Have you ever ridden a train, actually taking in the scenery as you pass through a mountain on those iron tracks? It is a special kind of experience. Especially since there is so much to look at. But suddenly after 90 minutes you’re already where you need to be. What the heck? How did I get here so fast!?
How fast does a train travel? Here in America, Amtrack is the nation’s only high-speed intercity passenger rail provider and operates at speeds up to 150 mph or 241 kilometers per hour (kph). The trains typically operate at speeds of around 100 mph or more. That is very impressive and significantly faster than a highway, but there are trains that move even faster.
When you take a look at some of the other trains out there in different countries, there are some trains that can move significantly faster than the ones we have here in America. Making our trains look like they’re a part of those slow-motion scenes we see in movies. To let you know how fast these trains go we’re going to look at some of these trains and highlight what makes them so cool.
The HSL-1 (High – Speed Line 1) is Belgium’s high-speed train system of choice it has been in service since 1997 and moves at a top speed of 186 mph. It connects from Brussels, Belgium all the way to Paris, France. With the top speed of 186 mph/ 300 kph it only takes this train 90 minutes to reach Paris. That’s 36 miles faster than what we have here.
- Location: Belgium – Brussels to LGV Nord
- Highest speed: 300kph (186mph)
Italy’s ETR 500
The ETR 500 is Italy’s passenger train. The Elettro Treno Rapido 500 (ETR 500) was introduced to Italy’s line system in 1993 to bring faster train systems to Italy. It is the result of the project that was launched in the 1980s by the TREVI (TREno Veloce Italiano, “Italian Fast Train”).
In 1988, TREVI Released a prototype named ETR 500-X that was given the nickname, Remo, after Rome’s first king’s brother. It was tested on the Direttissima rail line and actually reached a speed of 198 mph. In 1990, another prototype was released under the nickname “Romolo” after the first roman king, also known as the ETR 500-Y. Together they were used as test units in between their delivery.
Unfortunately, now even though all three trains are at three different locations, the two prototypes have been covered in graffiti. A sad fate for something so fast.
- Location: Italy – Bologna to Milan
- Highest speed: 300km/h (186mph)
Taiwan’s THSR 700T
The TSHR 700T is a Taiwanese series of high-speed multi-unit trains. This particular train service was released in 2007 between Taipei City and Kaohsiung. The THSR 700T has 12 train car sets total on each train. It also runs on a multi-engine system, in which, 9 out of the 12 cars provides power to the train.
The premise of this Japanese built train is to provide speed and space. As mentioned, these are Japanese built trains and their construction and development are managed by a consortium of three major companies there: Kawasaki heavy industries, Nippon Sharyo, and Hitachi.
Due to the immense power of the three engines, they can go from zero to 186.4 mph in under 15 minutes. That may seem like a long time to reach top speed, but if you think about the size and weight of these trains along with hundreds of passengers on board, that is quite the feat.
During the development of these trains, European safety requirements were adopted to promise enhanced safety features like bi-directional operation, instability detection system, fire and smoke detection, and station stopping control.
Currently there are 30 TSHR 700T in operation under the Taiwan High-speed Rail, each with 1 business class car and 11 standard class cars. The business class offers seating for 66 passengers, and standard class offers 923 seats. A couple of the sweetest features of these cars is that they are soundproof and provide real-time travel information to patients.
Features of the TSHR
- Top speed: 186.4 miles per hour
- Acceleration: 0 to 186.4 mph in 15 minutes
- 12 car sets
- Bi-directional operation
- Instability detection system
- Fire and smoke detectors
- Station stopping control
- Single business class with 66 seats
- 11 standard class cars with 923 seats
France’s SNCF TGV Duplex
The TGV Duplex is literally the fastest train service in France that began its service in December of 2011 and is operated by the SNCF railway company. It is an extremely powerful train system that can reach a max speed of 198.8 mph.
