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World Speed Survey 2005: The ones that got away!

01 Mar 2006

MISSING a train can be traumatic, but sometimes there is a remedy. Missing the 8.55 Sunlander from Brisbane to Cairns in Queensland is no problem: the 11.00 Rockhampton Tilt overtakes it several hours down the track. Similarly, trains that were missed in my World Speed Survey 2005 (RG 11.05 p699) can now be caught.

Fortunately, Table I entries appear correct, no errors having so far been pointed out in the listing of fastest runs at 150 km/h and above. In Table II, notable runs at 120 km/h or more, the 2 h31 min timing of Eurostar 9027 between Paris and London was queried by Gordon Pettitt. This proved to be a timetable error. It takes 2 hr36 min, but other schedules in both directions at 2 h35 min give a best speed of 191·3 km/h.

The fastest journeys in other countries listed in Table III require the most significant changes. Far from lagging behind Yugoslavia's best of 109·2 km/h in 1989, Croatia has a scheduled 15 min timing for tilting DMU train 550 Slavonija over the 32·9 km between Strizivojna-Vrpolje and Slavonski Brod on the 160 km/h Vinkovci - Novska main line, averaging 131·6 km/h. Missed from the survey but corrected by Toma Bacic of Zagreb, this raises Croatia from 37th to 23rd place in the world.

Thanks to detailed research by D niel Gy”rgy Kemény of Hungary into websites and SNCB sources, Belgium moves from 24th to 21st place with 16 trains averaging 132 km/h over the 72·6 km between Liège Guillemins and Leuven. The schedule allows a dwell time of 2 min at Leuven, a little too short for travellers to sample a glass of Stella Artois. Belgium's second fastest, as at August 2005 and also missed by your researcher, are two ICE trains, one in each direction, between Brussels Nord and Liège, 101·3 km in 48 min at 126·6 km/h. Since then there have been further schedule changes, and a replacement station at Liège is under construction 600m further east.

The Table III entry for Hungary was in fact the 2003 schedule missed from that year's survey. It has since been decelerated. With a timing of 23 min and the distance corrected to 46·8 km, Hungary falls from 19th to 24th place with only 122·1 km/h between Hegyeshalom and Gy”r.

Realignments on Austria's Westbahn have shortened the Linz to St P”lten distance to 122·65 km. Even allowing a 1 min dwell time of which I was unaware, the start-to-stop speed of ICE (not EC) 787, falls to 138·8 km/h. However, D niel Kemény points out that, since the survey, four other trains have been scheduled to cover this section in 48 min, bringing Austria back into the Premier League at 153·3 km/h.

Dwell time is the cause of another 'one that got away'. In Slovakia, although the entry for EuroCity trains from Nové Z mky to Bratislava was correct, Michal M lek points out that trains in the other direction average 107·1 km/h, taking only 51 min for the 91 km with a 2 min dwell time at Nové Z mky. He also explained that, in the current Czech Railways timetable, the fastest stretch is between Breclav and Otrokovice, where two pairs of year-round EuroCity trains (EC130 and EC104) cover 72 km in 37 min at an average of 116·8 km/h. Express 530/531 between Ostrava-Svinov and Prerov, listed as fastest in the speed review, in fact holds second place at 115·6 km/h. The introduction of the fleet of Alstom Class 680 Pendolino trainsets will probably lift the Czech Republic higher in the list.

Peter Badcock of the Netherlands has a special interest in Eritrean railways, and informs me that the distance between Asmara and Nefasit, from the original survey, is only 24·6 km. The current Sundays-only service, running only if 10 or more passengers are present, still maintains Eritrea's 5th from last position, at a slightly reduced speed!

In addition to the correspondents named above, I am grateful for assistance from John Heaton in checking these details.