High-speed rail in Europe: Wikis

  
  
  

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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. Today only the core countries of Western Europe are 'plugged in' to a cross-border high-speed railway network. This will change rapidly in the coming years as Europe invests heavily in tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure and development projects across the continent.

High-speed lines in Europe.      320–350 km/h      300 km/h      250–280 km/h      200–230 km/h

Contents

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.

Austria

The Austrian Western Railway is being upgraded. The new sections have a continuous maximum design speed of 250 km/h.[1] Due to technical restrictions, the German ICE trains currently running on the line travel with speeds of up to 200 km/h. Austrian locomotive-hauled trains operating at 200 km/h (called railjet) were launched in 2008. ÖBB is planning to increase the operational speed to 230 km/h some time after 2013. [1][2]

The 56 km (35 mi) Brenner Base Tunnel currently under construction will allow speeds of up to 250 km/h.[3][4] The Unterinntalbahn, the line connecting the Brenner Base Tunnel to Southern Germany, is also being upgraded from two tracks to four tracks and maximum design speeds of 250 km/h.

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

Belgium

High-speed rail network in Belgium

Belgium's rail network is served by four types of high-speed trains: Thalys, Eurostar, ICE and TGV trains. All of them stop in Brussels South station, Belgium's largest train station. Thalys trains operate between Belgium, Germany (Köln), The Netherlands (Amsterdam) and France (Paris). Thalys trains are a variant of the French TGV. Since 2007 Eurostar connects Brussels to London St Pancras. Before that date 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 impacted 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 eastward 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 13th 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 13th december 2009 and it will be used starting 2010 by fast internal InterCity and NS Hispeed 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 nearing 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.

Bulgaria

As part of a railway modernisation campaign, tracks in the northwestern part of the country have been modernized to meet modern standards. A high-speed train line will be built, connecting Sofia and Vidin through Botevgrad. The trains will develop speeds of between 160 and 200 km/h. The line is expected to be complete by 2017 at a cost of 3 billion euro.[5]

Croatia

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 Botovo-Zagreb-Rijeka line, with an initial maximum planned speed of 200 km/h.[6]. 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-Josipdol line and a construction of a completely new line between Josipdol 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

The ČD Railway has been running the Super City Pendolino from Prague to Vienna and Bratislava since 2005. The Pendolino is capable of operating at 230 km/h. However in-service trains are limited to 160 km/h due to the speeds the railways were constructed to meet. These limits will be raised in future (see Czech rail records).

Czech Ministery of Transportation plans cca 660 km long high-speed rail network.[7] Several studies were completed, but proper variant of network is not chosen definitely.[8] There are no expectations for any operation before 2020.[citation needed]

Denmark

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 Oresund Bridge have made possible overland transportation between Germany and Sweden. A Fehmarn Belt bridge has been approved, and upon completion in 2018, will reduce rail travel between Hamburg and Copenhagen to 3.5 hours.

The main lines in Denmark allow 180 km/h at many places, for example most of the route Copenhagen-Århus (map). Some parts will be upgraded to 200 km/h. Currently the fastest trains reach 180 km/h. A new train, the IC4 diesel train, can reach 200 km/h and has during 2007 been put into test operation with passengers in western Denmark. This project is delayed and it remains to be seen when they will run long-distance full-scale operation. During the winter 2007/2008 the German railways has started service with the ICE-TD in Denmark, which are diesel trains capable of 200 km/h, but they run at maximum 180 km/h for now in Denmark.

It is not likely that any train will run above 200 km/h in Denmark for many years. Denmark is a small country having about 300 km between its two biggest cities Copenhagen and Aarhus. 200 km/h is enough to compete with air travel here. The mainlines are usually too curvy for higher speeds, which would be possible on short stretches only. New railway lines are not planned in Denmark, except for a new 60 km long line Copenhagen-Ringsted, which will allow at least 200 km/h when finished. The railway line towards the future Fehmarn Belt bridge will be upgraded to 160 km/h in 2010, and possibly 200 km/h around year 2018, not faster than that, as the Copenhagen-Hamburg route is mostly too curvy and will be mixed with heavy freight traffic and continue to rely on two single-track bridges; the Danish Storstrøm Bridge and the German Fehmarn Sound Bridge.

