In Asia and Europe, super-fast locomotives are comparable to air travel in price and door-to-door speed.
Across Asia and Europe, high-speed rail is providing a competitive alternative to air travel on the same routes, in terms of price and the all-important barometer of time. Put that together with the environmental benefits that flow from not burning jet fuel, and staying on the ground begins to make more sense for travelers who would otherwise trudge to the airport.
The new rail industry is seeing its most vibrant growth in China, which also has the world’s largest high-speed network, the fastest trains and the greatest ambitions for future expansion.
One of the world’s busiest routes, Beijing to Shanghai, features the new domestically built Fuxing high-speed train, now with a top allowed speed of 218 miles per hour (351 kilometers per hour). That speed increase cut the 775-mile (1,247 kilometer) trip to 4 hours, 28 minutes on a route that has about 100 million rail passengers annually, according to Chinese news service Xinhua.
China zooms into the future
In 2015, 910 million Chinese traveled by all forms of rail-more than twice the 415.4 million who flew, according to the journal article.
Japan’s high-speed shinkansen, or bullet trains, date to the 1960s and have become a staple of domestic travel, with speeds of about 199 mph (320 km), making for a 2 1/2 hour trip between Tokyo and Osaka, one of the most heavily trafficked routes.
In Europe, the Eurostar high-speed rail from London to Paris and Brussels served 10 million riders last year, the fourth since it first topped that mark. The service began in November 1994 and drew 2.9 million passengers the following year. Current Eurostar fares begin at 29 pounds ($39), down from initial fares of 79 pounds in the system’s early days.
On the Paris-Bordeaux line, high speed rail is “by far the most competitive travel offer with a real traffic growth of 70 percent since its launch in July,” the French railway SNCF said in an emailed statement. “In November, we reached 82 percent of the Paris-Bordeaux travel market share,” SNCF official Rachel Picard said. “This high speed benefits all customers, including professional travelers whose number has doubled compared to 2016.”
France continues expanding their national network