In the face of climate change, short-haul flights are losing their appeal among travelers. The flight shame phenomenon, known as flygskam, which originated in Scandinavia, has prompted many individuals to seek alternatives to air travel. Among these alternatives, high-speed Fastest Trains stands out as the most efficient option for journeys up to 700 miles, offering a compelling combination of speed and convenience. Unlike unproven concepts like Hyperloop, high-speed rail has a proven track record and has seen substantial investments across Europe and Asia since the 1980s.
1: Shanghai Maglev – 460 kph/286 mph (China)
The Shanghai Maglev, the world’s fastest public train, is a unique transportation system that employs magnetic levitation (Maglev) instead of conventional steel wheels on steel rails. With a maximum commercial speed of 460 kph, it completes the 30-kilometer journey between Shanghai’s Pudong airport and Longyang Road station in just seven and a half minutes. Based on German technology, the Maglev trains glide along an elevated track, offering passengers a super-smooth, friction-free ride. China has now developed its own Maglev trains capable of reaching 600 kph (373 mph) and has ambitious plans for expanding its Maglev network, including a line between Shanghai and Hangzhou.
2: CR400 ‘Fuxing’ – 350 kph/217 mph (China)
China not only boasts the longest high-speed rail network in the world but also operates the fastest scheduled globally. The CR400 “Fuxing”, with a commercial maximum speed of 350 kph, has even achieved a remarkable 420 kph (260 mph) during tests. Representing China’s booming railway technology industry, these have evolved from previous generations of high-speed based on imported European and Japanese technology. With up to 16 cars and a maximum capacity of 1,200 passengers, the CR400 offers various innovative features, such as at-seat entertainment, smart glass displays, wireless device charging, and even specialized variants designed for extreme weather conditions and autonomous operation.
3: ICE3 – 330 kph/205 mph (Germany)
Germany’s InterCity Express (ICE) brand encompasses a diverse range of fast trains deployed across numerous routes. Among them, the ICE3 stands out as the fastest member, reaching speeds of 330 kph (205 mph). These trains, in service since 1999, were specifically designed for the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed line, reducing travel time between the two cities from two and a half hours to just 62 minutes. The ICE3’s normal operating speed is 300 kph (186 mph), but it can reach 330 kph when running late. Powered by 16 electric motors distributed throughout the eight-car train, the ICE3 boasts an impressive 11,000 horsepower. Operating across Germany and internationally, these trains have also served as the basis for the Siemens “Velaro” family of high-speed trains.
4: TGV – 320 kph/198.5 mph (France)
France holds the longstanding world speed record for conventional, an astonishing 574.8 kph (357 mph), achieved on April 3, 2007. The Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) system, recognized globally as a pioneer of high-speed rail technology, operates at speeds of up to 320 kph (198.5 mph) on select routes. France’s high-speed network radiates from Paris, connecting cities such as Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Strasbourg, Lille, Brussels, and London. Over the past four decades, the TGV has undergone.
5- JR East E5 – 320 kph/200 mph (Japan)
Japan, known for its innovative Shinkansen lines, introduced the world to high-speed railways in 1964. Among these, the E5 “Bullet Trains” operated by Japan Railways East (JR East) stand out. Running on the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, these trains reach speeds of up to 320 kph (200 mph). With 731 seats and 32 electric induction motors providing 12,900 horsepower, the E5s are built for performance. The trains feature active suspension and a unique long nose design that reduces sonic booms when entering tunnels at high speeds.
6- ‘Al Boraq’ 320 kph/198.5 mph (Morocco)
Africa’s first dedicated high-speed railway, ‘Al Boraq,’ connects Tangier with Casablanca in Morocco. This initial phase of Morocco’s planned 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) high-speed network utilizes French-built TGV Euroduplex trains. These trains operate at speeds of up to 320 kph (200 mph) on a dedicated 186-kilometer (116-mile) line between Tangier and Kenitra. The project, costing $2 billion, also included an upgrade of the existing Rabat-Casablanca section, reducing travel time from 4 hours 45 minutes to just 2 hours 10 minutes. Future expansions aim to shorten the journey to a mere 90 minutes.
7- AVE S-103 – 310 kph/193 mph (Spain)
Spain joined the high-speed club in 1992, importing TGV technology from France. Since then, it has developed its own superfast trains, building Europe’s longest network of dedicated long-distance lines. Operating under the name AVE (Alta Velocidad Espana, meaning High-Speed Spain), these trains typically reach speeds of 310 kph (193 mph). The S-102 Talgo and S-103 “Velaro” trains, with a seating capacity of 404, are the pride of the fleet. The S-103s, certified for a maximum speed of 350 kph (217 mph), once set a world record of 404 kph (251 mph) for an unmodified commercial passenger train. AVE has transformed long-distance travel across Spain, with ongoing expansion plans.
8- KTX 305 kph/190 mph (South Korea)
South Korea has rapidly expanded its high-speed rail network since 2004, bypassing slower and less competitive conventional lines. KTX trains, which can reach speeds of up to 330 kph (205 mph), are a prominent feature of this network. The Seoul-Busan route, served by first-generation KTX-I trains based on French TGV technology, now takes just two hours and 15 minutes instead of over four hours. South Korea has also developed a train capable of running at over 420 kph (260.4 mph), joining the ranks of France, Japan, and China. The latest trains utilize domestic technology, ensuring a comfortable and efficient travel experience.
9 – Trenitalia ETR1000 – 300 kph/186 mph (Italy)
Italian State Railways introduced the stunning Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) high-speed trains in 2017 to compete with a new private rival. Designed for a maximum speed of 400 kph (250 mph), these trains feature a streamlined design, 10,000 horsepower, and electrifying performance. While authorized for 360 kph (224 mph) in passenger service, one train reached a remarkable 394 kph (245 mph) during testing. With comfortable seating options ranging from standard to executive, the Frecciarossa services cover Italy’s high-speed network, connecting major cities such as Turin, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, and Naples. These trains have significantly transformed inter-city travel in Italy.
10- Haramain High-Speed Railway – 300 kph/186 mph (Saudi Arabia)
Saudi Arabia’s Haramain High-Speed Railway (HHR) defies extreme heat and sandstorms to link the holy cities of Mecca and Medina at speeds of up to 300 kph (186 mph). The 450-kilometer (279-mile) journey takes only two hours, thanks to 35 specially modified Talgo trains from Spain designed to operate in desert conditions of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Each train consists of 13 cars, accommodating 417 passengers in economy and business class. With an annual capacity of 60 million passengers, HHR experiences its highest demand during the Hajj pilgrimage, transporting over two million Muslims efficiently between Medina and Mecca.
These high-speed trains have not only shortened travel times but also revolutionized the way people move across continents. They represent the pinnacle of engineering, combining speed, efficiency, and passenger comfort. With ongoing advancements in rail technology, the future holds the promise of even faster and more efficient journeys.