|A Cisalpino tilting train races through the European countryside (wikipedia)|
Thanks to modern rail technology, traveling by train through
has recaptured the romance of travel that existed in a bygone era. Once again
the simple act of coming from and going to is a pleasure to be enjoyed with
contemporary comfort and efficiency.
|Japanese Shinkansen, commonly called "The Bullet Train" (wikipedia)|
they are called Shinkansen, but to
the world they commonly became known as “bullet trains.” Japan
With concerns about population density combined with rising costs of gasoline, countries like
France and Germany quickly began developing
high speed rail services of their own.
takes national pride as a leader in conventional rail technology, establishing
a world record speed of 357.2 miles per hour in April of 2007.
Commercial high speed trains in many European countries
currently reach scheduled speeds of 186-mph while some of
Grande Vitesse) travel at 200-mph. In larger
European countries, such as France France
it was feasible to design dedicated tracks which allow higher rates of speed. Germany
|Double decked TGV speeds through the coast of France (wikipedia)|
Countries with less revenue for rail infrastructure or which are not large enough to support the extensive
lengths of dedicated track necessary for high speed rail, ingeniously developed
the concept of tilting trains. While
tilt trains do not travel at the super speeds of their faster cousins, they
have the advantage of being able to operate on existing rail lines.
|Tilting trains make high speed possible (wikipedia)|
Another innovation, which has also been incorporated into modern French TGVs and German ICEs (Inter City Express), is double deck trains which offer added passenger capacity and high speeds as well.
Technological advances in conventional high speed rail travel made the long awaited dream of connecting the
United Kingdom with
continental Europe through a tunnel beneath the English
Channel a reality.
The project officially opened
in May, 1994 with the 31.4 mile underwater rail tunnel linking
Kent in England with Coquelles Pas-de-Calais in northern
. Today, Eurostar trains make day trips between
France England and France or a convenient proposition
for holiday travelers or businessmen.
Trains travel between Belgium London and Paris in 2 hours 15 minutes, while trips to/from London
can be done in just under 2 hours. Brussels
|Eurostar train exits the Channel Tunnel at 186-miles per hour (wikipedia)|
|Interior of Thalys, known as "Big Red" (wikipedia)|
Even a small country like
Switzerland, which has no need for a high speed
network of its own, has cleverly negotiated alliances with France, Germany
to utilize their rapid train services between the bordering countries. The result has been a tourism boom for all
four destinations by providing easy access for visitors. Italy
Several other countries in
Europe also have extensive, growing, high speed rail services, particularly
Sweden and . Competition among the countries is keen, and
services vary widely depending upon the length of the journey. Short hauls feature food carts with snack and
drink services or bistro cars, while longer trips provide full-service dining
cars. Depending upon the time of day,
some trains offer meal services at your seat. Spain
Ground transportation is
frequently the last thing travelers consider when planning a trip. For Americans, renting a car is often the
first consideration and, indeed, at first glance a rail pass may seem expensive
by comparison. But when you calculate the
high cost of gasoline in Europe, the convenience of going city-center to
city-center by rail, the hassles of reading road signs and finding parking, the
accessibility of food and restroom services and the opportunity to relax, read
a book or paper, work at the computer, enjoy a nap or simply gaze out the
window at the passing panoramas, a European rail pass is a bargain. In
addition, rail passes offer many money-saving bonuses for a variety of other
travel related services.
|Inside the bustling railway terminal in Stockholm, Sweden (wikipedia)|
|A German InterCity Express (ICE) pulls into Leipzig (wikipedia)|
|Panoramic trains glides through Switzerland (wikipedia)|
It is now practical, in many cases, to base yourself in a city without changing hotels every day. Not only does it save time from packing and unpacking, it allows more opportunities for sightseeing or shopping and fewer hassles of constantly being on the move.
High speed trains reinvented
Europe. Using their fabulous modern
“bullet trains” is a traveler’s delight.
|High speed trains combine with majestic European scenery for the best of two worlds (wikipedia)|