High-speed rail in Europe

High-speed rail in Europe is emerging as an increasingly popular and efficient means of transport. The first high-speed rail lines in Europe, built in the 1980s and 1990s, improved travel times on intra-national corridors. Since then, several countries have built extensive high-speed networks, and there are now several cross-border high-speed rail links. Railway operators frequently run international services, and tracks are continuously being built and upgraded to international standards on the emerging European high-speed rail network.

In 2007, a consortium of European railway operators, Railteam, emerged to co-ordinate and boost cross-border high-speed rail travel. Developing a Trans-European high-speed rail network is a stated goal of the European Union, and most cross-border railway lines receive EU funding. Several countries — France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia and the United Kingdom — are connected to a cross-border high-speed railway network.

More are expected to be connected in the coming years as Europe invests heavily in tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure and development projects across the continent, many of which are under construction now. Alstom was the first manufacturer to design and deliver a high speed train or HS-Train, which ended up in service with TGV in France.

Currently, there are a number of high-level manufacturers designing and building HSR in Europe, with criss-crossed alliances and partnerships, including Canadian company Bombardier, Alstom itself, the Spanish Talgo and the German Siemens.[1]

Early national high-speed rail networks

The first high-speed rail lines and services were built in the 1980s and 1990s as national projects. Countries sought to increase passenger capacity and decrease journey times on inter-city routes within their borders. In the beginning, lines were built through national funding programmes and services were operated by national operators.


Europe was introduced to high-speed rail when the LGV Sud-Est from Paris to Lyon opened in 1981 and TGV started passenger service. Since then, France has continued to build an extensive network, with lines extending in every direction from Paris. France has the second largest high-speed network in Europe, with 2,647 km of operative HSR lines in July 2017, only behind Spain's 3,240 km.[2]

The TGV network gradually spread out to other cities, and into other countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. Due to the early adoption of high-speed rail and the important location of France (between the Iberian Peninsula, the British Isles and Central Europe), most other dedicated high-speed rail lines in Europe have been built to the same speed, voltage and signalling standards. The most obvious exception is the high-speed lines in Germany, which are built to existing German railway standards. Also, many high-speed services, including TGV and ICE utilize existing rail lines in addition to those designed for high-speed rail. For that reason, and due to differing national standards, trains that cross national boundaries need to have special characteristics, such as the ability to handle different power supplies and signalling systems. This means that not all TGVs are the same, and there are loading gauge and signalling considerations.

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganConstruction completed or
expected start of revenue services
LGV Sud-Est 270 km/h, then 300 km/h 409 km 1976 1983
LGV Atlantique 300 km/h 279 km 1985 1990
LGV Rhone-Alpes 300 km/h 115 km 1989 1994
LGV Nord 300 km/h 333 km 1989 1996
LGV Interconnexion Est 270 km/h 57 km 1990 1996
LGV Méditerrannée 320 km/h 250 km 1996 2001
LGV Est Européen 320 km/h 406 km 2002 2016
LGV Perpignan-Barcelona 300 km/h 45 km 2004 2012
LGV Rhin-Rhone 320 km/h 138 km 2006 2011
LGV Sud Europe Atlantique 320 km/h 302 km 2012 2017
LGV Bretagne-Pays de la Loire 320 km/h 182 km 2012 2017
LGV Nîmes-Montpellier 220 km/h 80 km 2013 2018
LGV Bordeaux-Toulouse 320 km/h 222 km Unknown ~ 2025
LGV Bordeaux-Espagne 320 km/h 251 km Unknown ~ 2032
LGV Montpellier-Perpignan Unknown 150 km Unknown Unknown
Lyon-Turin300 km/h272 km20072030


Britain has a history of high-speed rail, starting with early high-speed steam systems: examples of engines are GWR 3700 Class 3440 City of Truro and the steam-record holder LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard. Later, high-speed diesel and electric services were introduced, using upgraded main lines, mainly the Great Western Main Line (GWML) and East Coast Mainline. The InterCity 125, otherwise known as the High-Speed Train (HST), was launched in 1976 with a service speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) and provided the first high-speed rail services in Britain.[3] The HST was diesel-powered, and the GWML was the first to be modified for the new service.[4] Because the GWML had been built mostly straight, often with four tracks and with a distance of 1 mile (about 1.6 km) between distant signal and main signal, it allowed trains to run at 125 mph (201 km/h) with relatively moderate infrastructure investments, compared to other countries in Europe. The Intercity 125 had proven the economic case for high-speed rail,[5] and British Rail was keen to explore further advances.

In the 1970s, British Rail began to explore new technologies for high-speed passenger rail services in the UK. While the Japanese and French railway authorities had decided to build completely new tracks for their respective Shinkansen and TGV high-speed rail systems, British Rail opted instead to develop a train capable of running on existing rail infrastructure: the Advanced Passenger Train (APT), with a top speed of 155 mph (249 km/h). An experimental version, the APT-E, was tested between 1972 and 1976. It was equipped with a tilting mechanism which allowed the train to tilt into bends to reduce cornering forces on passengers, and was powered by gas turbines (the first to be used on British Rail since the Great Western Railway). The line had used Swiss-built Brown-Boveri and British-built Metropolitan Vickers locomotives (18000 and 18100) in the early 1950s. The 1970s oil crisis prompted a rethink in the choice of motive power (as with the prototype TGV in France), and British Rail later opted for traditional electric overhead lines when the pre-production and production APTs were brought into service in 1980-86.[6]

Initial experience with the Advanced Passenger Trains was good. They had a high power-to-weight ratio to enable rapid acceleration; the prototype set record speeds on the Great Western Main Line and the Midland Main Line, and the production versions vastly reduced journey times on the WCML. The APT was, however, beset with technical problems; financial constraints and negative media coverage eventually caused the project to be cancelled.[7]

Line Speed Length Construction began Construction completed or
expected start of revenue services
High Speed 1 300 km/h 108 km 1998 2007
High Speed 2 320 km/h 530 km 2019 2028-2033


Construction on first German high-speed lines began shortly after that of the French LGVs. Legal battles caused significant delays, so that the InterCityExpress (ICE) trains were deployed ten years after the TGV network was established. The ICE network is more tightly integrated with pre-existing lines and trains as a result of the different settlement structure in Germany, with a population more numerous by a third than that of France, on a territory smaller by a third, resulting in more than twice the population density of France. ICE trains reached destinations in Austria and Switzerland soon after they entered service, taking advantage of the same voltage used in these countries. Starting in 2000, multisystem third-generation ICE trains entered the Netherlands and Belgium. The third generation of the ICE reached a speed of 363 km/h (226 mph) during trial runs in accordance with European rules requiring maximum speed +10% in trial runs, and is certified for 330 km/h (210 mph) in regular service.

In the south-west, a new line between Offenburg and Basel is planned to allow speeds of 250 km/h (160 mph), and a new line between Frankfurt and Mannheim for speeds of 300 km/h (190 mph) is in advanced planning stages. In the east, a 230 km (140 mi) long line between Nuremberg and Leipzig opened in December 2017 for speeds of up to 300 km/h (190 mph). Together with the fast lines from Berlin to Leipzig and from Nuremberg to Munich, which were completed in the 2000s, it allows journey times of about four hours from Berlin in the north to Munich in the south, compared to nearly eight hours for the same distance a few years ago.

