The first steam train appeared in 1804. Despite initial concerns regarding the effect of speed on people the train quickly became a popular and practical option to move around a country.
By the 1850s trains were capable of an impressive 80km/h. Today seems pretty slow, especially when you compare it to some of the fastest rail networks in the world. But, as with anything, it’s journey had to start somewhere.
Traveling at high speed is now commonplace but it is important to note that while engineers create trains that can go faster and faster, it’s the railway equipment specialists who are the unsung heroes. They are the ones that ensure the tracks are there to support the trains!
Let’s take a look at the five best high-speed rail networks in the world:
The very first bullet train came into existence in Japan in 1964. The Japanese Railways Group looks after the high-speed train system and has over 3,000km of track extending across the country.
The trains travel at speeds up to 320km/h although test runs have reached a whopping 443km/h and the world record of 603km/h was achieved on these tracks in 2015.
It should come as no surprise that the uber-efficient Germans have created one of the fastest high-speed networks in the world. The first high-speed train entered service in 1991. Today there is approximately 2,000 km of high-speed lines and the trains travel at 300km/h.
It should be noted Germany did suffer a fatal accident on the high-speed line in 1998 which left 101 people dead.
The conventional TGV travels at 320km/h although the TGV has been recorded reaching speeds of 574.8km/h and was, for many years, the fastest train on the planet.
The first French high-speed train ran in 1981 on the LGV Sud-Est. Originally it centered on Paris but the high-speed network now covers all the major cities in France.
Interestingly, there has never been a fatal incident on these high-speed trains, France also leads the world in onboard security systems, they designed the system that is now used around the world.
The Chinese bullet train reaches a top speed of 350km/h and there are in excess of 2,800 trains running every day in China. It has become an essential link across the country, allowing you to get from Beijing to Shanghai in just four and a half hours, that’s impressive considering the two cities are 1,318km apart.
China has been furiously developing high-speed trains and tracks since 2007 and now has the most track of any country in the world.
The final contender on the list is Spain. Their high-speed trains reach 310km/h and first came into existence in 1992. Today they have more high-speed track than any other country in Europe and are second only to China in the world.
This high-speed service also connects through Barcelona to the southern part of France, enabling high-speed travel from Paris to Madrid in a matter of hours.
There is little doubt that high-speed trains are here to stay, the question is how much faster will they get?