Japan was the first country to introduce high-speed train technology in the '60s with its Shinkansen trains and it has set the benchmark ever since for ultra-rapid train transportation. Other countries have seen the wisdom of implementing a modern train network that can transport its citizens over a long distance and at incredibly high speeds.
France followed Japan’s lead by constructing its Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) rail service in the 1970s and, shortly after, Germany introduced its Intercity-Express (ICE) train network, which uses a magnetic levitation system called Transrapid to propel trains at up to 550km/h. Spain runs the biggest high-speed rail network in Europe with 2800km of track. Not to be outdone, Britain plans to introduce its HS2 phase one in 2026, which will cut the journey time for the 200km Birmingham to London route to just 49 minutes.
China may have been a latecomer to the high-speed train club, but it has made up for lost time by proving how quickly it can implement a high-speed rail service. China now has far-and-away the world’s longest high-speed rail network, with the UIC (the worldwide professional association representing the railway sector) estimating it has almost 24,000km of high-speed rail track in use. The introduction of a modern high-speed rail network has had a transformative effect on Chinese society, with a World Bank study finding that “a broad range of travellers of different income levels choose high-speed rail for its comfort, convenience, safety and punctuality”.
In Australia high-speed rail has never gone beyond the detailed planning stage. It remains one of the great nation-building projects yet to be undertaken. Image of a high-speed train in Beijing, China