High-speed rail in Finland

High-speed rail is emerging in Europe 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 coordinate 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. As of 2012, 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. This is expected to change 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.

Early national high-speed rail networks

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


Main article: TGV

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 2,037 km (as of December 2011) of operative HSR lines, only behind Spain's 2,665 km.

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 train line 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.

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
LGV Rhin-Rhône 350 km/h 190 km 3 July 2006 11 December 2011[1]
LGV Est Phase 2[2] 350 km/h 106 km June 2010 2016
Lyon-Turin 300 km/h 72 km 2007 2020–2025


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, and is certified for 330 km/h (205 mph) in regular service.

In the southwest, a new line between Offenburg and Basel is planned to allow speeds of 250 km/h (155 mph), and a new line between Frankfurt and Mannheim for speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph) is in advanced planning stages. In the east, a 230 km (140 mi) long line between Nuremberg and Leipzig is under construction for speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph). Together with the fast lines from Berlin to Leipzig and from Nuremberg to Munich, which were built recently, it will allow travel times of just about 4 hours from Berlin in the north to Munich in the south, compared to nearly 8 hours for the same distance just a few years ago.

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle high-speed railway 300 km/h 123 km October 1996 2015
Nuremberg–Erfurt high-speed railway 300 km/h 190 km 1996 2017


The earliest high-speed train deployed 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. 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 should be complete by 2015.[3]

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Brenner Base Tunnel 250 km/h 56 km Summer 2006 21 December 2025
Milan-Brescia 300 km/h 92 km 2011 2015
Turin-Lyon 300 km/h 72 km 2011 2020–2025
Verona-Brenner[4] 250 km/h 276 km Unknown 2025
Genoa–Ventimiglia[5] 200 km/h 147 km Unknown 2015
GenoaMilan[6] 300 km/h 53 km 2011 Unknown

Currently, 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.[7] The power supply follows the European standard of 25kV AC 50 Hz mono-phase current. The Direttissima segment is still supplied with 3kV DC current, but it is planned that this will be conformed to the rest of the network.[8]

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[9] to safely allow trains to run at such speeds. The commercial run of the first ETR1000 is planned for 2014.[10]


The Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) high-speed rail system in Spain has been in service since 1992, when the MadridSevilla (Seville) route started running. Six other lines have been opened since, including the 621-kilometre long MadridBarcelona line. The recently completed (June 2013) Madrid-Alicante line brings the total length of the network to 3,100 kilometres,[11] making it the longest in Europe, and the second longest in the world after mainland China.[12] Should the aims of the ambitious AVE construction programme be met, by 2020 Spain will have connected almost all provincial capitals to Madrid in less than 3 hours and Barcelona within 6 hours with high-speed trains.[13] The Spanish and Portuguese high-speed lines are being built to European standard or UIC track gauge of 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). Some lines are being constructed as dual gauge to allow trains with Iberian and UIC gauge to run on the same tracks. Other lines are 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 line to link up with the French standard gauge network is the LGV Perpignan-Figueres, which opened on 19 December 2010, and includes a new 8.3-kilometre (5.2 mi) tunnel under the Pyrenees. The high-speed line Barcelona–Figueres was opened on the 8th of January 2013.[14][15] Direct Paris-Barcelona-Madrid high-speed trains between France and Spain are expected to commence in 2013. Other links, including one at Irun/Hendaye are also planned.

Several new high-speed lines are currently 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.[16][17]

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Basque Y 250 km/h 175 km 2006 2013–2016
Mediterranean High Speed Corridor: AndalusiaMurciaValenciaCatalonia–French border[18] 250–350 km/h +1300 km 2016–2020–2030
Madrid–(CáceresMéridaBadajoz)–Lisbon[19] 350 km/h 640 km Unknown -
L.A.V. Levante 350 km/h 940 km Unknown 2010-2015
L.A.V. ValladolidBurgosVitoria-Gasteiz 350 km/h 208 km 2009 2015
L.A.V. Venta de Baños–LeónGijón 350 km/h Unknown km Unknown 2014
L.A.V. Olmedo–ZamoraGalicia 350 km/h 435 km Unknown 2015[20]
L.A.V. SevilleCádiz 250 km/h 157 km Unknown 2015
Eixo Atlántico de Alta Velocidade 250 km/h Unknown km Unknown 2014
Eje Ferroviario Transversal 250–350 km/h 503 km 2006 2013–2016
L.A.V. Madrid-Santander[21] Unknown km/h Unknown km Unknown -

Three companies have built or will build trains for the Spanish high-speed railway network: Spanish [2].