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
Karlsruhe–Basel high-speed railway250 km/h182 km19871993-2030
Stuttgart–Wendlingen high-speed railway250 km/h25 km20122025
Wendlingen–Ulm high-speed railway250 km/h60 km20122025


The earliest high-speed rail line built in Europe was the Italian "Direttissima", the Florence–Rome high-speed railway (254 km/158 mi) in 1978, which used FS Class E444 3 kV DC locomotives. Italy pioneered the use of the Pendolino tilting train technology. The Italian government constructor Treno Alta Velocità has been adding to the high-speed network in Italy, with some lines already opened. The Italian operator NTV is the first open access high-speed rail operator in Europe, since 2011, using AGV ETR 575 multiple units.

In March 2011, a contract for the second phase of construction on the Milan–Verona high-speed line was signed. This section will be 39 km long. Construction originally to be completed by 2015, it is open to Brescia since late 2016.[8]

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
Brenner Base Tunnel250 km/h56 kmSummer 200621 December 2025
Turin-Lyon300 km/h72 km20112030[9]
Verona-Brenner[10]250 km/h276 kmUnknown2025
GenoaMilan[11]300 km/h53 km20112020[12]

The Italian high-speed railway network consists of 1342 km of lines, which allow speeds of up to 300 km/h. The safety system adopted for the network is the ERMTS/ETCS II, the state-of-the-art in railway signalling and safety.[13] The power supply follows the European standard of 25 kV AC 50 Hz mono-phase current. The Direttissima segment is still supplied with 3 kV DC current, but it is planned that this will be conformed to the rest of the network.[14]

With the imminent entering into service of the ETR1000 trainsets, which have a top speed of more than 400 km/h and a commercial speed of 360 km/h, the rail network will be upgraded[17] to safely allow trains to run at such speeds. The commercial run of the first ETR1000 is planned for 2014.[18] On 28 May 2018, the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and the ANSF announced that no further tests will be carried out and the ETR1000 will not run over 300 km/h.[19][20]


The Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) high-speed rail system in Spain has been in service since 1992, when the MadridSevilla (Seville) route started running. Ten other lines have been opened since, including the 621-kilometre long MadridBarcelona line. As of August 2017 the total length of the network to 3,240 kilometres,[2][21] making it the longest in Europe, and the second longest in the world after mainland China.[22]

The ambitious AVE construction programme aims at connecting with high-speed trains almost all provincial capitals to Madrid in less than 3 hours and to Barcelona within 6 hours. With an initial deadline set for 2020, the program was slowed down by the financial crisis: the two main lines still under construction, the Mediterranean Corridor and the Lisbon Line, are currently expected to be completed by 2022.[23]

The Spanish and Portuguese high-speed lines are being built to European standard or UIC track gauge of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) and electrified with 25 kV at 50 Hz from overhead wire. The first HSL from Madrid to Seville is equipped with LZB train control system, later lines with ETCS.

Elsewhere in Europe, the success of high-speed services has been due in part to interoperability with existing normal rail lines. Interoperability between the new AVE lines and the older Iberian gauge network presents additional challenges. Both Talgo and CAF supply trains with variable gauge wheels operated by automatic gauge-changer equipment which the trains pass through without stopping (Alvias). Some lines are being constructed as dual gauge to allow trains with Iberian and UIC gauge to run on the same tracks. Other lines have been re-equipped with sleepers for both Iberian and UIC gauge, such that the track can be converted from Iberian to UIC gauge at a later time without changing the sleepers.

The first AVE trains to link up with the French standard gauge network began running in December 2013, when direct high-speed rail services between Spain and France were launched for the first time.[24] This connection between the two countries was made possible by the construction of the Perpignan–Barcelona high-speed rail line (a follow-up of the Madrid-Barcelona line), completed in January 2013,[25][26] and its international section Perpignan-Figueres, which opened on December 2010 and includes a new 8.3-kilometre (5.2 mi) tunnel under the Pyrenees. Another high-speed rail link connecting the two countries at Irun/Hendaye is also planned.

Several new high-speed lines are under construction with a design speed of 300–350 km/h, and several old lines are being upgraded to allow passenger trains to operate at 250 km/h.[27][28] The total length of lines is higher than 3000 km with long-term plans to expand it up to 7000 km.

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganConstruction completed or
expected start of revenue services
Madrid–Seville high-speed rail line300 km/h472 km19891992
L.A.V. Madrid-Toledo 270 km/h 74 km 2003 2005
L.A.V. CórdobaMálaga300 km/h155 km20012007
L.A.V. Madrid–Valladolid350 km/h179.6 km20012007
Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line350 km/h621 km19952008
L.A.V. Madrid–Valencia350 km/h391 km20042010[29]
L.A.V. Albacete–Alicante350 km/h171.5 kmUnknown2013[29]
L.A.V. Barcelona–French border350 km/h150.8 km20042013
Atlantic Axis high-speed rail line (Eixo Atlántico de Alta Velocidade)250 km/h155.6 km[30]20012015
L.A.V. Valladolid–León350 km/h162.7 km20092015
L.A.V. Valencia–Castellón350 km/h74 kmUnknown2018[29]
L.A.V. PalenciaBurgos350 km/h134.8 km20092020
L.A.V. SevilleCádiz250 km/h157 km20012015[31]
L.A.V. AntequeraGranada300 km/h125.7 km20062019
L.A.V. LeónGijón350 km/hUnknown km2009after 2020
L.A.V. Olmedo–Zamora-Galicia350 km/h435 km20042011-2021[32][33]
L.A.V. MurciaAlmería300 km/h184.3 kmUnknown2025
L.A.V. BurgosVitoria-Gasteiz350 km/h98.8 km20092025
Basque Y250 km/h175 km20062025
Mediterranean High Speed Corridor:
AndalusiaMurciaValenciaCatalonia–French border[34]
250–350 km/h+1300 km20042013–2025
Madrid–(CáceresMéridaBadajoz)–Lisbon[35]350 km/h640 km2008after 2020
L.A.V. MadridJaén250–350 km/hUnknown km2015Unknown
L.A.V. MadridSantander[36]Unknown km/hUnknown kmUnknown2025

Three companies have built or will build trains for the Spanish high-speed railway network: Spanish Talgo, French Alstom and German Siemens AG. Bombardier Transportation is a partner in both the Talgo-led and the Siemens-led consortium. France will eventually build 25 kV TGV lines all the way to the Spanish border (there is now a gap between Nîmes and Perpignan), but multi-voltage trains will still be needed, as trains travelling to Paris need to travel the last few kilometres on 1.5 kV lines. To this end, RENFE decided to convert 10 existing AVE S100 trains to operate at this voltage (as well as the French signalling systems), which will cost €30,000,000 instead of the previously expected €270,000,000 for new trains.[37]

Integration of European High-speed rail network

The Trans-European high-speed rail network is one of a number of the European Union's Trans-European transport networks. It was defined by the Council Directive 96/48/EC of 23 July 1996.

The aim of this EU Directive is to achieve the interoperability of the European high-speed train network at the various stages of its design, construction and operation.

The network is defined as a system consisting of a set of infrastructures, fixed installations, logistic equipment and rolling stock.

On 5 June 2010, the European Commissioner for Transport signed a Memorandum of Understanding with France and Spain concerning a new high-speed rail line across the Pyrenees to become the first link between the high-speed lines of the two countries. Furthermore, high-speed lines between Helsinki and Berlin (Rail Baltica), and between Lyon and Budapest, were promoted.[38]

Cross-border infrastructure projects and passenger services


Belgium's rail network is served by four high-speed train operators: Thalys, Eurostar, ICE and TGV trains. All of them serve Brussels South (Midi) station, Belgium's largest railway station. Thalys trains, which are a variant of the French TGV, operate between Belgium, Germany (Dortmund), the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and France (Paris). Since 2007, Eurostar has connected Brussels to London St Pancras, before which, trains connected to London Waterloo. The German ICE operates between Brussels, Liège and Frankfurt Hbf.