The signalling system is unique for Denmark, and contains numerous obsolete components, which must be replaced. Denmark has decided to replace the signalling system with a new one, the ERTMS, to be finished before 2020. That is a requirement for higher speed than 200 km/h.

Denmark uses diesel trains for long-distance passenger trains and plans to continue with that, even though delays with the custom-built IC4 might encourage a shift to electric trains. A key obstacle for the introduction of electric trains is the lack of an electric overhead supply on the Ålborg-Århus-Fredericia rail track. An additional obstacle to the introduction of high-speed rail in western Denmark is that two stretches of rail track between Kolding and the Danish-German border are single-track lines only.

Finland

In Finland VR operates tilting Pendolino trains made by Alstom, reaching 220 km/h in regular operation between Helsinki and Lahti on a route spanning some 60 kilometers. This railway was opened in 2006. The trains stay at 200 km/h on a longer route between Helsinki and Tampere. Other parts of the Finnish railway network are limited to lower speed. The Pendolino network connects several major cities. A service is currently planned between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, Russia, utilizing Pendolinos, and is due to open in autumn 2010.[9][10] The new service will be called "Allegro". 4 new Pendolino trains have been ordered, with a top speed of 220 km/h. The first train is due to arrive in Finland in January, 2010, with the rest of the trains arriving later in 2010. The train will initially be put into testing in Finland before going on to Russia for testing there. The model selected is a variant on the S220 Pendolino already used by VR, however this version will be dual voltage.[11] The upgrading of the lines will happen in stages:[10][12]

2007-2010: The Russian line from the Finnish border to St.Peterburg will be improved to allow higher running speeds. It will also be electrified.

Autumn 2010: Upon completion the journey time from Helsinki to St.Petersburg will be 3 1/2 Hours. 2 trains will run daily. Revenue service expected to commence. At this point track improvement will be compete in both countries. All border formalities will handled on board the moving trains. It now anticapted that the final fastest journey time will be 3 1/2 hours, as compared to 3 hours as had been reported previously.[13]

2011: The current (as of 2009) conventional fleet of trains "Sibelius" and "Repin" will be withdrawn and the Pendolino fleet will move to 3 departures per day.

Finland uses its 1524 mm gauge, not standard gauge since they want to use the same trains for both high-speed railways and old enhanced railways. The only trans-border railway to Sweden at Tornio is not planned for border crossing passenger trains.

France

High-speed rail in France and Belgium

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 most developed high-speed network in Europe.

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 central location of France in Western 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.

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.

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 service the Paris to Brussels corridor, which is now covered in 1h20. Additional Thalys services extend to Amsterdam and Cologne in addition to Belgian cities.

Germany

ICE network

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.

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 while ICE trains operate the Paris to Frankfurt route via Saarbrücken.

In the southwest, a new line between Karlsruhe and Basel is under construction 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 (143 miles) 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.

Greece

The railway line between Patras - Athens - Thessaloniki is being replaced with a higher speed double track with modern signalling. Some parts are built new and other parts are being upgraded. The 520 km line will have a maximum operational speed of 200 km/h, reducing travel time from 5:30 to 3:50.[14] The line will be capable of speeds in excess of 250 km/h, however the mountainous geography of Greece limits turn radii significantly, thus resulting in the 200 km/h classification.

Ireland

Ireland's current fastest Intercity service is the Dublin to Cork "InterCity" service, which operates at 160 km/h (100mph). 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 existing De Dietrich Ferroviaire coaches will be life expired):

  • Upgrading the route to 200 km/h (125 mph) with new carriages with journey times of 90 mins.
  • Upgrading the route to 240 km/h (140 mph) with tilting trains, which would cut times to 60 minutes

There are discussions about a rail tunnel from Ireland to Britain, the Irish Sea Tunnel. It is not considered economically viable for foreseeable time.

