High-speed rail

High-speed rail (HSR) is a type of rail system that runs significantly faster than traditional rail, using an integrated system of specialised rolling stock and dedicated tracks. While there is no single standard that applies worldwide, lines built to handle speeds above 250 km/h (155 mph) or upgraded lines in excess of 200 km/h (124 mph) are widely considered to be high-speed.[1] The first high-speed rail system, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, began operations in Japan in 1964 and was widely known as the bullet train.[2]

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen high-speed line in Japan, with Mount Fuji in the background. The Tokaido Shinkansen, which connects the cities of Tokyo and Osaka, was the world's first high-speed rail line.

High-speed trains mostly operate on standard gauge tracks of continuously welded rail on grade-separated rights of way with large radii. However, certain regions with wider legacy railways, including Russia and Uzbekistan, have sought to develop a high speed railway network in Russian gauge. There are no narrow gauge high-speed trains; the fastest is the Cape gauge Spirit of Queensland at 160 km/h (99 mph).[3][4]

Many countries have developed, or are currently building, high-speed rail infrastructure to connect major cities, including Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Laos, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uzbekistan. Only in Europe and Asia does high-speed rail cross international borders.[5]

A Frecciarossa 1000 in Italy on the Florence to Rome line. This was the first high speed line in Europe.

High-speed rail is the fastest and most efficient ground-based method of commercial transportation, however due to requirements for large track curves, gentle gradients and grade separated track the construction of high-speed rail is more costly than conventional rail and therefore does not always present an economical advantage over conventional speed rail. China currently accounts for over two-thirds of the world's total high speed rail, with over 37,900 km (23,500 mi) of high speed rail on their networks.[6]


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