The World's Fastest Trains

Imagine: New York to Chicago in just over 4 hours
The world's fastest trains depart from Shanghai's Hongqiao Railway Station, the biggest station in Asia.

China does it every day on the Beijing to Shanghai line

According to Railway Gazette’s latest World Speed Survey, the fastest scheduled train on the planet is on China’s Beijing to Shanghai line. This line opened in 2011 and was designed for 380 km/h (236 mph) operation, but was limited to 300 km/h (186 mph) until late 2017, when trains began to be allowed to reach peaks of 350 km/h (217 mph).

Trains G17 and G38 now cover the portion from Beijing to Nanjing—most of the way to Shanghai—at an average speed of 318 km/h (198 mph), which earns them the survey’s top spot.

The Beijing - Shanghai high-speed line holds the world record for an unmodified "stock" trainset hitting 486.1 km/h (302 mph) in December of 2010.

Beijing to Shanghai is 1,302 km, or 908 miles, roughly the equivalent of Chicago to New York. China’s fastest trains make this journey in 4 hours and 18 minutes. (Compare that to more than 20 hours on Amtrak.) That’s a trip time that’s very competitive with flying, when including the standard air travel time-wasters. More importantly, the high-speed train has a much lower carbon footprint than flying.

Keep that in mind next time someone tries to tell you that America is too spread-out for high-speed trains. (If they’re still not convinced, remind them China even runs one daily train between Beijing and Hong Kong—think Chicago to Miami—in only nine hours.)

Morroco is on the list
Morocco's high-speed train "Al Boraq" entering Kenitra Railway Station.

As high-speed rail becomes more common around the world, the list of fastest trains is no longer composed of only the usual suspects in Europe and Asia. Morocco’s new high-speed line places the country at number eight in the list by nations, just behind Germany and ahead of South Korea.

Hourly trains cover the new 194 km (121 mi) line from Tangier to Kenitra in only 50 minutes for an average speed of 233 km/h (145 mph). (From Kenitra, trains continue to Casablanca on conventional tracks while the rest of the high-speed line is planned and built.) We should be able to travel from Atlanta to Chattanooga or Indianapolis to Louisville just as fast and frequently.

There are now 22 countries where trains regularly travel at average speeds above 160 km/h (100 mph). As peak speeds of 350 km/h and average speeds exceeding 300 km/h become the new gold standard, high-speed rail becomes the right choice for more and longer trips.

It’s time to get serious about bringing the comfort, convenience, and carbon-sensibility of high-speed rail to North America.

World Record - 357.2 mph

The current world speed record for a commercial train on steel wheels is held by the French TGV at 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph), achieved on 3 April 2007 on the new LGV Est.

The trainset, the track and the cantenary were modified to test new designs.

Watch the video here.

North America Records - 183.68 mph & 170.8 mph
The United Aircraft TurboTrain set the North American record for a production trainset of 170.8

The steel wheel on steel rail record in North America was set by the New York Central with an experimental jet-powered railcar on July 23, 1966.

But, the more important record was set by an un-modified, production trainset on Penn Central's main-line between Trenton and New Brunswick, New Jersey on December 20, 1967.  A TurboTrain reached 170.8 mph (274.9 km/h). This remains the world speed record for gas turbine-powered rail vehicles.