Italy

Italy's high speed rail network, recent line openings not shown

The earliest high-speed train deployed in Europe was the Italian "Direttissima" that connected Rome with Florence (254 km/158 mi) in 1978. 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 plans to be the first open access high speed rail operator in Europe, by 2011, using AGV multiple units.

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 Lyon Turin Ferroviaire, 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 Ljubljana-Venice, but this service was discontinued in April, 2008.

The Brenner Base Tunnel through Austria and Italy is also proposed.

Netherlands

HSL-Zuid, connected to Antwerp with the HSL 4

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.[15] Den Haag Centraal (The Hague) and Breda are connected to the high-speed line by conventional railway lines.[16] Services on the HSL-Zuid began on 7 September 2009.[17] It will be served by Thalys trains from Amsterdam to Brussels and Paris,[18] and Fyra trains serving all HSL-Zuid stations between Amsterdam Centraal and Brussel-Zuid/Bruxelles-Midi. [19]

HSL-Oost was planned, but put on hiatus. It would connect Amsterdam Centraal via Utrecht Centraal and Arnhem to Germany.[20]

Norway

The Flytoget at Oslo station, Norway

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)[21][22]. 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 line 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.[23]

Poland

Poland high speed rail network plan; red: "Y" Line, blue: Central Trunk Line


Today, the main cities of Poland are linked by railway transport reaching 160 km/h. Several sections of the Central Trunk Line are able to allow speeds of 200 km/h (with a current speed record in Poland of 250 km/h) however Polish Railways don't 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 WarsawLodzKalisz, with branches to Wroclaw and Poznan. 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 center of the city of Łódź the "Y" line will travel through an underground tunnel which would link two existing railway stations. One of them, Łódź Fabryczna, would be reconstructed as an underground station (reconstruction scheduled to start July 2010[24]). In April 2009, 4 companies qualified for the 2nd phase of a public tender to prepare a feasibility study for construction of the line. The feasibility study project has been granted €80 million in subsidy from European Union[25]. 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[26]. There are also many plans to upgrade existing lines. The Warsaw - Krakow/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 Poznan and Prague from Wroclaw, most probably by upgrading existing lines.

Portugal

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 three high-speed lines from the capital Lisbon to Porto, from Porto to Vigo 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 (southern counterpart) at a speed of up to 220 km/h (135 mph).

Russia

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 continue their service until nowadays. As of Feb 2010 fatigue cracks in the wheelsets have developed in all trainsets and a decision is being made whether or not to temporarily discontinue operation.[citation needed] In February, 2010, RZhD announced it would shortly release proposal for a new high-speed line to be built parallel to the existing line between St.Petersberg and Moscow.[27]

Spain

Spain's high speed rail network

The Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) high-speed rail system in Spain is currently under construction. High-speed trains have been running on the MadridSevilla route since 1992. Should the aims of the ambitious AVE construction program 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[28]. 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 Hertz 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 interchangeable gauges and automatic gauge changer equipment which the trains pass without stopping. Some lines are being equipped with a third rail allowing trains with Iberian and UIC gauge to run on the same tracks. Other lines are equipped with sleepers for both Iberian and UIC gauge, where 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 will be the LGV Perpignan-Figueres, which will include a new tunnel under the Pyrenees. This line, along with the AVE lines from Figueres to Barcelona and Madrid, should be operational by 2012. Upon completion, trains will be able to operate between the French and Spanish capitals without break of gauge for the first time. Other links, including one at Irun/Hendaye are also planned.

Currently several new HSR lines are under construction with design speed of 300-350km/h, as well several old lines are being upgraded to allow passenger trains to operate at 250km/h.[29] [30]

Three corporations have built or will build trains for the Spanish high-speed rail network: Spanish Talgo, French Alstom and German Siemens AG. Bombardier Transportation is a partner in both the Talgo-led and the Siemens-led consortium. Because France has yet to electrify its rail lines at the TGV voltage of 25 kV all the way to the Spanish border, initial connections between the two countries will require special train sets, such are already in use between Paris and Amsterdam.

Sweden

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.