Cross-border infrastructure projects and passenger services


Belgium's rail network is served by five high-speed train operators: Thalys, Eurostar, ICE, TGV and Fyra trains. All of them serve Brussels South (Midi) station, Belgium's largest train station. Thalys trains, which are a variant of the French TGV, operate between Belgium, Germany (Cologne), 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 currently 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 trips would be under 4 hours, the length generally considered competitive with air travel.


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.[22] Den Haag Centraal (The Hague) and Breda are connected to the high-speed line by conventional railway lines.[23] Services on the HSL-Zuid began on 7 September 2009.[24] It will be served by Thalys trains from Amsterdam to Brussels and Paris,[25] and Fyra trains serving all HSL-Zuid stations between Amsterdam Centraal and Brussel-Zuid/Bruxelles-Midi.[26]

HSL-Oost was planned, but put on hiatus. It would connect Amsterdam Centraal via Utrecht Centraal and Arnhem to Germany.[27]

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 round trip 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. 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 and Eurostar plan direct services from London to continental destinations in the near future. A four-hour service to Amsterdam and Cologne, and a five-hour service to Frankfurt are planned by 2017. German manufacturer Siemens has designed trainsets to meet the strict safety standards of Channel Tunnel operation. Eurostar additionally plans a direct London service to Lyon, Marseilles and Geneva by 2017.[28]

Crossing the Alps

International links between Italy and France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia are underway. 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 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.

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

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.[30]

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 1500 km.


The West railway between the capital Vienna and Salzburg is being upgraded. Most new sections have a continuous maximum design speed of 250 km/h.[31] 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 currently under construction will allow speeds of up to 250 km/h.[32][33] 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 Koralmbahn, 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 Koralmtunnel) 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 2020.

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Austrian Western Railway 250 km/h 312.2 km Unknown 9 December 2012 (Vienna–St. Pölten)
Brenner Base Tunnel 250 km/h 56 km Summer 2006 21 December 2025
New Lower Inn Valley railway 250 km/h 40.236 km Unknown 9 December 2012
Koralm Railway 200 km/h 125 km 2001 2022


Switzerland has no high-speed trains of its own yet. French TGV (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 currently 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 AlpTransit 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. AlpTransit project is building faster north-south rail tracks across the Swiss Alps by constructing base tunnels several hundred metres below the level of the current 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) is scheduled to open in 2016. The second stage of Rail2000 includes line upgrades in canton Valais (200 km/h) and between Biel and Solothurn (200 km/h). The start of work is planned for 2012–2016. However, the slow speed of lines between the Alptransit tunnels (Ceneri, Gotthard Base and Zimmerberg to name but a few) means that the capacity of Zürich-Milan services will remain limited until the speeds can be increased, given the strong negative effect of mixed rail speeds on capacity.

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 (225 km/h), which would by definition make them high speed railways. Such an increase would require the installation of in-cab signalling.[34] 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 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). A fully loaded train of 750 passengers is roughly equivalent to five 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.

The remainder of Britain's railway network is considerably slower. No trains run faster than 200 km/h (124 mph) 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 currently limited to a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) although they were designed to run faster—cost 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 (225 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 (225 km/h). The Pendolinos are operated by Virgin Trains, 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).

As of 2010, 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 currently has five lines with a permitted speed of 200 km/h or more. These are the:

The Midland Main Line is due to have a speed enhancement by Network Rail in the near future to 200 km/h (124 mph).


Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link

Large-scale bridge projects in Denmark have made fast rail links between Scandinavia and Germany a real possibility. The completed Great Belt Fixed Link and Øresund Bridge have made overland transportation between Germany and Sweden possible. The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link has been approved and, upon completion in 2020, will shorten rail journeys between Hamburg and Copenhagen to 3.5 hours or less.


Denmark does not have any high speed lines, but has commenced the construction of one high speed line and the upgrade of another line to high speed level.