The HSL 1 is a Belgian high-speed railway line which connects Brussels with the French border. 88 km long (71 km dedicated high-speed tracks, 17 km modernised lines), it began service on 14 December 1997. The line has appreciably shortened rail journeys, the journey from Paris to Brussels now taking 1:22. In combination with the LGV Nord, it has also affected international journeys to France and London, ensuring high-speed through-running by Eurostar, TGV, Thalys PBA and Thalys PBKA trainsets. The total construction cost was €1.42 billion.

The HSL 2 is a Belgian high-speed rail line between Brussels and Liège, 95 km long (61 km dedicated high-speed tracks between Leuven and Ans, 34 km modernised lines between Brussels and Leuven and between Ans and Liège) it began service on 15 December 2002. Its extension to the German border (the HSL 3) is now in use, the combined high-speed line greatly accelerates journeys between Brussels, Paris and Germany. HSL 2 is used by Thalys and ICE trains as well as fast internal InterCity services.

The HSL 3 is a Belgian high-speed railway line which connects Liège to the German border. 56 km long (42 km dedicated high-speed tracks, 14 km modernised lines), it began service on 13 December 2009. HSL 3 is used by international Thalys and ICE trains only, as opposed to HSL 2 which is also used for fast internal InterCity services.

The HSL 4 is a Belgian high-speed railway line which connects Brussels to the Dutch border. 87 km long (40 km dedicated high-speed tracks, 57 km modernised lines). HSL 4 is used by Thalys trains since 13 December 2009 and it will be used starting 2010 by fast internal InterCity trains. Between Brussels and Antwerp (47 km), trains travel at 160 km/h on the upgraded existing line (with the exception of a few segments where a speed limit of 120 km/h is imposed). At the E19/A12 motorway junction, trains leave the regular line to run on new dedicated high-speed tracks to the Dutch border (40 km) at 300 km/h.

The completion of the Channel Tunnel rail link (High Speed 1) and the completion of the lines from Brussels to Amsterdam and Cologne led to news reports in November 2007 that both Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn were pursuing direct services from London to Amsterdam and Cologne. Both journeys would be under 4 hours, the length generally considered competitive with air travel.

The 25N line opened in 2012-2018 is designed for speeds up to 220 km/h, but is limited to 160 km/h until another existing line Mechelen-Antwerp will be upgraded. It's unknown when it will happen.


HSL-Zuid (Dutch: Hogesnelheidslijn Zuid, English: High-Speed Line South) is a 125 km high-speed line in the Netherlands. Using existing tracks from Amsterdam Centraal to Schiphol Airport, the dedicated high-speed line begins here and continues to Rotterdam Centraal and to the Belgian border. Here, it connects to the HSL 4, terminating at Antwerpen-Centraal.[39] Den Haag Centraal (The Hague) and Breda are connected to the high-speed line by conventional railway lines.[40] Services on the HSL-Zuid began on 7 September 2009.[41] It will be served by Thalys trains from Amsterdam to Brussels and Paris.[42]

HSL-Oost was planned, but was put on hiatus. It would connect Amsterdam Centraal via Utrecht Centraal and Arnhem to Germany.[43] The existing line from Amsterdam to Utrecht is four-tracked. Two tracks out of four are capable of 200 km/h, but the available voltage is not high enough. The line is planned to be re-electrified to 25 000 V AC.

Paris to Frankfurt

Admission of ICE trains onto French LGVs was applied for in 2001, and trial runs were completed in 2005. In June 2007, the LGV Est from Paris to the middle of the Lorraine region of France was opened. For the first time, high-speed services over the Franco-German border were offered. SNCF operates the TGV service between Paris and Stuttgart via Strasbourg and a daily return journey from Paris to Frankfurt via Saarbrücken, while ICE trains operate the remaining Paris to Frankfurt.

Channel Tunnel

The construction of the Channel Tunnel, completed in 1994, provided the impetus for the first cross-border high-speed rail line. In 1993, the LGV Nord, which connects Paris to the Belgian border and the Channel Tunnel via Lille, was opened. Initial travel times through the tunnel from London to Paris and Brussels were about 3 hours. In 1997, a dedicated high-speed line to Brussels, HSL 1, was opened. In 2007, High Speed 1, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link to London, was completed after a partial opening in 2003. All three lines were built to the French LGV standards, including electrification at 25 kV.

London to Paris and Brussels

Passenger trains built to specific safety standards are operated by Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel. Direct trains now travel from London St. Pancras to Paris in 2h15, and to Brussels in 1h51. On 1 May 2015 Eurostar introduced a weekly service from London to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille. Thalys high-speed international trains serve the Paris to Brussels corridor, which is now covered in 1h20. Additional Thalys services extend to Amsterdam and Cologne in addition to Belgian cities.

London to Amsterdam and Germany

Both Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Eurostar have announced plans for direct services from London to new continental destinations in the Netherlands and Germany. DB have not set a date for any new service to begin, although the company did at one point hope to introduce a five-hour service to Frankfurt by 2017. A twice daily direct Eurostar service between London St Pancras and Amsterdam started running on 4 April 2018. The German manufacturer Siemens has designed trainsets to meet the strict safety standards of Channel Tunnel operation. Eurostar additionally plans a direct London service to Geneva by 2017.[44]

Spanish-French Border

A 131-kilometre (81.4 mi) section of the Perpignan–Barcelona high-speed rail line across the Spanish-French border opened in January 2013.[45] The line includes the new 8.3-kilometre (5.2 mi) Perthus Tunnel under the Pyrenees and permits high-speed rail services between Spain and France.[46] Since 15 December 2013 the French SNCF operates a TGV service between Paris and Barcelona and the Spanish AVE offers direct MadridMarseille, Barcelona–Lyon and Barcelona–Toulouse high-speed services.[47][48] The journey time for the TGV Paris–Barcelona service is now 6h 25min.[49] A 60 kilometer Nîmes–Montpellier bypass is under construction and will chop 20 minutes off travel times from Barcelona to Lyon and beyond.[50] There is on the other hand currently no funding for the missing segment of high-speed line between Montpellier and Perpignan, which would cut journey times between the two countries by an additional hour.

Another high-speed rail link connecting the two countries is planned via Irun/Hendaye, but is not currently funded.

Crossing the Alps

The north-south axis has been improved by the Swiss NRLA project already in 2007 with the Lötschberg Base Tunnel and in 2016 with the currently world's longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

Further international links between Italy and France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia are under way. These links all incorporate extensive new tunnelling under the Alps. European Union funding has already been approved for the Turin–Lyon high-speed railway, which will connect the TGV and TAV networks, and for a link with Slovenia. In Slovenia, Pendolino-based trainsets are operated by Slovenian Railways as the InterCitySlovenija. Trains connect the capital Ljubljana with Maribor and also with Koper in the summer months. One unit operated as EC Casanova on the line LjubljanaVenice, but this service was discontinued in April 2008.

Between Austria and Italy, the Brenner Base Tunnel is being constructed to upgrade the Berlin–Palermo railway axis.

Future projects adjacent to existing high-speed services

Magistrale for Europe

The Magistrale for Europe (MoE) is a Trans-European Networks (TEN) project for the creation of a high-speed railway line between Paris and Bratislava. It TEN project No. 17 (Paris - Bratislava), and is already under way.[51]

MoE adds a connection from Vienna to Budapest. The project is planned to be completed by 2020. It will link 34 million people in five countries. The overall length of the route is 1,500 km.


The Western Railway between the capital Vienna and Salzburg is being upgraded. Most new sections have a continuous maximum design speed of 250 km/h.[52] German and Austrian ICE trains operate at a maximum speed of 230 km/h, as do Austrian locomotive-hauled trains (called railjet) which were launched in 2008.

The 56 km (35 mi) Brenner Base Tunnel under construction will allow speeds of up to 250 km/h.[53][54] The first part of the New Lower Inn Valley railway was opened in December 2012 as part of an upgrade of the line connecting the future Brenner Base Tunnel and southern Germany, which is being upgraded from two tracks to four and to a maximum design speed of 250 km/h. The section is also part of the Berlin–Palermo railway axis.

The Koralm Railway, the first entirely new railway line in the Second Austrian Republic has been under construction since 2006. It includes a new 33 km tunnel (the Koralm Tunnel) connecting the cities of Klagenfurt and Graz. Primarily built for intermodal freight transport, it will also be used by passenger trains travelling at up to 250 km/h. The time taken to travel from Klagenfurt to Graz will be reduced from three hours to one hour. The Koralmbahn is expected to be operational by 2023.

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
Western Railway250 km/h312.2 kmUnknown9 December 2012 (Vienna–St. Pölten)
Brenner Base Tunnel250 km/h56 kmSummer 200621 December 2025
New Lower Inn Valley railway250 km/h40.236 kmUnknown9 December 2012
Koralm Railway250 km/h125 km20012023
Semmering Base Tunnel230 km/h27.3 km2012December 2024


Switzerland has no high-speed trains of its own yet. The French-Swiss co-operation TGV Lyria and German ICE lines extend into Switzerland, but given the dense rail traffic, short distances between Swiss cities (because of the country's small size) and the often difficult terrain, they do not attain speeds higher than 200 km/h (ICE3) or 160 km/h (TGV, ICE1, ICE2). The fastest Swiss trains are the ICN tilting trains, operated by the Swiss Federal Railways since May 2000. They can reach higher speeds than conventional trains on the curve-intensive Swiss network, however the top speed of 200 km/h can only be reached on high-speed lines. The former Cisalpino consortium owned by the Swiss Federal Railways and Trenitalia used Pendolino tilting trains on two of its international lines. These trains are now operated by the Swiss Federal Railways and Trenitalia.

To address transalpine freight and passenger bottlenecks on its roads and railways, Switzerland launched the Rail2000 and NRLA projects. The first stage of the Rail2000 project finished in 2005, included a new high-speed rail track between Bern and Olten with an operating speed of 200 km/h. The NRLA project has built faster north-south rail tracks across the Swiss Alps by constructing base tunnels several hundred metres below the level of the old tunnels. The 35 km Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened in 2007 where New Pendolino trains run at 250 km/h. The 57 km Gotthard Base Tunnel (Top speed 250 km/h) was opened in 2016. The second stage of Rail2000 includes line upgrades in canton Valais (200 km/h) and between Biel/Bienne and Solothurn (200 km/h). The start of work is planned for 2012–2016.

Rail 2000 High Speed Lines
Line Speed Length Opening Date
NBS Mattstetten–Rothrist 200 km/h 45.079 km 12 December 2007
Lötschberg Base Tunnel 250 km/h 34.57 km 14 June 2007
Gotthard Base Tunnel 250 km/h 57.09 km 1 June 2016
Ceneri Base Tunnel 250 km/h 15.4 km September 2020
Jura Foot Railway 200 km/h 104.5 km 2025-2030
Simplon Railway 200 km/h 191.41 km 2025-2030

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom's first dedicated high-speed line, High Speed 1 between London and the Channel Tunnel, opened 14 November 2007. A second line, dubbed High Speed 2, is now planned by the government, to be constructed initially between London and Birmingham with later extensions to Manchester and Leeds. High Speed 2 was approved by the government in January 2012. Furthermore, future upgrades to the Great Western and East Coast main lines (in combination with the Intercity Express Programme) could increase the lines' operating speed to 140 mph (230 km/h), which would by definition make them high-speed railways. Such an increase would require the installation of in-cab signalling.[55] Like Finnish and Russian counterparts, the strongest reasons for new high-speed lines are to relieve congestion on the existing network and create extra capacity.

The Eurostar Class 373 trains, which run through the Channel Tunnel between the UK and both France and Belgium, are substantially different versions of the TGV trains, with support for four voltages, of them two present in the UK, both pantograph and third-rail power collection (although the third-rail shoe-gear has now been removed following the opening of High-Speed 1), the ability to adapt to multiple platform heights, and to cope with no fewer than seven different signalling modes. Like the TGVs, Eurostar trains are articulated with bogies between the carriages, and most units have 18 passenger carriages and two power cars (the end passenger carriages also have their outer bogies powered). New Class 374 trains were introduced in November 2015, and are able to carry passengers to destinations beyond the core routes to Paris and Brussels. A Class 374 train has 900 seats, roughly equivalent to six Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s (the aircraft typically used by low-cost airlines). These trains operate at the highest scheduled speeds of any in the UK, using a high-speed line between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras station in London (High Speed 1) which was fully opened in November 2007. Channel tunnel itself is geometrically achievable to provide 200 km/h speed, but it is limited to 160 km/h. In 1990s it was climed that such speed restriction is temporary. [56]

The remainder of Britain's railway network is considerably slower. No trains run faster than 125 mph (201 km/h) using routes largely established in the middle years of the nineteenth century. A major reason for this limit is the lack of in-cab signalling, which has been deemed necessary by safety authorities for higher speeds. The speed limit on some sections of the East Coast Main Line was experimentally raised to 140 mph (225 km/h) during the upgrade and electrification of the route during the 1980s (both the Pendolinos used on the West Coast Main Line and the InterCity 225s used on the East Coast Main Line are capable of 140 mph (225 km/h)) using flashing green signals to indicate the line ahead was clear for this speed. The line speed was later restored to 125 mph (201 km/h), and the flashing green system is no longer in use.

An attempt was made in the 1970s and 1980s to introduce a high-speed train that could operate on Britain's winding infrastructure – British Rail developed the Advanced Passenger Train using active tilting technology. After four prototypes had been built and tested, the project was closed down when Margaret Thatcher and British Railways management lost confidence in the technology. The tilting action on demonstration runs induced a feeling akin to seasickness in the passengers, leading to the train being nicknamed the "vomit comet", and the prototypes were expensive to operate and unreliable. However, the problems were near to a solution, and ultimately the technology was a success. British Rail sold it to an Italian firm, which fixed the problems. Trains based on the older technology have been in service in Italy for several years. In 2004, following a large investment in the West Coast Main Line, tilting Pendolinos, based on the Italian trains, were introduced. These trains are limited to a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) although they were designed to run fastercost over-runs on the track and signalling refurbishment project led to the line being rebuilt with the lower speed limit rather than the 140 mph (230 km/h) originally planned; this is also true of the InterCity 225 used on the east coast main line which also has a design speed of 140 mph (230 km/h). The Pendolinos are operated by Avanti West Coast, on services from London Euston to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, and Manchester (with occasional services to Holyhead although for the foreseeable future these will continue to be hauled by diesel locomotives west of Crewe due to the lack of overhead line equipment).

Several alternative proposals for domestic British high-speed lines have been put forward. For more information, see High-speed rail in the United Kingdom.

The UK has six lines with a permitted speed of 200 km/h or more across at least one section, but only one has an operating speed of more than 250 km/h on at least one section. These are as follows:

Nordic Countries


As of 2019, Denmark has a single high-speed line: Copenhagen–Ringsted Line, designed for a permitted speed of 250 km/h. An upgrade of Sydbanen is underway.

Denmark's two biggest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus, are about 300 km apart, and there is a political target to reach a two-hour traveling time, and 200 km/h is set as a target speed.[57] Some parts are planned to be rerouted because the present railway is curvy there and they are likely to be designed for higher than 200 km/h.

The top speed of some parts of the main lines allow trains to travel at 180 km/h,[58] these are however small sections of the main lines which are quickly passed onto slower sections around 140–160 km/h. Most parts of the rail network are unelectrified - thus slowing acceleration and top speed.[59] Since 2007 it has been common practice for the infrastructure provider Banedanmark to pad the timetables with extra time to a near European record, resulting in railway companies which only utilize the top speeds to make up for lost time.[60][61] Some of the rolling stock running on the Danish rail network are capable of reaching 200 km, the SJ 2000 and the IC4.

Denmark's unique signalling system, which contains numerous obsolete components, is being replaced with a new one, the ERTMS 2, to be finished in 2030. This is a requirement for speeds higher than 180 km/h.[62][63]

A new 60 km Copenhagen–Ringsted Line was completed in 2019. It has maximum 180 km/h until ERTMS is installed in around 2023, then allowing speeds up to 250 km/h. The railway line from Ringsted towards the future Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link was upgraded to 160 km/h in 2010, and will be upgraded to a 200 km/h doubletracked line in 2021.[64] Once this project is finished, Denmark would be able to link the Swedish high-speed lines with the rest of the European high-speed rail network assuming Germany electrifies and upgrades the Lübeck–Puttgarden railway from the current limit of between 100 and 160 km/h.

In 2013 the Danish Government (consisting of the parties: the Social Democrats, the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party) along with the supporting party Red–Green Alliance and the opposition party Danish People's Party entered an ambitious political agreement on the infrastructure project called "The Train Fund DK". The main component of the agreement is to raise taxes on the oil companies operating in the Danish parts of the North Sea in order to raise 2,8 billion pounds earmarked for railway upgrades. The first priority is to close the travelling time between Denmark's two biggest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus to two hours. This includes upgrading all main lines to handle speeds up to 200 km/h and building three new high-speed lines with speeds up to 250 km/h, which later can be upgraded to 300 km/h. Furthermore, all main lines and many regional lines will be electrified[65][66]

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganStart of revenue services
Oresund fixed link200 km/h7 km19952000
Copenhagen-Ringsted[67]250 km/h60 km2011June 2019[68]
Ringsted-Fehmarn[69]200 km/h115 km2013Expected 2028[70]


In Finland the national railway company VR operates tilting Alstom Pendolino trains. The trains reach their maximum speed of 220 km/h in regular operation on a 60 kilometre route between Kerava and Lahti. This portion of track was opened in 2006. The trains can run at 200 km/h on a longer route between Helsinki and Seinäjoki and peak at that speed between Helsinki and Turku.[71] The main railway line between Helsinki and Oulu is being upgraded between Seinäjoki and Oulu to allow for trains to run at speeds between 160 and 200 km/h.[72] Other parts of the Finnish railway network are limited to lower speed.

A new service called Allegro started between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg, Russia, in December 2010 with a journey time of 3½ hours. It utilizes a new Pendolino model, supporting both Finnish and Russian standards.[73][74] Four new trains have been delivered, with a top speed of 220 km/h.

Between 2007 and 2010 the Russian line from the Finnish border to Saint Petersburg was electrified and improved to allow higher running speeds. The Finnish line (Riihimäki – Saint Petersburg Railway) was also upgraded where needed, mostly to 200 km/h. The planned ELSA-rata railway line from Espoo to Salo would be capable of maximum speeds of 300 km/h, making this the fastest railway in Finland once built.

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
ELSA-rata (Espoo-Salo Railway)300 km/h95 km2018-202031


49 km of airport rail link is under planning.[75]

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
Reykjavik Airport Rail Link250 km/h49 kmPlanned (construction 2020-)2023


Norway has several high speed stretches radiating from Oslo. These have speeds ranging from 200 km/h to 250 km/h. Several new railroad stretches are under construction and the complete Intercity triangle from Oslo will be finished by 2030.

Norway's only high-speed line is the 64 km Gardermobanen (The Gardermoen Railway), which links Oslo Airport (OSL) with the metropolitan areas of Oslo. Here the Flytoget (the Airport Express Train) and some of the NSB (Norwegian State Railways) trains operate at speeds of up to 210 km/h (130 mph).[76] Gardermobanen contributes to give rail transport a relatively high market share. Almost 38% of the OSL passengers come by train, about 21% by bus, and about 40% by car.

Some more new high-speed lines are planned to be built in the Oslo region, during the 2010 and 2020 decades. Today, however, only small parts of Norway's rail network do permit speed faster than 130 km/h.

There is a political climate for building more high-speed railway services in Norway, including long-distance lines from Oslo to Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger and Gothenburg. They are assumed to be dedicated single-track high-speed railways having up to 250 km/h (160 mph). This is still at the feasibility planning stages.[77]

The Norwegian government is examining five lines radiating out from Oslo to Bergen, Kristiansand/Stavanger, Trondheim, Göteborg, and Stockholm. A sixth line would be a coastal line between Bergen, Haugesund and Stavanger. At least two investigations on cost and benefit have been made. A more indepth analysis covering route analysis of the 6 lines will be made on order by the Norwegian government beginning late 2010.[78]

The closest 50–100 km from Oslo on each of these lines have good potential for regional trains (except towards Stockholm). Upgrade and new construction to high-speed standard have to some extent already taken place like for Gardermobanen. More is being built and is planned, but with the present ambition it will take decades to have high-speed standard the closest 100 km from Oslo on all these lines. The ambition is to some day have 200 km/h or more to Halden, Skien, Hønefoss and Hamar. These projects have higher priority than the long-distance projects. They are also preconditions for the long-distance projects, since they will be used by long-distance trains.

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
Drammen - Tønsberg200–250 km/h≈63 km19932012–≈2025
Eidsvoll - Hamar200–250 km/h≈60 km20122015–≈2025
Oslo - Ski250 km/h22.5 km20202021

Parts of the new built route Drammen - Tønsberg is in operation with trains (Stadler FLIRT) capable of 200 km/h.


Sweden today runs many trains at 200 km/h (120 mph), including the X2 tilting trains, widebody and double-decker regional trains, and the Arlanda Airport Express X3. Since both the X2 and X3 are allowed to run at 205 km/h (127 mph) in case of delay, they can technically be considered as high-speed trains. The X2 runs between many cities in Sweden including Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö. The Arlanda Express trains connect Stockholm and Stockholm-Arlanda Airport.

Newly built lines such as the West Coast Line, the Svealand line and the Bothnia line of the network can be relatively easily upgraded to 250 km/h (160 mph). This requires new signalling system, new trains and perhaps other minor efforts. The old main lines are difficult to upgrade due costs for increasing the bearing of the track. Most bridges and long sections of the main lines need to be rebuilt to allow 250 km/h.

There are investigations regarding high-speed trains in Sweden, and to evaluate if the Western and Southern Mainline should be upgraded to 250 km/h or if a whole new network of high-speed railway for 280–320 km/h (170–200 mph) should be built between StockholmLinköpingJönköpingGothenburg and between JönköpingMalmöCopenhagen. The plan is to ease the situation on the existing railways that are relatively congested, combined with better travel times between both the largest three cities in Sweden, as well as fast regional trains between the cities along the routes (which today in many cases have no or slow railways).

