INTRO: The race to develop new high-speed trains is slowing down, as railways in Europe and the Far East concentrate on management and service quality. Gordon Pettitt reviews the market, and suggests that international management consortia may offer the best way for rail to present an attractive and cost-effective alternative to the new generation of low-cost airlines

IN THE TWO years since the last survey of the world’s latest high speed rolling stock (RG10.97 p677) orders have been placed for 143 high speed trains. This excludes trains built exclusively for research and prototypes. Key operational data for new designs not covered in the previous article are set out in Table I.

All European trains ordered follow two distinctive trends - all are tilting, and all have distributed power. The most significant order is that from Britain’s Virgin Rail Group, covering 54 tilting trains for delivery between March 2001 and May 2002. Like the IC225 trains for the East Coast main line from London to Leeds and Edinburgh a decade ago, they are due to start running at 200 km/h, rising to 225 km/h from May 2005.

Apart from recent orders placed by the JR Group companies, the Virgin contract is the first for a high speed train fleet from a private operator. The deal includes features that will be of interest to all potential train operators, whether public or private: