Global High-Speed Train Ranking

Global High-Speed Train Ranking

High-speed rail networks may be a relatively new phenomenon, but for 20 countries worldwide they already form the backbone of the transport network. Although first introduced in Japan, high-speed rail was truly established in Europe during the 80s and 90s. Recently, technological advancements have pushed Asian countries up the ranks with regard to population served by the high-speed network, price per kilometer as well as operating and top speeds, cementing Japan in the number one spot.

Home to a famously extensive rail network, the infrastructural changes associated with switching from normal to high-speed rail have proven particularly complex in Europe. For example, the high-speed network in the United Kingdom is expected to remain under construction until 2026, which is perhaps what happens when your railway lines date back to 1825. Similarly, despite persistent interest and rumors involving California and the Eastern seaboard, the United States has yet to embrace high-speed train technology. This ranking exclusively compares trains meeting the official high-speed criteria. (To find out more, check out the FAQ.)

Now that the wheels are in motion nothing can slow down the high-speed revolution.

GoEuro's Ranking of High-Speed Trains

How was this ranking calculated? [1]

The ranking shows that countries in Asia are the runaway leaders when it comes to high-speed trains. Japan, with its incredible top speed record and high placing for population coverage and operating speed dominates the competition. Fascinatingly, in comparison only 1.62% of tracks in South Korea are considered High-Speed, but between them they cover more than 44% of the country’s population. It is also noteworthy that China, with more than 66,298 km of railways have covered 29.22% of them with high speed tracks; however, these lines only serve 10.7% of their population.

France and Spain manage to make the top 5 in the ranking. Some European countries manage to surpass Asian ones in certain aspects of high-speed train travel. For instance, when it comes to operating speed, Germany, Spain and France are equivalent with Japan, just behind China, but above South Korea. More than 20% of population of Austria and Spain have direct access to high-speed lines, followed closely by Italy and Germany with around 18%. Finally, despite its small size, approximately 12% of the Netherlands has access to high-speed trains.

Map of the Fastest Rail Routes in Europe

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Planned and Under Construction

Kilometers of High-Speed Rail Lines Worldwide

Status Asia Europe The Americas Africa Oceania Total
Under Construction 13 868 2 867 483 200 0 17 418
Planning 14 287 11 044 3 340 4 080 1 749 34 500
Using 23 794 10 692 729 0 0 35 215
Total 51 949 24 603 4 552 4 280 1 749 87 133

Focusing on Europe, there are some pretty exciting developments in the world of high-speed trains. France plans to reach 4,500 km of dedicated high-speed tracks, which would increase high-speed coverage of their rail network to 15.20%. Spain plans to build more than 2,700 km of new high-speed tracks, subsequently achieving an estimated 37.68% of high-speed rail coverage. Germany will increase the coverage of its railway network by 50%, with the construction of some 790 km of new high-speed track. Italy plans to expand its network with another 346 km of high-speed tracks, meaning they will reach a coverage of nearly 10% throughout the entire network.

The infographic below compares the top 15 top speed records and throws up some interesting results with the average operational speeds.

World's Fastest High Speed Trains

Quick Fast Train Facts!

  • Germany is a true pioneer of high-speed rail. From 1899 to 1903 they ran experiments on a 72-kilometer stretch of track between Marienfelde and Zossen, culminating in a high-speed run that managed to reach 210.2 km/h. Unfortunately, it never came into regular service. The 300 km/h barrier then held for many years until the 50s when France smashed through with the SNCF Class CC 7100.
  • USA and Russia, both once in competition during the Space Race, are actually at the bottom in terms of coverage of high-speed network, each with less than 1% of their populations served.
  • The line from Madrid to Barcelona and onward to the French border is the longest high-speed line Europe, with a total of 804 km. That’s not as long as the record for longest distance traveled by train in 24 hours: 3,783 km! Brit John Daffurn began his epic trip at Guangzhou South Station and finished up at Longyang Road subway station in Shanghai, between the 7th and 8th of November 2013.
  • In fact, in terms of the amount of high-speed tracks, Spain ranks first in Europe with 3100 km worth, putting it second in the world behind China, which has 19369 km.

Most Popular Routes

For High-Speed Trains in Europe

Behind Asia, Europe is the continent with the most high-speed train lines. Of these, some are among the busiest in the world, making travel between the city centers of some of the main European capitals possible in just a few hours. Which 10 high-speed train routes are the continent's most popular and what are their speeds?

Provider Route
Thalys 506km / 3h 18min
218km / 1h 51min
300km / 1h 22min
488km / 3h 21min
SNCF 774km / 3h 17min
425km / 1h 57min
SNCF Renfe 1075km / 6h 28min
Renfe 659km / 2h 30min
Trenitalia Italo 580km / 2h 55min
Deutsche Bahn 282km / 1h 42min