffiti and traffic jams, but we are on our way to the Continent There's a strong sense of happily not quite knowing what's coming next, as well as a realisation that these weekends have crept up on us out of the blue.

You see, it's not as though we're train obsessives, or that we refuse to fly for 'green reasons'. Quite the opposite: I've always enjoyed catching flights and the sense of excitement of airports, even when departing from the dreariest terminals at Heathrow. In fact, I've always been a bit ambivalent about train travel. Yes, I quite like chugging along and watching through the window as the world passes by, but with all these cheap flights to obscure spots in Eastern Europe, sunny reaches of the Mediterranean and exotic locations halfway round the globe, I never got round to trying Eurostar.

Until, that is, I was sent to Paris on a last-minute work assignment. Eurostar had been running for almost a decade by then, and I found the experience a revelation. In just over two hours 2 hrs 15 min.

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Instead, I was walking past Notre Dame and through the Latin Quarter, poking my head in patisseries and stopping at lovely old cafes that I imagined George Orwell visiting in Down and Out in Paris and London, one of my favourite books. It was all so quick; so easy to get out of London and enter a totally different culture. And it made me wonder whether the hassle of airport security and catching annoying connecting shuttles into city centres at the other end was worth it.

I loved the sensation of being catapulted out of Britain straight into the heart of an interesting European city. What better way to travel? The seats were much bigger on Eurostar than on easyJet or Ryanair. You could stroll about without risking the wrath of cabin crews. You only had to arrive half an hour before departure. It just seemed so civilised. Since that first experience, we've visited Ghent a quaint Flemish city with lovely canals and a sleepy feel , Brussels staying in a charming hotel by the Grand Place and Amsterdam to see the art galleries.

All on speedy, lively and highly memorable weekend breaks. But why stop there? I began to look at the high-speed map It was a simple plan, but I couldn't wait to get it started. I was going to explore Europe on its fast trains.

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