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High Speed Trains: Overview

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.


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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.

Omio'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, 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 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 Train Routes in Europe

All Rights Reserved. Omio must be credited when sharing the map.

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.


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?

    Route Duration Price
    Trains from Amsterdam to Paris
    Trains from Paris to Amsterdam
    03 h 18
    03 h 18
    From 35 €
    From 35 €
    Trains from Amsterdam to Brussels
    Trains from Brussels to Amsterdam
    01 h 51
    01 h 51
    From 29 €
    From 29 €
    Trains from Brussels to Paris
    Trains from Paris to Brussels
    01 h 22
    01 h 22
    From 29 €
    From 29 €
    TGV from Marseille to Paris
    TGV from Paris to Marseille
    03 h 17
    03 h 17
    From 19 €
    From 19 €
    Trains from Lyon to Paris
    Trains from Paris to Lyon
    01 h 57
    01 h 57
    From 25 €
    From 25 €
    Trains from Turin to Paris
    Trains from Paris to Turin
    05 h 40
    05 h 04
    From 49 €
    From 49 €
    Trains from Barcelona to Paris
    Trains from Paris to Barcelona
    06 h 28
    06 h 28
    From 69 €
    From 69 €
    Trains from Barcelona to Madrid
    Trains from Madrid to Barcelona
    02 h 30
    02 h 30
    From 107 €
    From 107 €
    Trains from Milan to Rome
    Trains from Rome to Milan
    02 h 55
    02 h 55
    From 44 €
    From 44 €
    Trains from Milan to Naples
    Trains from Naples to Milan
    04 h 11
    04 h 11
    From 36 €
    From 36 €
    Trains from Berlin to Hamburg
    Trains from Hamburg to Berlin
    01 h 42
    01 h 42
    From 19 €
    From 19 €

    High-Speed Train FAQ

    What is a High-Speed Train?

    1. Following the Directive 96/48/EC APPENDIX 1 of the European Union, in order for a railway to be considered as High-Speed it must run on:
      1. Purpose built High-Speed lines equipped for speeds usually equal to or greater than 250 km/h
      2. Specially upgraded High-Speed lines equipped for speeds of 200 km/h

    What are the sources for this ranking?

    All data in this ranking was checked against official sources such as European Union directives, the railway companies, our internal database and official government population census data.

    What criteria and factors were used for the ranking?

    • The criteria used to weigh and classify trains and high-speed lines in each country are as follows in order of importance:
      1. Population coverage:
        Population covered by high-speed train. The most important factor of the study - it measures the total population with access to high-speed trains in their city in each country. To calculate takes into account the registered inhabitants in absolute terms from each of the cities which have high-speed lines passing through (according to official census data and equivalents). The numbers for residents of the metropolitan areas and surrounding cities are not considered. Furthermore, only rail lines that pass through at least two cities in each of the countries have been considered.
      2. Record Speed:
        For this score, all speed records of every model of high-speed train belonging to each train operating company was examined. For countries which use the same type of train, the record speed was considered to be the same.
      3. Operating speed:
        This factor focuses on the regular operating speed of the trains. Sheer power on its own wins you nothing here, rather the technical characteristics of the tracks and rolling stock and the type of terrain that their routes cover, for example.
      4. Line Coverage:
        Percentage of high-speed railway versus regular tracks.
      5. Cost per kilometer:
        This factor indicates the cost of tickets for high-speed train per kilometer. A mean cost of tickets per kilometer using the distance between different routes was calculated.
      6. Score:
        This indicates the total score reached by using the formula, relative to the highest score achieved, which is always 100.

        The formula used to calculate the ranking by countries is as follows:


        (Key: n: number of countries used for the study. Factor Ranking: ranking scored by country for each ranking factor. W: the weight given to each of the factors, ranging between 0.5 and 4 points, to arrive at an overall score).

    What are the differences between the ranking and the map?

    The ranking uses the European Union definition for High-Speed Rail, which means that only those lines that meet these criteria for the ranking are included. However, as a guide to help travelers, all trains that reach 200km/h are included on the map

    What counts as the record speed?

    • This is any speed record registered by the trains. However, the majority of these records were reached on special runs without passengers. Normal services don’t usually reach these speeds.
    • Some of the trains in the list don’t have an official record speed run. In those cases, the operating speed is considered the top speed record.