It is unlikely that any train will run above 200 km/h in Denmark for some years to come. Denmark's two biggest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus, are about 300 km apart, and 200 km/h is enough to reach a two hour traveling time, which has been set as a political goal for the future. [35]

The top speed of some parts of the main lines allow trains to travel at 180 km/h,[36] these are however small sections of the main lines which are quickly passed onto slower sections around 140-160 km/t.[37] Most parts of the rail network are unelectrificed - thus slowing acceleration and top speed.[38] 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.[39][40] Some of the rolling stock running on the Danish rail network is capable of reaching 200 km or in excess of this - these are: SJ 2000, the ICE TD 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 2021. This is a requirement for speeds higher than 180 km/h.[41][42]

Construction of a new 60 km railway line CopenhagenRingsted, which will allow at least 200 km/h began in 2012.[43] Furthermore the railway line towards the future Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link was upgraded to 160 km/h in 2010, and will be upgraded to 200 km/h in 2021.[44] Once these two projects are finished Denmark will be able to link the Swedish high speed lines with the rest of the European high speed rail network - assuming that Germany builds a high speed link between Hamburg and Fehmarn.

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[45]

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Copenhagen-Ringsted[46] 200 km/h 60 km 2011 2018
Ringsted-Femeren[47] 200 km/h 115 km 2013 2021


Sweden today runs many trains at 200 km/h, 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 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. 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 currently investigations regarding high speed trains in Sweden, and to evaluate if the Western and Southern Mainline shoult be upgraded to 250 km/h or if a whole new network of high-speed railway for 280–320 km/h 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 traveltimes between the main cities in Sweden and Denmark.

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 (opposed by the minister of finance) and be in operation by around 2025.[48]

Many of the newly built railway lines in Sweden are adapted for speeds up to 250 km/h as Botniabanan, Grödingebanan, Mälarbanan, Svealandsbanan, Västkustbanan, Vänernbanan (Gothenburg - Trollhättan).[49] 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.[50] 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.[51] 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.

The present-day Swedish Conservative government shows little interest in major railway projects in the Budget of 2011.[57] There is no funding for Trafikverket, The Swedish Infrastructure Agency, to start building neither of them before 2021.[53]

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Göteborg-Trollhättan 250 km/h
first years 200 km/h
82 km 2004 2012


Currently, 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).[58][59] 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 (155 mph). This is still at the feasibility planning stages.[60]

The Norwegian government is currently examining fives lines radiating out from Oslo to Bergen, Kristiansand/Stavanger, Trondheim, Göteborg, and Stockholm. A sixth line would be a costal 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.[61]

The closest 50–100 km from Oslo on each of these lines have good potential for regional trains (except direction 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.

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Drammen - Tønsberg 200–250 km/h ≈63 km 1993 2012–2015

Parts of the new built route Drammen - Tønsberg is in operation with trains (Stadler FLIRT) capable of 200 km/h. The new route is planned to be finished in its entirety in 2015, partly permitting 250 km/h.


Marmaray Bosphorus tunnel

The completion of the Marmaray tunnel project under the Bosphorus strait is projected to increase passenger and freight traffic between Europe and Asia. Projects are underway to improve rail capacity on both sides of the strait.


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.[62] 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 has started operating regular services on March 14, 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 is due 2013.[63]

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 first 12 high speed trainsets are ordered from CAF company, Spain. Further sets are expected to be provided by EUROTEM, which is a joint enterprise between Korean ROTEM and Turkish TÜVASAŞ, situated in Adapazarı, Sakarya.

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Eskişehir - İstanbul 250 km/h 291.4 km 2008 2015
Ankara - Sivas 250 km/h 446 km 2009 2015
Bursa - Bilecik 250 km/h 115 km 2012 2016
Ankara - İzmir 250 km/h 654 km 2012 2016


As part of a railway modernisation programme there are numerous projects, some of which are under construction and others being planned. Currently the line from Plovdiv to Svilengrad is being reconstructed for speeds between 120 and 200 km/h. The line will serve passenger and freight traffic, which is expected to grow after the completion of the Bosphorus tunnel.