An informal date suggestion by the Banverket is operation by year 2030. For two parts (SödertäljeLinköping and MölnlyckeBollebygd) detailed planning is done, and they are expected to have construction start by around 2017 and be in operation by around 2025.[79][80]

Many of the newly built railway lines in Sweden are adapted for speeds up to 250 km/h, such as Botniabanan, Grödingebanan, Mälarbanan, Svealandsbanan, Västkustbanan, and Vänernbanan.[81] The problem that is slowing down high-speed rail in Sweden is the present signaling system (ATC), which does not allow speeds over 200 km/h. It can be upgraded, but it will not be done since it shall be replaced by the European signaling system ERTMS level 2 on major lines in the near future, allowing high speeds up to 250 km/h.[82] ERTMS level 2 has been installed and is being tried out on Botniabanan, and that railway allows 250 km/h, although no passenger train goes above 200 for now. The train set X55-Regina has been delivered to the rail company SJ with the max speed of 200 km/h but with the option to upgrade the EMU to 250 km/h when possible.[83] Also the mix with freight trains slow down the practical speed.

There are four major high-speed projects proposed in Sweden with speeds between 250 and 350 km/h (160–220 mph).

The three first listed, but not Europabanan, have been prospected by Trafikverket. In several cases the detailed alignment have been decided. The Swedish Conservative government 2006-2014 showed little interest in major railway projects. But the socialist/environmentalist government has from 2014 started further negotiations on stations and other alignment. There is plan to start building Gothenburg – Borås and Ostlänken in 2019. The other railways are expected to be built some years after.



Turkey started building high-speed rail lines in 2003 aiming a double-track high-speed rail network through the country allowing a maximum speed of 250 km/h.[89] Only the planned line between İstanbul, Edirne and Kapıkule is situated in the European part of the country.

The first line that was built aimed to connect İstanbul to Ankara (via Eskişehir) reducing the travel time from 6 7 hours to 3 hours 10 minutes. The Eskişehir-Ankara line started operating regular services on 14 March 2009 with a maximum speed of 250 km/h, being the first High Speed Rail Service in Turkey making the Turkish State Railways the 6th European national rail company to offer HSR services (although these are situated in the Asian part of the country). The Eskişehir-İstanbul line is still under construction and was due in 2015.[90]

The Ankara - Konya line construction began in 2006. The travel time is projected to be decreased to 70 minutes on this route. The construction of the Ankara - Kırıkkale - Yozgat - Sivas line began in February 2009. Several other HSR line projects between major cities such as Ankara - Afyon - Uşak - İzmir, İstanbul - Bursa, İstanbul - Edirne - Kapıkule (Bulgarian border) have reached their final design and are expected to pass to the contraction phase soon. Ankara - Kayseri and Eskişehir - Afyon - Antalya lines are planned to be built in the coming years. The Konya - Mersin - Adana and Sivas - Erzincan - Erzurum - Kars lines were mentioned by the prime minister and the minister of transport. The total length of constructed lines is claimed to be 4,600 km, with long-term plans to expand the network to 11,000 km.

The first 12 high-speed trainsets are ordered from CAF company, Spain. Further sets are expected to be provided by Siemens.

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
Eskişehir - İstanbul250 km/h291.4 km2008open to Pendik
Ankara - Sivas250 km/h446 km20092018
Bursa - Bilecik250 km/h115 km20122017
Ankara - İzmir250 km/h654 km20122018


Development of a modern rail network for Greece has been a major goal since the 1990s. In 1996, construction of what is currently known as the P.A.Th.E./P. was given the go-ahead. The line, which should have opened by 2004, will link Patras, Athens, Thessaloniki and the Greece–North Macedonia and Greece–Bulgaria borders in Idomeni and Promachonas respectively. The project faced lack of funding and construction difficulties. Although some sections have opened, the line will not be fully operational before 2018.[91]

LineSpeedLengthConstruction beganExpected start of revenue services
PatrasAthensThessaloniki – borders with Republic of North Macedonia & Bulgaria160 – 200 km/happrox. 700 km19942018 (parts already in operation)

Hungary and Romania

The two countries have agreed in November 2007 to build a high-speed line between their capital cities Budapest and Bucharest which would be a part of a larger transportation corridor Paris-Vienna-Budapest-Bucharest-Constanța. There is no clear schedule for the project yet, but feasibility studies, ecological impact studies and right-of-way land purchase should not begin before 2009. The link will be designed to support speeds up to 300 km/h, but no technical details have been made public as of March 2008. At the moment railway from Bucharest to Constanța support speeds up to 160 km/h. The plan for a high-speed railway through Budapest-Arad-Sibiu-Brașov-Bucharest-Constanța was officially included in the revised TEN-T plan in October 2013 as part of the Rhine-Danube Corridor.[92] Works are planned to be carried out between 2017 and 2025.[92]

Hungary and Serbia

There are currently ongoing negotiations between two countries and China to build a high-speed line between their capital cities Budapest and Belgrade, as a part of a larger corridor Budapest-Belgrade-Niš-Skopje-Thessaloniki-Athens. It is expected to upgrade current railway line Budapest-Belgrade to 200 km/h. Construction of the railway line in Serbia started in September 2017, when construction of the tunnel Čortanovci began.[93] The railway for speed up to 200 km/h between Stara Pazova and Novi Sad (43 km) is planned to be finished until November 2021 and the railway between Belgrade and Stara Pazova (34,5 km) till the end of 2020.[94][95]

Other high-speed projects

Several other countries in Europe have launched or planned high-speed rail programmes. Due to geographic challenges, these projects are likely to remain national in scope for the foreseeable future, without international links to existing high-speed networks.


In 2017 Belarus authorities agreed to offer land territories to Chinese corporation CRCC for construction of high-speed corridor between EU and Russia through country territory. Chinese engineering companies are also interested in building highways and Russian high-speed railways running in connection with this route with possible interchange with Moscow-Kazan high-speed corridor.[96]

The Baltics

A north/south Rail Baltica line from Tallinn to Kaunas is planned to be constructed starting in 2019 and in service by 2026. The line would connect Tallinn and Kaunas via Pärnu, Riga and Panevėžys, while also providing connections to airports and railway terminals. The railway will be the first high-speed, 1435mm standard gauge railway in the Baltics. From Kaunas, it will be connected to the already existing high-speed network in Poland. Project speeds are 240 km/h for passenger trains and 120 km/h for freight traffic. About 80% of construction costs (totalling ca. 5 billion €) will be covered by the European Union, the rest will be paid jointly by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian governments. Indirectly the railway may also link Helsinki, as there are plans for a Tallinn-Helsinki railway tunnel.[97]

The project has been surrounded with controversy in all states, mainly due to environmental concerns and the cost of the project. According to surveys conducted to Estonia, public support remains around 60%, with the percent higher amongst people living in Tallinn and amongst people with higher education, while the percent drops in rural areas. Controversy has also surrounded the choice of route, with some proposing that the railway should also go through Tartu and Vilnius. However this has been dismissed as they are large detours, would increase the cost and bring no sufficient benefit.[98]


With the highway construction programme in its final stages, the Croatian parliament has passed a bill to build its first high-speed line, a new BotovoZagrebRijeka line, with an initial maximum planned speed of 250 km/h.[99][100] Initially, however, the train will not exceed 200kmh due to a signaling system which can only accommodate speeds up to 200kmh. The cost of the new line is estimated at 9,244,200,000 kuna (approx. 1.6 bil USD). The project will include the modernisation of the current Botovo-Zagreb line and a construction of a completely new line between Zagreb and Rijeka.

