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World Speed Survey 1997

01 Oct 1997

Japan's railways have wrested back the record

JAPAN's railways have wrested back the record for the world's fastest scheduled passenger trains, which they first won in 1965 but lost to France in 1983 following the launch of TGV services between Paris and Lyon.

According to a survey in the October 1997 issue of Railway Gazette International, the blue riband is now held by the West Japan Railway, whose latest Series 500 shinkansen 'bullet trains' cover the 192 km (119.3 miles) between Hiroshima and Kokura at a start-to-stop average speed of 261.8 km/h (162.7 mph).

Railway Gazette's unique survey of the world's fastest train services has appeared every two years since 1975. Compiled by Dr Colin Taylor from the University of Queensland, it involves a comprehensive analysis of the fastest advertised start-to-stop timings between many different pairs of stations throughout the world.

Undisputed champion for the past 15 years, France's TGV has slipped back to second place, with a fastest timing of 254.3 km/h (158 mph) between Lille Europe and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport. Climbing rapidly to third place this year are the European cross-border high-speed trains, such as Thalys between France and Belgium, Eurostar between Britain and France, and Cisalpino between Italy and Switzerland.

Spain slips from third to fourth place, after its dramatic entry into the top ranks in 1993 with the opening of the AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) high-speed line between Madrid and Sevilla. And despite this year's launch of fast Berlin - Hamburg services reviving the name of the Fliegender Hamburger, which held the world's fastest train title in the 1930s, Germany can only achieve fifth place, just below the 200 km/h average.

Britain's railways remain in sixth place, with two operators competing for the fastest timings: Great North Eastern Railway between London and Edinburgh and Great Western on the London - Bristol corridor. Despite the managerial disruption caused by privatisation, GNER has boosted the best British performance from 171.1 km/h in 1993 to 180.2 km/h (112 mph) in 1997 for its fastest London - York timing.

For the first time, Railway Gazette's 1997 survey includes details of the fastest published train times for every country in the world operating scheduled passenger services. This reveals that the world's slowest 'fastest train' operates in Eritrea, at an average speed of just 18 km/h (11.2 mph). Surprisingly high in the rankings are Poland (13th), China (15th) and Saudi Arabia (16th).

World Rail Speed Survey 1997 - The Top Table

Railways with at least one average timing above 120 km/h (75 mph)

  Country From To Distance
1 Japan Hiroshima Kokura 192.0 44 261.8
2 France Lille Europe Roissy-CDG 203.4 48 254.3
3 International Paris Nord Mons 281.6 80 211.2
4 Spain Madrid Atocha Sevilla 470.5 135 209.1
5 Germany Würzburg Fulda 93.2 28 199.7
6 Great Britain London King's Cross York 303.3 101 180.2
7 Sweden Hässleholm Alvesta 98.0 35 168.0
8 Italy Firenze SMN Roma Termini 261.0 95 164.9
9 U.S.A. Baltimore, MA Wilmington, DE 110.1 42 157.3
10 Finland Salo Karjaa 53.1 21 151.7
11 Canada Dorval Toronto 519.5 221 141.0
12 Russia St Petersburg Moscow 649.9 291 134.0
13 Poland Warszawa C Zawierce 253.2 116 131.0
14 Denmark Høge Tåstrup Odense 145.0 67 129.8
15 China Guangzhou Dong Shenzhen 138.0 65 127.4
16 Saudi Arabia Al Hufuf Ar Riyad 310.0 150 124.0
17 Ireland Dublin Limerick Jcn 172.2 84 123.0
18 Morocco Mohammedia Rabat Agdal 63.0 31 121.9
19 Austria St Pölten Linz 127.9 63 121.8