A Look at High-Speed Trains

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high speed trains in Japan

Trains are awesome! Attention Hyper Speed sign for a train

Really, really fast fast trains are even more awesome!  A train is considered a high-speed train if it travels at speeds of over 200 km/h (124 mph) and is used for normal transportation purposes. They also generally have multi-powered elements.

The list of high-speed trains include:

  • French Corail
  • German IC trains
  • Amtrak’s Northeast Regional

Unconventional trains, such as maglev and transrapid (and prototypes) are not considered high-speed trains. Apparently, they are so fast they are something else entirely.

Fun Fact: A Japan Railway maglev train hit 603 kilometers per hour (374 miles per hour) on an experimental track in Yamanashi in October 2016, breaking its own previously set world record. That’s nearly 20 football fields in the time it took you to read the last two sentences. WOW!

Europe has a lot of High-Speed Trainsa wheel on a high-speed train

Many European high-speed trains are included in the Eurail passes. As these trains offer more comfort and service than regional trains.

For example, the high-speed Eurostar is the best option for a trip to London from Brussels or Paris. With short travel times, this train will transport you via the Channel Tunnel to the heart of London. You will also travel under water!

Belgium, the Netherlands and France are part of Europe’s 26-nation Schengen passport-free area, where ID checks on travelers do not usually take place. However, Belgium sealed an agreement last month with France and the Netherlands to draw up passenger lists and introduce passport checks to tighten security and help rack criminals who might be using them.

Related: Travel in Style on the World’s Most Luxurious Trains

Asian Countries Have Cornered the Market on High-Speed Trains

Like mentioned early, a Japanese train currently holds the world record of fastest train. This particular train is expected to begin service in 2027.

Currently China operates the world’s fastest commercial maglev, which has hit 431 kilometers per hour (268 miles per hour) on a route through Shanghai. Click here to watch it in action.
By contrast, the fastest train in the United States is Amtrak’s Acela Express. It can only reach a speed of 241 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour), but is usually operates at only have that speed.

Why doesn’t the US have more high-speed trains?

According to an op-ed article by CNN, several other countries have raised the money to invest in bullet trains, but it’s unlikely the United States will ever see the vast network of high-speed trains that blanket other countries.

Michael Smart, the article’s author, thinks there are several reasons for this:

  • The US is too geographically vast. Cities are far enough apart that air travel provides significant time savings, even compared to some of the fastest trains.
  • The layout and mass-transit in the cities matter. If you can’t easily get a cab or subway to your destination within a city (once you arrive by train), it might not be that convenient.
  • Lack of Federal Government support. This leaves the states in control. Since a high-speed train route would travel across several states (For example, NYC to Boston to Washington DC) you have to get everyone to play nice together.

Conversely, projects that are contained within a single state are happening:

  • California has plans for a high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  • Dallas-to-Houston line promises 205 mph service in 2021 without a single dollar from the taxpayer.
  •  A Miami-to-Orlando line (with a speed of 125 mph) funded by a  private company and is expected to begin in construction this year.

Have you every ridden on a high-speed train?

We want to hear about your experience? Was it awesome?

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