Also, the Pan-European Corridor X, running from the Slovenian border, through Zagreb, to Serbian border is a likely future candidate for the high-speed extension to this line. It is the most modern Croatian track, already initially built for 160 km/h and fully electrified and connects most branch lines in Croatia, rapidly growing Croatian cities of Slavonski Brod and Vinkovci, and Pan-European Corridor Vc towards Osijek and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Czech Republic

Czech Railways have been running the Super City Pendolino from Prague to Ostrava since 2005. The Pendolino is capable of operating at 230 km/h (143 mph), but trains that are in service are limited to 160 km/h due to the speeds the railways were constructed for. These limits may be raised in the future to 200 km/h (124 mph), last parts of 4th transit corridor (Prague - České Budějovice) are already projected for 200 km/h (124 mph).[101] The railjet is also capable of 230 km/h and reaches that speed in Austria and Germany but is likewise limited to 160 km/h in the Czech Republic.

The Velim railway test circuit contains a large 13.3-kilometre track with a maximum allowed speed of 230 km/h (143 mph) for tilting trains and up to 210 km/h (130 mph) for conventional trains.[102]

The Czech Ministry of Transportation is planning a high-speed rail network which will be roughly 660 km long.[103] Several studies of a possible network have been completed, but there have not yet been any concrete proposals.[104] There are no expectations for any operation before 2020, but Czech railway infrastructure manager (Správa železniční dopravní cesty) has a special budget for preparatory studies. There is also promotion from side of NGOs, e.g. Centrum pro Efektivní Dopravu[105]

Both the Czech Republic and the German state of Saxony have expressed interest in a high-speed line linking Dresden and Prague via Ústí nad Labem. The line would include a tunnel through the Ore Mountains and relieve the congested Dresden Děčin Railway through the Elbe valley, which currently (2016) is the only electrified line linking Germany and the Czech Republic and serves as an important freight link to the North Sea ports. However, the proposal for the Bundesverkehrswegeplan 2015 (federal transportation plan) which lies out German transportation priorities until 2030 does not include the line in its highest priority category, making construction unlikely in the near term.


Ireland's fastest Intercity service is the Dublin to Cork "InterCity" service, which operates at 160 km/h (99 mph). Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) has bought new Mark4 Coaches from CAF of Spain, which have a design speed of 200 km/h (120 mph). However, they are operated with 10-year-old Class 201 locomotives with a maximum speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). Iarnród Éireann plan to purchase powercars and upgrade the route to 200 km/h (120 mph) standard. On the Dublin to Belfast line, IÉ are considering the following options for after 2020 (when the life of the existing De Dietrich Ferroviaire coaches will have expired):

  • Upgrading the route to 200 km/h (120 mph) with new carriages with journey times of 90 mins.
  • Upgrading the route to 225 km/h (140 mph) with tilting trains, which would cut times to 60 minutes


Today, the main cities of Poland are linked by railway transport reaching 160 km/h. On 14 December 2014, Polish State Railways started passenger service trains PKP Pendolino ED250 operating 200 km/h speed on 80 km line Olszamowice-Zawiercie (part of railway line called Central Trunk Line (CMK) from Warsaw to Katowice). Currently it is the line with highest railway speed in Poland. Several other sections of the Central Trunk Line will soon allow speeds of 200 km/h (with a current speed record set up by Pendolino Train on 21 November 2013 in Poland of 293 km/h). According to recent plans of PKP-PLK, sections of CMK between Warsaw and Gdańsk (145 km) and Warsaw-Kraków (additional 80 km) will be added to present section from no later than December 2015. That will make about 300 km of railways available for speed of 200 km/h. Other sections will start operating at 200 km/h in 2016.

Polish Railways for many years did not possess the rolling stock to achieve speeds over 160 km/h. Polish Railways planned to buy Pendolino trains in 1998, but the contract was cancelled the following year by the Supreme Control Chamber due to financial losses by Polish Railways. However, a new contact with Alstom Transport worth 665 million euros was signed in May 2011 and since December 2014, 20 Pendolino units service the Katowice/Kraków - Gdynia line and Wrocław/Warsaw line. However, Pendolinos in Poland are not equipped with tilting system, which would not be very useful on the flat Polish Plains. The lack of a tilting system for the Pendolino train along with choosing Alstom Transportation despite domestic train producers was a subject of broad debate in media and Polish Railways were heavily criticised for that purchase.

Other current plans call for a 'Y' line that will connect Warsaw, Łódź and Kalisz, with branches to Wrocław and Poznań. The geometric layout of the line will be designed to permit speeds of 360 km/h. Construction was planned to begin around 2014 and finish in 2019. In the centre of the city of Łódź the 'Y' line will travel through a tunnel which will link two existing railway stations. One of them, Łódź Fabryczna, will be reconstructed as an underground station, work being scheduled to start in July 2010.[106] In April 2009, four companies qualified for the second phase of a public tender to prepare a feasibility study for construction of the line. In April 2010, the tender for a feasibility study was awarded to a consortium led by Spanish company Ingenieria IDOM.[107] The feasibility study project has been granted €80 million in subsidy from European Union.[108] The total cost of the line including construction and train sets has been estimated at €6.9bn and is planned to be financed partially by EU subsidies.[109]

In December 2013, the project was delayed. However, Łódź Fabryczna Railway Station which is the central point of the line is in its second phase of construction and is the largest such project in Central Europe. In November 2013 Sławomir Nowak, the Minister of Transport and opponent of Y-line was dismissed and consultations about the Y-line are undergoing.

There are also many plans to upgrade existing lines. The "Y" line links will possibly be extended to Berlin from Poznań and Prague from Wrocław, most probably by upgrading existing lines.

The European Train Control System is being introduced.

A Warszawa-Toruń-Gdańsk high-speed railway is also in planning stages.

New rolling stock of home companies (Newag, Pesa Bydgoszcz) have appeared in 2012 and 2013 such as Newag Impuls Train that exceed the speed of 200 km/h.


High-speed connections between Spain and Portugal have been agreed upon and planned, but initial works had yet to begin when the projects were cancelled in 2012.[110] The Portuguese government had approved the construction of six high-speed lines from the capital Lisbon to Porto, from Porto to Vigo, from Aveiro to Salamanca, from Lisbon to Faro, from Faro to Seville and from Lisbon to Madrid, Spain, bringing the two countries' capital cities within three hours of each other. Since the late 1990s, the Italian tilting train, the Pendolino, runs the Alfa Pendular service, connecting Portugal's mainland from the north border to the Algarve, its southern counterpart, at a speed of up to 220 km/h (140 mph). On 8 May 2010, The Portuguese Transport Minister signed off the 40-year PPP covering the construction of the Lisbon–Madrid high-speed line. The total cost has been put at €1.359bn for a double-track standard gauge line from Lisbon to the Spanish border. Also included is a broad gauge line from the Portuguese port of Sines to the Spanish border. The line was expected to open by the end of 2013 and will reduce the journey time between Lisbon and Madrid to 2 hours 45 minutes,[111] however the project was cancelled in March 2012.[110]

Line[35]SpeedLengthExpected start of revenue services
Lisbon–Madrid high-speed rail line350 km/h640 kmproject cancelled[110]
Lisbon–Porto high-speed rail line300 km/h292 kmproject cancelled[110]
Porto–Vigo high-speed rail line250 km/h125 kmproject cancelled[110]


Two experimental high-speed trainsets (designed for 200 km/h operation) were built in 1974: locomotive-hauled RT-200 ("Russkaya Troika") and ER-200 EMU. The RT-200 set made only experimental runs in 1975 and 1980 and was discontinued due to unavailability of the ChS-200 high-speed locomotive – they were only delivered later. The ER-200 EMU was put into regular service in 1984. In 1992 a second ER-200 trainset was built in Riga. Both sets were in operation till 28 February 2009.[112]

Instead of these outdated domestic trainsets, imported trainsets have been in operation since March 2009. Siemens Velaro trainsets have operated since 2009 between Saint Petersburg and Moscow, at speeds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph) and since 2010 between Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow, where service is limited to 160 km/h (99 mph). The Pendolino Sm6, similar to Finnish high-speed trains, began operation in 2010 between Saint Petersburg and Helsinki at up to 220 km/h (137 mph).