Parts of the network can be relatively easily upgraded to 250 km/h. This requires new signalling system, catenary, removal of level crossings and new trains. There are plans to upgrade specific railways to allow this speed. They have been delayed to after 2015. A number of upgrades from single to double track or new railway have been built since 1990. They have been built with curves capable for 250 km/h (some requiring tilting trains for that). However neither the signalling system, nor the trains allow more than 205 km/h before at least 2010. The Botniabanan will be ready and allowed for 250 km/h trains in 2010, but no such trains will run there for the first years, partly because the manufacturers have no experience of this in such cold climate. A research project ("Gröna tåget") aims to get experience of it, to make such trains available before 2015.

There are plans for a long completely new high-speed railway for 300-320 km/h, Stockholm-Linköping-Jönköping-Borås-Gothenburg, since the existing railways are relatively congested. An informal date suggestion by the Banverket is operation by year 2030. For two parts (Södertälje-Linköping and Mölnlycke-Bollebygd) detailed planning is done, and they are expected to have construction start by around 2017 and be in operation by around 2025[31].

Switzerland

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 and the often difficult terrain, they currently do not attain speeds higher than 200 km/h (ICE) or 160 km/h (TGV) there. 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 Cisalpino consortium owned by the Swiss Federal Railways and Trenitalia uses Pendolino tilting trains on two of its international lines.

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 has opened in 2007 where New Pendolino trains will run at 250 km/h. The 57 km Gotthard Base Tunnel (Top speed 250 km/h) is scheduled for opening in 2015. The second stage of Rail2000 includes line upgrades in canton Valais (200 km/h) and between Biel and Solothurn (200 km/h). Start of work is planned for 2012-2016.

Turkey

Turkish HSR Network: High-speed rail lines in service, those under construction, and those in the planning stages

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 up to 300 km/h. 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 2012.

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 train sets 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.

Ukraine

On August 1, 2008, the Ukrainian Minister of Transport & Communications, Yosyp Vinsky, announced the intention to redesignate key lines between major cities as passenger only lines.[32] Lines included will be Kiev through Poltava and Krasnohrad to Kharkiv, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovs’k, and also from Kiev via Zhmerynka to Odessa and L’viv. This will allow train speeds of up to 200 km/h. The project is expected to cost $6.5bn. This work should be complete by 2012, when the Ukraine will co-host the European football championships with Poland. As of 2008, work was already under way to facilitate the transfer of freight traffic on to other lines. Also under consideration is the construction of a standard gauge line to the Polish border from the city of L'viv, though at this time potential running speeds are unknown.[32]

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom's first dedicated high-speed line, High Speed 1 between London and the Channel Tunnel, opened 14 November 2007. There are no other high speed lines planned, however. Most proposals have been dubbed High Speed 2. Unlike in other countries, the strongest reasons for new high speed lines are to relieve congestion on the existing network.

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 two voltages, both pantograph and third-rail power collection, 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 carriages. A fully loaded train of 750 passengers is roughly equivalent to five 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. Most inter-city traffic is restricted to a maximum speed of 200 km/h (125 mph) using routes largely established in the middle years of the nineteenth century. The main reason for this restriction is that, unlike several countries on the continent, Britain has never invested in building specialised lines for intercity services, which therefore have to share even the main lines with freight and local passenger traffic. Any increase in line speed on the existing routes would require an expensive upgrade to in-cab signalling. Even so, the speed limit on some sections of the East Coast Main Line was raised to 140 mph 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). Shortly after however, a law was passed, demanding any further speed increase would require in-cab signalling, although experiments were carried out with flashing aspect signals. Much of the traffic on this line is handled by 200 km/h diesel-electric powered InterCity 125 High Speed Trains which are around three decades old. However National Express East Coast trains on the East Coast Main Line between London Kings Cross and York (which also use more modern InterCity 225s) still achieve an average point-to-point speed that puts them in the world top six.

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 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 originally planned. 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).

Last year, several proposals for domestic British high speed lines have been put forward and the government is considering building a north-south line. For more information, see High-speed rail in the United Kingdom.

Regional Projects

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[33], as no final decision has been made. For cost reasons an upgrade is the most likely decision. Some upgrade has already started.

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-Constanta. 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.

See also

References

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