The reason for it be called the TGV duplex is that it is a double-decker train. It is a high-speed train that connects every main city in France and is one of the most comfortable trains in Europe with its double-deck design and 508 passenger seating.
The company that builds the trains is Alstom, and they use a high-quality aluminum for construction of the trains to help reduce the weight and features an eco-friendly design with a 90% recycling rate. As for safety, the passenger compartments of the train are stiff to ensure passenger safety in the event of a collision.
The TGV duplex offers a superb experience and comfortability that rivals some of the best airlines. There are 3 main classes of seating for passengers: standard, first-class, and TGV Pro. The standard class provides comfortable seating, vending machines, and a bar buffet (definitely better than what airlines offer at a standard class).
First-class provides even more comfortable reclining seats, and light for reading while riding. Don’t forget about sockets for plugging in your electrical devices. TGV Pro is where you can get the best training riding experience. You get even more spacious and comfortable seats, newspapers, free Wi-Fi (because we all need internet), magazines, and a complimentary welcome drink! That’s first-class comfort right there.
Features of the SNCF TGV Duplex
- Top speed: 198.8 miles per hour
- Double-deck, high-speed train
- 508 seats in total
- Eco-friendly design
- 90% recyclability rate
- Main classes- standard, first class, and TGV Pro
- Free Wi-Fi
Spain’s Talgo 350
The Talgo 350 is another fast train clocking in at 217.4 mph and runs between Madrid and Barcelona in Spain. The high-speed train is operated by the state-run railway company. This train is a little different in is design and is nicknamed Pato by the riders.
“Pato” is the nickname the train has due to its duckbill appearance on the front of the train. If you don’t know or haven’t figured it out pato means duck in Spanish. Interestingly enough, the duckbill design is to optimize the train to handle pressure waves.
The train has 2 driving cars and 12 passenger cars with 4 different classes of seating: club class, first-class, bistro class, and coach class. Each class offers comfortable seating with recliners and footrests; all passengers also have access to video and audio devices at their seats and real-time travel information panels inside and outside of car sets.
Features of the Talgo 350
- Top speed: 217.4 miles per hour
- 2 driving cars
- 12 passenger cars
- Main classes – club, first, bistro and coach class
- Real-time information panels on car sets
China’s Shanghai Maglev
You can’t have a speed list without including China. China’s Shanghai Maglev is the fastest train in the world, clocking in at speeds of 267.8 mph clearly smoking any other train on this list by a bit and began service on January 1, 2004. The train service is operated by Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Company who runs the magnetic levitation line.
What makes this train so fast? It doesn’t run on wheels! Instead, it floats on a magnetic field that exists between the track and the train.
The train literally does not touch the track at all, and instead an electromagnetic pull allows the train to fly over the tracks to its destination.
If trains could race, this train would definitely smoke all the others, and it’s not even due to just its top speed. Taiwan’s THSR 700T needs 15 minutes to reach its 198-mph top speed. On the other hand, the Shanghai Maglev can go from zero to 267.8 mph in under 4 minutes.
By time the others reached their top speed the Maglev would be too far away for them to even think of seeing it again outside of its destination.
The train runs between Long Yang Road and Pudong International airport. A trip that only takes it 7 minutes and 20 seconds to complete, while the train runs stops every 15 minutes. And the number of passengers it seats at a time is 574.
Features of the Shanghai Maglev
- Top speed: 267.8 miles per hour
- Acceleration: 0 to 267.8 mph in just 4 minutes
- No wheel
- Only commercially operated maglev in the world
- Runs between Long Yang Road and Pudong international airport
- 574 seats in total
Now you have a better idea of how fast trains can move, and in this world as technology progresses, they will get even faster and honestly, these trains can move as fast or even faster than planes can on land. If you want a top 10 list of the fastest trains in the world, check out this website for a good history on each train and a breakdown of their specifications. Thank you for reading and happy travels!