In February 2010 RZhD announced it would shortly release a proposal for a new high-speed line to be built parallel to the existing line between Saint Petersburg and Moscow due to congestion on the existing line.[113] In April 2010 it was confirmed that a new Moscow–Saint Petersburg high-speed line with length of 660 km and running speed of up to 400 km/h was envisioned, cutting the journey time from 3h 45m to 2h 30m. It is expected the line to include stops at both Saint Petersburg and Moscow region airports.[114][115] On 28 January 2011, Russia announced that the high speed rail link between Moscow and Saint Petersburg will be finished on time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The cost is expected to be "somewhere around" 10 to 15 billion euros, not including land purchases, said Denis Muratov, general director of High-Speed Rail Lines.[116] The state will shoulder up to 70 percent of construction costs, with the remainder coming from outside investors. Most of that money is likely to come from international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Muratov said. Sberbank, VTB and VEB may also be interested. In fact, construction of this new Moscow–Saint Petersburg high-speed line didn't start.

Instead of it, on 13 May 2015 the Russian government announced that China Railway Group Ltd will build a 400 km/h high speed rail link from Moscow to Kazan by 2018 in time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup where Kazan is one of the cities that will host some of the football matches. The cost of the Moscow–Kazan link is estimated at $21.4 billion. Train travel from Moscow to Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, will be shortened to just 3.5 hours instead of the more than 14 hours that it takes now.[117] The opening date was later changed to 2020.[118]

Line Speed Length Expected start of revenue services
Moscow–Kazan[117] 400 km/h 770 km (301 km initial section) 2020 (postponed after crisis)

In development

Cross border

Countries Line Speed (km/h) Length (km) Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Austria/Italy Brenner Base Tunnel2505620062028
Finland/Russia/Norway Arctic Railway2505262025+2030+
France/Italy Lyon–Turin30027020162025
Germany/Switzerland Karlsruhe–Basel high-speed railway25018219871993-2030
Germany/Czech Republic Praha - Dresden railway200-32070+2025+2035
Germany/Denmark Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link200182020 (planned)2028
Portugal/Spain Lisbon–Madrid high-speed rail line[35]350640cancelled[110]
Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania Rail Baltica25087020182023-2026
Estonia/Finland Helsinki-Tallinn Tunnelundecided10320202024
Czech Republic/Hungary/Poland/Slovakia V4 rail corridor250900+20202023+
United Kingdom/Ireland Celtic Crossing2501102025+ (insisted)2030+
Portugal/Spain Porto–Vigo high-speed rail line[35]250125cancelled[110]


Country Line Speed (km/h) Length (km) Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Austria Koralm Railway25012520012022
Austria Semmering Base Tunnel23027.320122024
Austria New Lower Inn Valley railway (extension)25090unknown2030
Belgium Line 25N2002020122020
Belgium Line 50A20028.820182020+ (upgrading)
Belgium Line 96N20013.619972020 (upgrading)
Bulgaria Plovdiv-Svilengrad20015020092011-2015 (still no high-speed rolling stock)
Czech Republic Brno–Přerov20090.120212025
Czech Republic Ejpovický tunel160 (250 planned)4.1520182023+
Denmark Ringsted-Fehmarn Line20011520192028
Denmark Ringsted-Odense Line2009620102026+
Denmark Randers–Aalborg line20080.7unknown2028+
Denmark Aarhus–Randers line20059.2unknown2028+
Denmark Esbjerg-Lunderskov-Flensburg200135.9unknown2030
Denmark Middelfart-Odense new line250145unknown2028+
Germany Rhine Railway Karlsruhe-Rastatt25030Unknown2024
Germany Rhine Railway Offenburg-Basel250120Unknown2030
Germany Kinzig Valley Railway (Hesse)20080.620072021 (upgrading)
Germany Appenweier–Strasbourg railway20013.520102020 (upgrading)
Germany Frankfurt-Manheim3008520252030
Germany Oberhausen–Arnhem railway200732014unknown (upgrading)
Germany Stuttgart–Wendlingen high-speed railway25025Unknown2025
Germany Wendlingen–Ulm high-speed railway25059.58Unknown2022
Germany Hanau-Gelnhausen high-speed railway3005520252030
Germany Lübeck–Puttgarden railway20088.620202030 (upgrading approved)
Germany Bielefeld–Hannover high-speed railway300100unknown2030
Hungary Serbian Border-Budapest20015220192023
Italy Verona–Brenner[10]250276Unknown2025
Italy Tortona–Genoa high-speed railway[10]2505320132023
Italy Naples–Foggia railway20019420122026 (upgrading)
Netherlands Rhine Railway200116.3Unknown2023
Norway Drammen–Tønsberg20063Unknown2025
Norway Dovre Line250-30011020122025
Norway Oslo–Ski25022.5Unknown2020 or 2021
Norway Østfoldbanen2507720192024-2030
Norway Ringerike Line2504020212028-2029
Poland Y-line2504502021 (claimed)2027-2030+
Poland CMK Północ / PKP rail line 52502952025+2030+
Poland Shortcut in PKP rail line 9250332020+2025+
Spain Mediterranean High Speed Corridor: AndalusiaMurciaValenciaCatalonia–French border[34]250–350+13002016–2020–2030
Spain Madrid–(CáceresMéridaBadajoz)–Lisbon[35]350640Unknown-
Spain L.A.V. Olmedo–ZamoraGalicia350435 (total); 238,9 (central section under construction)20112015 (end sections); 2019 (central section)
Spain L.A.V. MadridSantander[36]UnknownUnknownUnknown-
Spain León–Gijón high-speed rail line350Unknown20092020+
Spain L.A.V. Murcia–Almeria300184.3Unknown2023
Spain L.A.V. Burgos–Vitoria-Gasteiz35098.820092023
Spain Basque Y250175Unknown2023
Serbia Belgrade-Stara Pazova20034.520172020
Serbia Stara Pazova-Novi Sad2004320172021
Serbia Novi Sad-Hungarian Border200106.520192022+
Switzerland Ceneri Base Tunnel25015.420062020
Switzerland Jura Foot Railway200104.5unknown (upgrading)2025-2030
Switzerland Lausanne–Geneva railway20066.18unknown (upgrading)2025-2030
Switzerland Simplon Railway200191.41unknown (upgrading)2025-2030
United Kingdom High Speed 236223020172028
United Kingdom High Speed 2 (phase 2)3623902022 (planned)2033
United Kingdom Northern Powerhouse Rail230652022 (planned)2034
Romania Bucharest-Cluj2004972020 (originally planned 2019)2025
Russia Moscow-Krasnoe Railway30045020242027+
Iceland Airport Rail Link250492020 (planned)2025
Finland ELSA-rata300952020 (planned)2031
Finland Lentorata22030(planned)2027+
Finland East Rail Connection300126(planned)2027+
Sweden North Bothnia Line25027020162028
Sweden Götalandsbanan3204402017 (delayed)2024-2030
Sweden East Link Project2501602017 (delayed)2033-2036
Ireland Dublin-Cork Railway225266early 2000s2020+
France LGV Bordeaux–Toulouse3502002019 (planned)2026

See also


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