In 2010 there will be tenders for the construction of lines from the capital Sofia to Plovdiv and further to the seaport of Burgas.[64] Other lines targeted for modernization are those in the northwest. A high-speed railway line will be built, connecting Sofia and Vidin via Botevgrad. The trains will run at speeds of between 160 and 200 km/h. The line is expected to be complete by 2017 at a cost of 3 billion euro.[65]

Line Speed Length Construction begun Expected start of revenue services
Svilengrad-Turkish Border[66] 200 km/h 19 km 2010 2012
Dimitrovgrad-Svilengrad[67] 200 km/h 70 km 2012 2013
Plovdiv-Burgas[68] 200 km/h 291 km 2010 2013
Sofia-Plovdiv[69] 200 km/h 156 km 2010 2015
Sofia-Radomir[70] 200 km/h 53 km 2014 2017
Sofia-Dragoman[71] 200 km/h 44 km 2014 2017
Vidin-Sofia[72] 200 km/h 222 km Unknown 2020


The railway line between Patras, Athens and Thessaloniki is being replaced with a higher speed double track standard gauge with modern signalling. Some parts are built new and other parts are being upgraded. The 520 km line between Athens and Thessaloniki will have a maximum operational speed of 200 km/h, reducing travel time from five and a half to just three hours, while time between Athens and Patras will be reduced from three and a half to one and three quarters.[73][74] Some parts of the line are capable of speeds in excess of 250 km/h (the new part at Tempe valley which is ready since 2003 and the new part of the line from Tithorea to Leianokladi at Kallidromo (not finished yet), however the mountainous geography of Greece limits turn radii significantly, thus resulting in the 200 km/h classification.

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Patras - Athens 200 km/h 210 km 1998 2015
Athens - Thessaloniki 200 km/h 520 km 1996 2015

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-Constanţa. 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 160 km/h. The plan for a high speed railway through Budapest-Arad-Sibiu-Brasov-Bucharest-Constanta was officially included in the revised TEN-T plan in October 2013 as part of the Rhine-Danube Corridor.[75] Works are planned to be carried out between 2017-2015.[76]

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.

The Baltics

A north/south Rail Baltica line from Tallinn to Warsaw via Riga and Kaunas is planned, but will probably not be a purpose-built high-speed line, but be an upgrade of the existing line. Amongst various proposals, the Rail Baltica's line speed could vary from 120 km/h to 250 km/h,[77] as no final decision has been made. For cost reasons an upgrade is the most likely decision. Some upgrade has already started.


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.[78] [79] 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 currently 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

Main article: High-speed rail in the 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, but trains that are in service are limited to 160 km/h due to the speeds the railways were constructed for. These limits will be raised in the future.

The Czech Ministry of Transportation is planning a high-speed rail network which will be roughly 660 km long.[80] Several studies of a possible network have been completed, but there have not yet been any concrete proposals.[81] 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[82]


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.[83] The main railway line between Helsinki and Oulu is currently being upgraded between Seinäjoki and Oulu to allow for trains to run at speeds between 160 and 200 km/h.[84] Other parts of the Finnish railway network are limited to lower speed.

A new service called Allegro started between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, Russia in December 2010 with a journey time of 3½ hours. It utilizes a new Pendolino model, supporting both Finnish and Russian standards.[85][86] 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 St. Peterburg 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.


Ireland's current fastest Intercity service is the Dublin to Cork "InterCity" service, which operates at 160 km/h (100 mph). Iarnrod Éireann (Irish Rail) has recently bought new Mark4 Coaches from CAF of Spain, which have a design speed of 200 km/h (125 mph). However, they are currently operated with 10 year old Class 201 locomotives with a maximum speed of 160 km/h (100 mph). Iarnród Éireann plan to purchase powercars and upgrade the route to 200 km/h (125 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 (125 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. Several sections of the Central Trunk Line allow speeds of 200 km/h (with a current speed record in Poland of 250 km/h), but Polish Railways does not possess the rolling stock to achieve this speed. 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.

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 is planned to begin around 2014 and finish in 2019. In the centre of the city of Łódź the 'Y' line will travel through an underground 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.[87] 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.[88] The feasibility study project has been granted €80 million in subsidy from European Union.[89] 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.[90]

There are also many plans to upgrade existing lines. The Warsaw - Kraków/Katowice line could be upgraded to 250 km/h by 2012 along with Warsaw - Gdańsk line, where reconstruction has already started (the latter being upgraded to allow speeds of 200 km/h) The "Y" line links will possibly be extended to Berlin from Poznań and Prague from Wrocław, most probably by upgrading existing lines.

