Taking the high speed route

Different countries naturally have different needs, which is also true when it comes to transport. This has meant that the development and build of high speed rail varies throughout the world. Here, we take a look at the situation in Japan, China, the US and the UK

In 1957, the Odakyu Electric Railway in Greater Tokyo launched its Romancecar 3000 SE, which set a world record for narrow gauge trains at 145 km/h (90 mph), giving birth to the idea of high speed rail. Japan’s Tokaidoō Shinkansen, which opened in October 1964, was the world’s first contemporary high volume capable (initially 12 car maximum) high-speed train. At that time the trains already ran at about 200 km/h. Nowadays they reach speeds of 300 km/h.
In Europe, high-speed rail started during the International Transport Fair in Münich in June 1965, when DB Class 103 hauled a total of 347 demonstration trains at 200 km/h between Münich and Augsburg. The first regular service at this speed was the TEE “Le Capitole” between Paris and Toulouse with specially adapted SNCF Class BB 9200 locomotives.

The Tokaido Shinkansen, connecting Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, was inaugurated in 1964 as the first shinkansen line and the world’s first high speed train service. It travels between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka at a maximum speed of 270km/h in as short as two hours and 25 minutes. There are currently three types of Tokaido Shinkansen services, the Nozomi, Hikari, and the Kodama (the stations at which these three services stop differ), and JR Central operates three types of rolling stock which it has developed; the Series 300, the Series 700 and the Series N700.
The extension of the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Hakata Station in Fukuoka was completed by 1975. The southern half of the Kyushu Shinkansen, connecting Yatsushiro with Kagoshima, was inaugurated in March 2004. The northern half from Yatsushiro to Hakata is scheduled to be completed in 2010.
The first north bound lines, the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Morioka and the Joetsu Shinkansen to Niigata, were completed in 1982. Since then, the following further lines have been put into service: the Yamagata Shinkansen from Fukushima to Shinjo, the Akita Shinkansen from Morioka to Akita, the Nagano Shinkansen from Takasaki to Nagano and the extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen from Morioka to Hachinohe. Currently under construction are the further extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen to Aomori, as well as the extension of the Nagano Shinkansen to Kanazawa.
Throughout its years of commercial train operations, the Tokaido Shinkansen has maintained a flawless record of no passenger fatalities or injuries due to train accidents such as derailment or collision. While operating 323 ultra-high speed services a day that run at 270km/h, the service has maintained reliability with an average delay of just 0.6 minutes, as well as a high level of safety.

China has the world’s longest high speed rail network with about 6,500km (4,000 miles) of routes in service, including 3,676km (2,295 miles) of rail lines with top speeds of 350km/h (220mph) and 2,876km (1,795 miles.) with speeds up to 250km/h (155mph). Some 10,000 km of rail tracks are capable of carrying trains travelling at speeds of at least 200 km/h. These include upgraded conventional lines, high speed passenger designated lines (PDLs), and the world’s first high-speed commercial magnetic levitation (maglev) line. With funding from the Chinese government’s economic stimulus program, the country will, by 2013, have the world’s most comprehensive high-speed railway network and 800 bullet trains. By 2020, it expects to have 75,000 miles of railway.
In December last year, China opened the world’s fastest rail link, between Wuhan and southern Guangzhou. A bullet train can cover the 664-mile journey in three hours, down from 10.5 hours. Other notable examples of high-speed train services include the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, an intercity express line that covers 117km (73 miles) in 30 minutes, reaching top speeds of 330 kilometres per hour (210 mph) and averaging 234km/h (145 mph); and the Shanghai Maglev Train, an airport rail link that travels 30.5km (19mi.) in 7 minutes and 20 seconds, averaging 245.5km/h (152.5mph) and reaching top speed of 431km/h (268mph).
One of the big projects coming up is a high-speed link between Beijing and Shanghai. It is expected to double the capacity of the current line to 80 million passengers a year and cut travel time to four hours from 10.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is awarding US$8 billion (€6bn) to states across the country to develop America’s first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.
“Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created, putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and waterways for the future,” said President Obama. “That investment is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high speed rail lines, because there’s no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America.”
The funds will serve as a down payment on developing or laying the groundwork for 13 new, large-scale high speed rail corridors across the country. The major corridors are part of a total of 31 states receiving investments, including smaller projects and planning work that will help lay the groundwork for future high-speed intercity rail service. The grants are not only expected to have an up-front job and economic impact, but help spur economic growth in communities across the country, provide faster and more energy-efficient means of travel, and establish a new industry in the US that provides stable, well-paid jobs.
This historic $8 billion investment is expected to create or save tens of thousands of jobs over time in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering, and rail maintenance and operations. Over 30 rail manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, have agreed to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if they are hired to build America’s next generation high-speed rail lines – a commitment the Administration secured to help ensure new jobs are created here at home.
“The President’s bold vision for high-speed rail is a game changer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “It’s not only going to create good jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing base, it’s also going to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and help create livable communities. I have no doubt that building the next generation of rail service in this country will help change our society for the better.”
The majority of the funds will go toward developing new, large-scale high speed rail programs. This includes projects in Florida, which is receiving up to $1.25 billion to develop a new high-speed rail corridor between Tampa and Orlando with trains running up to 168 miles per hour, and in California, which is receiving up to $2.25 billion for its planned project to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco and points in between with trains running up to 220 miles per hour.

In January 2009, the UK Government established High Speed Two Ltd (HS2 Ltd) to consider the options for a new high speed rail network in Britain, starting with a costed and deliverable proposal for a new line from London to Birmingham. HS2 Ltd’s report concludes that there is a strong business case for a new London to Birmingham line, and sets out detailed recommendations for the design of its route, together with a range of options for how it might be extended to serve other conurbations.

The government has evaluated these proposals in respect of their costs and benefits for enhancing capacity and connectivity in a sustainable way, which is its key strategic objective for inter-city transport. As part of its analysis, it has also considered other realistic options for meeting the UK’s inter-urban capacity needs over the next 30 years, including carrying out a detailed analysis of the potential costs and benefits of major improvements to existing rail and road networks.
In comparison to other European nations, Britain’s economic geography is tightly packed, with relatively short distances between its major cities, especially in the Midlands and the North. Journey times and capacity between the UK’s four largest conurbations – London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – could be transformed by a Y-shaped high speed rail network of around just 335 miles of high speed track, capable of carrying trains at up to 250 miles per hour.

The benefits of this initial Y-shaped network would not be limited only to travellers from the four cities directly situated on the high speed line. By including stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, connectivity and capacity would be increased to other key cities and regions. Additional destinations, including Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh, would be reached directly by high speed trains from the outset, by building in the links necessary for trains to continue
 at conventional speed onto the East and West Coast Main Lines. The most significant capacity benefits of this network would be felt on the three principal rail corridors heading north from London, and particularly the critical London-West Midlands corridor, whose rail capacity would be more than trebled.

The very high capacity of the new line would be achieved both through its dedicated use for high speed operations, allowing an intensive service pattern, and through the use of longer (and larger) trains of up to 400 metres (compared to the current 207-metre Pendolinos currently in service on the West Coast Main Line). By transferring long distance services to the high speed line, significant amounts of capacity would also be released on the existing West Coast Main Line for commuter and freight trains, including services to key areas of housing growth around Milton Keynes and Northampton.

A Y-shaped core high speed rail network yields similar increases in capacity on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines. Long-distance services to the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Leeds would switch to the new network, as well as the southern portion of journeys to Newcastle and Edinburgh. All these lines are expected to experience significant capacity constraints over the next 20 to 30 years.

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