Intercity Express Trains Across The World

High Speed rail travel outside the UK

Rail travel has existed for nearly five hundred years, the first modern rail travel system dates back to 1820s. In the 1820s England began to use a steam locomotive which continued to be a principal form of land transport for the next hundred years. Prior to this there were forms of transportation dating from around 600BC which in some ways resembled rail transport methods of modern times. These ancient vehicles were pulled by men and animals, the reason they are thought to be ancient predecessors of modern rail vehicles is that they ran along grooves carved in limestone which is similar to the track element which is a distinguishing element of rail travel.

High Speed rail development began in 1903 when a speed of 203km/per hour was achieved by an electrical railcar in Germany. Over time technological and mechanical advances have increased the speed and convenience of rail travel all over the world. High Speed Rail Travel, also known as HSR is a type of rail travel that is much faster than traditional forms of rail transportation.

It’s already in use in the UK on the HS1 routes in South East England, while the IEP routes up the East Coast and towards the west of the UK from London will soon be seeing high speed trains too.

In the UK the maximum speed is limited by tracks, but in other countries the top speed can be approximately 300km/per hour. The term HSR normally applies to any existing rail services that are capable of travelling at 200km/per hour or more and new rail services that have a top speed of at least 250km/per hour.

The benefits of HSR services are becoming widely recognised. Claims have been made that High Speed Rail travel is in fact faster than air travel, planes are of course capable of reaching higher speeds than HSR vehicles but it has been argued that the lengthy boarding procedures that can be associated with flying mean that HSR travel is sometimes a more time efficient option.

​Looking well into the future it’s the so-called supersonic speed Hyperloop which will be attracting attention – a conceptual high-speed transport system originally put forward by Tesla founder Elon Musk. It incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors, allowing for speeds of more than 1,200 km/h.

But for now we need to take a look at the high speed systems already in use across the world:​

High Speed Rail Travel ~ Japan

Japan’s Maglev currently holds the world speed record for conventional high speed rail. Maglev is a system that uses magnetic levitation rather than wheels, axles and bearings. It is said that Maglev trains require less maintenance than traditional rail vehicles and that they run in a smoother and quieter fashion.

This form of high speed rail travel has a highest recorded speed of 581km/per hour. There are currently two commercial Maglev systems that are operational.

​The Maglev may be fast, but a better known name is the Shinkansen, the Japanese Bullet Train. It was as early as 1964 – during the summer Olympics of that year – that bullet trains were running at speeds of 210 km/h. The newest version runs at a maximum speed of 320 km/h.

High Speed Rail Travel ~ France

The French High Speed Rail service TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse ) which first appeared in 1981 is one that held the record for the fastest wheeled train, although this record was temporarily surpassed by the Chinese Harmony Express.

The TGV service stops at 149 different destinations and travels at a speed of up to 320km/ per hour. The trains operate all over France and also offer connections to other countries such as Switzerland, Italy and Belgium. The most popular TGV route runs from Paris to Milan four times a day.

Much effort has been spent on ensuring that the French High Speed Rail service is environmentally friendly and luxurious, combined with the fact that the services are also fast and economical means that TVG is considered to be a viable alternative to flying throughout the region it services.

​The latest version – known as the AGV – reportedly hit a speed of 574 km/h (356 mph) way back in 2007, well over its normal running speed of 320 km/h.


High Speed Rail Travel ~ China

The CRH (China Railway High-speed) is the high speed rail travel system that is operational in China. High speed rail services in China became operational in 2007. China has invested a large amount of funds into it’s HSR system during recent years, this has resulted in a HSR system that is said to be more convenient than flying and more comfortable than buses and other common modes of transportation.

Chinas first official HSR was launched in 2008. Recently the Beijing to Shanghai rail trip is being served by Velaro trains that run at 380km/hr, while the fastest test run clocked in at a reported 480km/h plus.

High Speed Rail Travel ~ Germany

The monorail was invented by a German engineer named Eugen Langen. A monorail is a rail based transportation system, however unlike many other rail based systems this form of rail travel operates using only one rail. The Maglev systems that were built by Germany’s Transrapid are straddle-type monorails, they allow rapid deceleration from high speeds and are very stable.

The current High Speed Rail Travel network that operates in Germany is called ICE, a name that’s well recognised especially by German commuters. The trains connect German cities at hourly intervals and outside links to neighbouring areas are also available. ICE 4 is the latest version and is expected to be appearing regularly on German tracks in 2017.

High Speed Rail Travel ~ Taiwan

Taiwans HSR service is a recently developed fifteen billion dollar network is evidence that a lot of countries are embracing high speed trains as an efficient and economic form of transport. A ticket to ride on Taiwan s trains costs less than a plane ticket and the comfort and speed provided compares favourably with airline travel options.


High Speed Rail Travel ~ Italy

In 2011 twenty-five million passengers travelled via Italy s High Speed Rail services. Italian HSR consists of two rail service that connect nearly all of the countries major cities. The two currently operational High Speed Rail networks operating in Italy are Trenitalia and NTV. The first Italian HSR line was launched in 1977 and consisted of rail vehicles capable of travelling at 250km/ per hour.


The arrival of the IEP train has been a long time coming. The very first decision to replace the ailing Intercity 125 fleet was made as far back as 2005, when a plan was put in place to award the contract, procure the trains and have them in full service by the early part of 2015 on both the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line.

With delays of three years on the programme, it’s now going to be the 4th quarter of 2017 before we see the IEP in passenger service, and 2018 before all intended routes are covered.

But all the indications are that the wait will have been worth it. Passengers can expect faster trains, improved comfort and reliability, and most definitely increased capacity.

With a lot of money at stake – the deal with Agility Trains is worth £5.7 billion over the course of the contract – it’s imperative that the IEP Intercity Express project does actually end up with the promised passenger benefits.

GWR with their version known as the Intercity Express running on the GWML, and Virgin Trains with their Azuma on the ECML, are both heavily invested and look sure to be putting every effort into a successful service introduction.

Pin It on Pinterest