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


High speed connections between Spain and Portugal have been agreed upon and planned, but initial works have yet to begin. The Portuguese government has 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 (135 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 1.359€bn 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 2hr 45min,[91] however the project was cancelled in March 2012.[92]

Line[93] Speed Length Expected start of revenue services
Lisbon-Madrid high-speed rail line 350 km/h 640 km -
Lisbon-Porto high speed rail line 300 km/h 292 km 2017
Porto-Vigo high-speed rail line 250 km/h 125 km 2015


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 are still in operation today. As of February 2010 fatigue cracks had developed in the wheelsets of all the trainsets and a decision is being made whether or not to temporarily discontinue operation.

In addition to these domestic trainsets, imported trainsets have been in operation since 2009. Siemens Velaro trainsets have operated since 2009 between St 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 St.Petersburg and Finland at up to 200 km/h (124 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 St. Petersburg and Moscow due to congestion on the existing line.[94] In April 2010 it was confirmed that the new Moscow-St.Petersburg high-speed line was envisioned to be a 400 km/h running speed cutting the journey time from 3h 45m to 2h 30m. Formal studies will be complete on the new Moscow-St.Petersburg line by the start of 2011 due to congestion between Moscow and St.Petersburg. The line is expected to be 660 km long and support speeds of up to 400 km/h. The expected journey time would be 2h 30ms. It is expected the line will include stops at both St.Petersburg and Moscow region airports.[95][96]

On 28 January 2011, Russia announced that a high speed 400 km/h rail link would be built between Moscow and St Petersburg in time for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. 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, said Denis Muratov, general director of High-Speed Rail Lines. Sberbank, VTB and VEB may also be interested.

The Moscow to St. Petersburg line is expected to cost "somewhere around" 10 billion to 15 billion euros, not including land purchases, Muratov said.[97]


Due to a lack of Government funding for infrastructure upgrades there is currently no high speed rail service in Ukraine. Since 2012 a fleet of ten South Korean built Hyundai Rotem trains links Kiev with other major cities in Ukraine: Lviv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk. Dnipropetrovsk is linked with Simferopol and Zaporizhzhya. The maximum speed of 160 km/h is reached only on limited stretches of the only partly upgraded rail network. Upgrading efforts and the introduction of the Hyundai Rotem trains have nonetheless reduced the transport time by around one hour compared to the previous daytime train services. With a mere ten trains available (each consisting of nine cars) the service is infrequent. Branded Intercity+, or IC+, the service is run by a daughter of the Ukrainians State Railways, The Ukrainian Fast Railway Company (Українська залізнична швидкісна компанія).

The fastest of Ukraine's IC+ trains is the once daily nonstop Kiev - Lviv service covering the 572 km distance in 4 hours and 55 minutes at a point to point average speed of 116 km/h (on the shortest, Northern, route between the two cities through Korosten and Zdolbuniv). The 744 km Kiev - Donetsk is covered in 6 hours and 50 minutes at an average speed of 108 km/h and the 493 km Kiev - Kharkiv is covered in 4 hours and 36 minutes at an average speed of 107 km/h. The Kiev - Kharkiv trains run three times a day. Other routes are either served twice or once daily.

A 2008 decision to re designate key lines between major cities as gauge passenger only lines hasn't been realized.[98] The ambitions in the original plan on upgrading infrastructure was to reduce travel time from Kiev to L'viv to 4,5 hours, Kiev to Donetsk to 5,5 hours and Kiev to Kharkiv to 3,5 hours by allowing for train speeds of up to 200 km/h but the target was lowered in 2010 to a 160 km/h maximum.[99][100] Work has been under way to facilitate the transfer of slower freight traffic on to alternate lines but this has not been completed. The twice daily Kiev - Dnipropetrovs'k - Zaporizhzhya IC+ service run with a maximum speed of 140 km/h on a rail line in parts only single track and mostly designated for coal and other heavy rail transport (through the town of Trypillya).

2013 saw the introduction of an ones daily Dnipropetrovs'k - Simferopol (on the Crimean peninsula) IC+ service.[101]

It has been considered to construct a standard gauge line to the Polish border from the city of L'viv. This would result in a 80 km eastwards extension of the standard European gauge rail network, but the project has been silenced.

See also

External links

  • Level of service on passenger railway connections between European metropolises Report of the Transport and Spatial Planning Institute