INTRO: Finding ways to fund high speed services is one of the toughest issues facing delegates to the Eurailspeed congress. Read on for a guide to high speed plans and projects worldwide

AS DELEGATES gather in Berlin at the end of this month for the Eurailspeed 98 congress, there is every sign that development of high speed trains and railways will continue rapidly in the first decade of the 21st century. Our reports on the following pages bring readers up to date with the latest developments ranging from the production build of JR Central’s Series 700 sets to the prototype Sokol unit starting tests in Russia - although whether production Sokols will really be built is far from certain. To set the scene, here is an at-a-glance guide to what is happening where.

Our assessment makes clear that the search is on to find cheaper ways of cutting journey times. Funding new lines is as much a challenge as ever, and increasingly the risk is being transferred to the private sector, as in Taiwan and with Speedrail in Australia. Financial pressures also explain the popularity of high-speed tilting trains, now in use, on test, or on order for railways in 15 countries.

Australia. This month Queensland Railways launches its tilting EMU service between Brisbane and Rockhampton, putting QR into the 160 km/h league with Countrylink in New South Wales which has been operating 160 km/h XPTs since 1982. QR announced on September 2 that two 10-car diesel tilting trains are to be built for services between Brisbane and Cairns. Including sleeping cars, they will be supplied by Evans Deakins Industries’ Walkers subsidiary in Maryborough which worked with Hitachi on the EMU version.

The long-touted project to build a high-speed line between Sydney and Canberra took a step forward in September with the selection of the Speedrail TGV consortium for a 30-year BOT concession, but hurdles remain including a ’confirmation’ review by a federal and state government committee; the requirement for ’no net cost to taxpayers’ is also likely to prove a tough discipline.

China. The Ministry of Railways is aiming to start work on the first test section of the Beijing - Shanghai high speed line during 2000. One possibility could see the project receive Japanese financing.

The X2000 Xinshisu tilting trainset leased from Adtranz for two years entered service between Guangzhou and Kowloon on August 28, and Chinese Railways is looking to develop locally-built tilting trains for use in the mountainous southwest. Following trials with a loco-hauled formation at 246 km/h on the Beijing - Zhengzhou main line in June, a prototype 200 km/h EMU from Puzhen rolling stock works is due to start running during 1999.

Czech Republic. CD is now expecting to take delivery on April 15 1999 of the first of 10 Integral Class 680 tilting EMUs for operation between Berlin, Praha and Wien in conjunction with DB and ÖBB. Ordered in August 1995 from a consortium of CKD Praha, MSV, Fiat and Siemens, the 230 km/h seven-car sets are locally-assembled Pendolino derivatives with Siemens traction equipment. The first set was supposed to roll out at the end of 1997 for testing, with the remaining nine due to enter service in 1999-2000. Upgrading of CD routes for 160 km/h is in hand, but with no high-speed lines envisaged before 2010 the trains are only likely to reach their top speed in Germany.

Finland. Two S220 Pendolino prototypes which have been in service for two years are to be followed by an initial build of eight production sets. VR announced at the end of last year that it was exercising part of its option for up to 23 sets; they will be built by Fiat rather than Rautaruukki.

France. Construction work is forging ahead on TGV Méditerranée between Valence, Marseille and Montpellier, but despite all the go-aheads the Paris - Strasbourg TGV Est still awaits a satisfactory financial package. This means that development of the 360 km/h TGV Nouvelle Génération prototype power car has been further delayed, and is now expected to appear in 2000 in the new guise of MX100. Two tilting test trains are gracing French metals: one is a Sud-Est TGV set refitted by Alstom, and the other is Bombardier’s Axis, an ex-RTG intended to prove the tilt systems for the trains which the group is to build for the Virgin CrossCountry business in Britain.

Germany. Following the launch of commercial services on DB’s third Neubaustrecken between Berlin and Hannover on September 27, work is getting under way on two more routes. Construction of the K