U.S. High-Speed Rail Projects Aim to Catch Up [Slide Show]
The Obama administration will make up to $13 billion available for high-speed railroad projects across the nation, which lags far behind the fast railways of Asia and Europe
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ITALY Italy's ETR 200 (or
ElettroTreno 200) was an early electricity-driven high-speed train introduced in 1936 whose maximum speed topped out at 160 kilometers per hour. Although the production of the ETR 200 was halted by World War II and many were damaged by Allied bombings, the ETR 200 and its successors remained in service until the early 1980s. COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA
ENGLAND The British Rail Class 395 is a dual-voltage electric train that has been in service since June. The U.K.'s Southeastern train operating company uses the high-speed trains in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which opened in 1994 and connects England and France. The trains were built in Japan by Hitachi and shipped to England to operate high-speed domestic services. They are the fastest operating service trains in the U.K., running at a maximum speed of 225 kilometers per hour.
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UNITED STATES Amtrak's Acela Express is the nation's only high-speed rail line, with a top speed of 240 kilometers per hour. The Acela has since 2000 operated along the U.S.'s Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston, with stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City along the way. The rail service incorporates a tilting design that allows the train to move at higher velocities on the sharply curved Northeast Corridor line without disturbing passengers by lowering lateral centrifugal forces, a principle based on the same physics employed in banked turns in automobile racing.
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TAIWAN Taiwan's high-speed rail network, which launched in January 2007, covers about 335.5 kilometers from Taipei City to Kaohsiung City. These high-speed trains have a top operating speed of nearly 300 kilometers per hour. (Any train that travels faster than 200 kilometers per hour is generally considered "high speed".)
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JAPAN Japan's JR West 500 series "superexpress" trains are designed to reach a top speed of 320 kilometers per hour, although they operate at a maximum of 300 kilometers per hour in service. The train relies on a computer-controlled active suspension for a smoother and safer ride as well as special couplers that are fitted between cars for improved stability. Each train costs about $56 million, and only nine have been built since they began service in 1997.
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SPAIN Spain's Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) Class 102 is a group of high-speed trains operated by the country's state railway company Renfe Operadora and run on a dedicated high-speed track. The train, which was principally designed for the Madrid–Barcelona line and first went into service in 2005, tops out at up to 350 kilometers per hour, although its certified maximum operating speed is 330 kilometers per hour due to the limits of its 8,000-kilowatt engines.
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SOUTH KOREA The HSR-350x, aka the Korean G-7, reaches a maximum speed of 352.4 kilometers per hour. It was developed primarily to reduce traffic problems and to raise the nation's science and technology level to that of the world's leaders, at the time known as the G-7. The HSR-350x features an aluminum body, digital traffic control and a pressure compensation system. Unlike some other high-speed trains whose individual cars are powered, the HSR-350x configuration relies on traditional propulsion in the form of high-powered locomotives pulling carriages. Although South Korea began working on its high-speed rail project in 1995, it wasn't until 2004 that the HSR-350x was able to break the 350 kilometer-per-hour barrier.
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FRANCE France's TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, for "high-speed train'") claims the world speed record at 574.8 kilometers per hour (in April 2007) as well as the record for the fastest scheduled rail journey with a start-to-stop average speed of 279.4 kilometers per hour. The system was developed during the 1970s by GEC–Alstom (now Alstom) and Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF, for "French National Railways"), but is now operated primarily by SNCF. Although originally designed to be powered by gas turbines, the TGV prototypes evolved into electric trains.
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