All these trains exist, they have actually reached such speeds, but they all also share the same downside: you can’t buy a ticket and enjoy a ride at their rated speed.
The reasons are that either their normal service speed is lower, or those trains are not in service at all (or at least not yet).
Therefore, if you are in Europe, you will hardly find a train with a normal service top speed higher than 200 mph (Italy will follow with 225 mph next year), with similar top speeds in China and Japan. China even reduced its fastest trains’ top speed from 220 mph to 186 mph after an accident in 2011.
The main reason behind such discrepancies between train top speed and service speed is given by railway networks, which set a limit for speed, regardless of the train going through them.
While running at 200 mph or faster is still awesome, one could wonder which the fastest train in normal service is.
Well, there is one which reaches 267 mphin normal service already.
Saint Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, together with Saint Gotthard railway tunnel and the road tunnel, represent a major European transit point connecting Northern and Southern Europe through the Saint Gotthard Massif, a mountain range in the Swiss Alps.
Saint Gotthard Pass
Saint Gotthard Pass in summer – Click on it
Saint Gotthard Pass is a relatively low altitude (2,100 m, or 6,900 ft) passage point in the Gotthard Massif, in the middle of the Swiss Alps. It has been used over the last hundreds of years as a crossing point for people and goods transportation. To the north lie the Swiss cities of Zurich and Bern, then the Rhine basin and Germany. To the south, the Ticino Valley with the Swiss Canton bearing the same name, followed by the valleys of Northern Italy.
Although the pass is entirely located on Swiss territory, it is part of both a geological and a linguistic continental divide.
The pass crosses the European continental watershed that separates the Mediterranean Sea basin from the North Sea Basin. This division also reflects on languages spoken by inhabitants of both sides: while both Swiss citizens, south inhabitants (Canton Ticino) speak Italian, while north ones speak German (Canton Uri).
This separation is found throughout all the Alps.
Nowadays Gotthard Pass is mainly a leisure summer destination where enjoying sight of mountains’ majesty and refreshment from heat. It is closed to traffic in winter. A few small lakes lie on pass plane.
Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel
Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel is a 15-kilometer (9 miles) tunnel built inside Saint Gotthard Massif at an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level.
It was excavated in the 1870s and opened to rail traffic in 1882. Its construction claimed the lives of approximately 200 people, including the engineer leading construction, Louis Favre.
The tunnel took over traffic from the pass since its completion and has served as a major connecting passage between northern and southern Europe to this day. It is mainly crossed by passenger and freight trains that reach Italy from Switzerland and from Germany.
Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard
A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard
Following car traffic increase in the 1960s and 1970s, a road tunnel was constructed at approximately the same level of the old railway tunnel, and opened in 1980.
With its length of just over 16 km (10 mi), Gotthard road tunnel was the longest road tunnel in the world at its completion and it is now the third.
The tunnel features a heavy traffic load. Since there is only one lane for each direction and a safety distance is mandatory for vehicles, traffic lights are placed at both ends in order to dilute traffic inside the tunnel. This can result in massive traffic jams outside the tunnel, that can reach almost 20 km (12 mi) in length in summertime.
Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 – Click to enlarge
While Saint Gotthard Pass is no longer used for transportation, both Gotthard railway tunnels and road tunnel will see their traffic increasing in the following years, gaining importance for trans-Europe transportation.
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