High-Speed Rail: a remarkable story


Many commuters share a business mobility problem: they bought a house with a garden in beautiful A-Town because it’s the perfect place for their kids to grow up. Their employer, however, is situated in B-Town. B-Town is an urban centre, an industrial hub, and around 80 to 100 km away from A-Town.

These commuters must cover the distance every day in order to get to work. This trip can become quite an exhausting affair in the long run. But moving to B-Town is out of question, as it would mean a significant decrease in quality of life. But how to cover this distance every day without arriving at the office already exhausted before work has even started?

In Germany, for instance, 80 percent of long-distance commuters still use their car. Others again use the Intercity-Express, Germany’s high-speed train. However, these distributions are most likely to change in the future. This is because modern high-speed trains from all over the globe continue to improve their overall quality service. They are faster, more comfortable, and more environmentally friendly. In the following we present some success stories on this increasingly popular business mobility mode.

The age of high-speed rail

It is not hard to see the advantages of high-speed trains over cars. Trains like the French TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) regularly reach an incredible 320 km/h. For decades, the TGV’s national operator, Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français (SNCF), has invested billions of euros into constructing its high-speed network. With currently 2,000km of ultra-fast tracks, the TGV has managed to become the envy of Europe. It allows Parisians to commute to Strasbourg in just over 2 hours and to Brussels, in Belgium, in less than 1.5 hours.[1] Commuters ride comfortably as well as efficiently as there are no traffic jams. Out of the many changes and improvements business mobility has experienced over the years, the establishment of high-speed rail is probably among the most influential. Decades ago it was impossible to imagine that one could board a train in London’s St. Pancras station and alight in Paris’ Gare du Nord a mere 130 minutes later. In Europe, the TGV is the pioneer of high-speed rail: the Eurostar, Thalys and Italo, Europe’s newest high-speed trains, have been engineered and modelled after the TGV. The most fascinating high-speed rail network however, we find in China: It currently features the largest high-speed rail network in the world comprising more than 13,000km. Its most impressive route is the famous 1,318km Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway connecting these two major economic centres in less than 4.5 hours.[2] Remarkably, the realisation of the project – from laying the first tracks to opening the route– took its operator China Railway High-speed as little as three years. Further investments are planned in order to fully exploit the potential of high-speed rail in the huge country that is China.

What about regional networks?

There are some drawbacks, however. The past decade has seen a sheer boom of high-speed trains. But where winners come to light, losers are usually not far away. In France, local and regional train networks have suffered tremendously from the preferential investments by government and private cooperation into high-speed rail. In Paris, commuters complain about poor service on regional lines.[3] This has resulted in the following discrepancy: at 7am, regional commuters have to stand in overcrowded carriages whereas the high-speed rail commuters enjoy breakfast at their comfortable seat. Apparently, there are always two sides of the same coin, right?

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