High Speed Trains Compared
out of curiosity, I thought I put the various speeds and size of some of the high-speed trains in Europe.
Fyra – V250 – 8 car trains seating 546, running at a maximum speed of 250 km/hr.
UK – IC 225 – 9 car trains running at a maximum speed of 225 km/hr. Although they are limited to 201 km/hr. because of signalling.
Eurostar – 373 – 20 car trains seating 750, running at a maximum speed of 300 km/hr.
ICE 1 – 12 car trains seating 743, running at a maximum speed of 280 km/hr.
ICE 2 - 8 car trains seating 391, running at a maximum speed of 280 km/hr.
ICE 3 - 8 car trains seating 441, running at a maximum speed of 320 km/hr.
Although, they are all different, it’s surprising how with the exception of Eurostar, they are all fairly shortish trains.
The IC 225 is slower, but also as they run on normal lines with other traffic, and generally stop a few times on their journeys out of London, their performance isn’t as slow as you would think.
It may lead you to the conclusion, that on shorter high-speed services with stops, 200 km/hr may well be fast enough.
But as the French like to show, there is quite a lot of pride, that your trains run very fast. But then France and Spain are probably the only countries in Western Europe, that have the space for long high speed lines.
We have had only a few details about HS2, the line from London to the Midlands, North and eventually to Scotland. They seem to be planning for speeds of up to 400 km/hr., but how much is that to just prove they can do what the French do?
Putting an engineering hat on, it’s well known that the faster you go, the more energy you need and the more noise and damage to the track you make. And if you go at 400 km/hr instead of 200 km/hr, you don’t do the journey in half the time, as you have to accelerate and brake for longer.
We also get the old chestnut, of why don’t we have double-deck trains like they do in many places on the continent. Having travelled on a TGV Duplex to the South of France, I am very sceptical about them on short high speed distances, as loading and unloading can be a nightmare, given the excess baggage people take with them these days.
So I am veering towards shorter nimble trains with superb acceleration. Taking the HS2 route to Birmingham, which has two stops between Euston and Birmingham, they might even be as quick as a faster heavier train.
But then the trouble with a slightly slower service, is that it doesn’t polish the egos of politicians, who love to say they have things like the fastest or biggest in the world.
Obviously, past Birmingham, where there is more space, the service could go faster towards the North and Scotland.
You have to remember that most of the saving in journey times from high speed trains come from taking a direct flat route. Brunel and those that built the East Coast Main Line, knew that and were able to create tracks that now allow trains to run at 200 km/hr. The West Coast Main Line had to be threaded through country estates of the landed gentry and over quite a few hills, so it is much slower.
Looking at my target of Fyra, the Dutch don’t really need a 400 km/hr. line and in fact, limit the speed of trains to 300 km/hr., although they’re not going as fast as that yet.
So there would appear to be good reasons for not building short high-speed lines capable of 400 km/hr. But by all means build them capable of 200 km/hr.