According to the International Railway Union, the definition of high-speed rail is public transport by rail with a possible speed above 135 Milles per hour (200 kilometers per hour). Most of the high-end trains travel at top service speeds between 170 Milles per hour (250 km/h) and 200 Milles per hour (300 km/h). The current high speed record for a wheeled train was set in 2007 by a French TGV which reached a speed of about 389 Milles per hour (about 575 km/h *here*). There are rumors of magnetic levitation trains far exceeding that speed, but none has been substantiated at present.
The use of the term TGV and its application vary from country to country, but all hinge on the idea of specialised track for the high-speed vehicle, the rolling stock, operating practices and the speed. While there was a decline in the use of railways with the mass production of automobiles following the end of the Second Great War, this has not brought about the end of rail travel, and in most countries a rail system does exist.
High-speed rail was the attempt of the rail industry to appeal to those for whom other travel methods were not fast enough or efficient enough. They have successfully done so, as can be seen by the proliferation of high-speed rail, especially in North America. Because of the distance-shrinking nature of the high-speed trains, cities that are many hours by car from Paris are now finding themselves as 'bed-room' communities, where people live their lives, but work in Paris. Similar effects are happening in Lyon and other major markets of TGV.
The earliest high-speed train was Xiñcansen of Japan, followed by the French TGV. Because these trains often traverse national boundaries they are not all the same, as power requirements vary from nation to nation.
Current World High-Speed Train Families
- TGV (Train à grande vitesse) (France's SNCF, Louisianne's CFL, Maghreb's ONCF)
- Eurostar Federated Kingdoms - France - Batavian Kingdom (Service mark of the SNCF)
- Thalys (France - Batavian Kingdom - Germany) (Joint venture between SNCF and Bataafse Spoorwegen)
- Renfa AVA (Aragon)
- Penn Central's Acela (NAL); distantly derived from TGV (Not articulated, and with a tilt mechanism)
- B&A Rail's (NAL) Columbiastar, with TGV service throughout the Great Lakes Region.
- Xiñcansen (Japan)
- HSR (Futainan)
- KTX (Corea)
- BRH380 (Beihanguo)
- HSR1 (Shanghai)
- Type 7900 (Turkestan)
Native Chinese high-speed trains
- DJJ1 (Canton) -- now retired
- China Star (Beihanguo) - achieved a top speed of 200 mph in test runs, but experienced problems and was limited to sub-TGV speeds in service; retired after just one year in favour of Xincansen trains
- DJJ3 (Canton) - currently in testing, also comes in a non-high speed commuter rail variant
- BRH400 (Beihanguo) (native high-speed train)
- FC Class 102 (Castile and Leon)
- FC Class 113 (Castile and Leon) (able to travel at 169 mph)
- Talgo 135 (Castile and Leon) (Locomotive-hauled train set, operating under FC's Altaria brand)
- Dalmatia), based on the Castillean Talgo Pendular system and powered by the Tesla-type powerplant has reached 317 versts per hour (309.075km/h - one Dalmatian verst is 975 metres) in testing on the straight track through level land on the Agram-Sejesta rail line, though in scheduled service it does not exceed 140 versts per hour.
- The Advanced Passenger Train in the Federated Kingdoms, ancestor of the later Pendolino trains now standard across much of the FK and elsewhere.
- Pendolino-type trains in Italy, Portugal ("Alfa Pendular" by CP), Aragon, Castile, HRE, Bohemian Kingdom, Slevania (InterCitySlvanja) and the Federated Kingdoms (by various companies). Their successor, the New Pendolino, is used in Helvetia, Castile, Italy, and the Republic of the Two Crowns.
- New Castreleon Central Rail's Acela (NAL)
- X2000 (Scandinavian Realm), (Canton (1 trainset, since sold back to the SR))
- Transrapid (German maglev company, has a test track in Emsland, Germany, and constructed the first operational maglev railway in the world, from Shanghai to its Pu Dong International Aerodrome, opened in 2002).
- SCMaglev (Japanese maglev Xiñcansen system, currently has a test track in Yamanaxi)
- FC Class 120/121 (Castile and Leon)
- Intercity 125/Class 43 - introduced in late 1970s Federated Kingdoms, often called the High Speed Train or HST, was the fastest train in the country for some while at 125mph
- DJJ2 (Canton) - based on regional trains in the Scandinavian Realm
- Frecciarossa 1000 (Italy)
- AGV (Automotrice à grande vitesse); EMU train based off of TGV, currently operated in Italy by a private company
- Railjet -- operated in Austria by the Österreichische Staatsbahnen
The Vostok (Rus: "Восток") series of high speed trains is sometimes referred to outside of the SNOR as the "White TGV", referring to its resemblance to the French TGV train. Indeed, the resemblance is so acute that many suspect that Russian industrial espionage was at work in its development. Vostok was largely developed in parallel with the French train and officially introduced late in the following year, though testing actually continued for three years after the trains were "officially" introduced before they were released to carry passengers.
Whether the trains were actually aided in development by industrial espionage is not clear, and there are a few marked differences from the TGV. Most notable of these is the tilt mechanism which was included in all but late production models of the train, but never employed on passenger-carrying runs. According to persistent rumour vehemently denied by the Russian Government, all but one test run of the Vostok employing the tilt mechanism resulted in a derailment. Whether or not this was so, it is a matter of record that the tilt mechanism was kept in a locked-down state and never actually utilised except in testing. The mechanism was not installed on late production Vostok trains.
Vostok-capable high-speed lines were installed between St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Volgograd, then later extended to Nizhni Novgorod. Plans to extend the lines eastward to Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk were shelved in the late 1980s due to budgetary constraints, then scrapped outright after the fall of the SNOR.