Europe on board high-speed trains 30 years after the first AVE

On April 14, 1992, passengers on the AVE Madrid-Seville pioneered the high-speed train in Spain. The line shortened the journey between the state capital and Andalusia by four hours. Over the next thirty years, the Spanish network would become the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world behind China and Japan, consolidating itself as an efficient transport option, perfect both for business trips and for holidays.

In Europe, high speed was officially born in September 1981 with the inauguration of the Sathonay-Saint Florentin section of the TGV line between Lyon and Paris, France. Since then, twelve countries of the Old Continent (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain and Sweden) have developed internal networks with trains capable of reaching at least 250 km per hour, the minimum indicated by the European Commission to be considered broadband.

Many commuters use the first AVE trains daily in the morning in Girona to go to work in Barcelona.

Pere Duran / NORD MEDIA / Collaborators

Most countries have adopted a maximum speed of 300 km/h, while in Spain 310 km/h has been chosen and in France 320 km/h. Previously, there were already several lines exceeding 200 km/h, now considered conventional, the first of which, the Direttissima Florence-Rome line, dates back to the thirties of the last century.

Today, the European high-speed network measures around 9,500 kilometres, if only lines capable of reaching 300 km/h are considered. This is far from the Chinese record of 35,000 kilometers, but far superior to the American network which has only 735 kilometers. The return of rail transport seems inevitable. Indeed, it is proven that when the travel time by train is less than three and a half hours, it is the most efficient means of transport.

Great speed

When the travel time by train is less than three and a half hours, it is the most efficient means of transport

Unlike airplanes, trains don’t involve long waits at checkpoints or baggage restrictions, and the seats are undoubtedly more comfortable. Experts from the American consulting firm ADVITO predict that broadband will soon be the majority in business travel, with a growth forecast of around 40% by 2030.

Interconnections between the capitals and major cities of different European countries are developing, albeit slowly, thanks to multi-voltage trains, able to run using the different electrified line systems. At present it mainly occurs in Northern Europe, with many connections between Germany and Scandinavia. But also with the Eurostar trains that connect London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, taking advantage of the Channel Tunnel, or thanks to the Renfe-SNCF collaboration to connect Barcelona and Paris in just six and a half hours.

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Lidia Yanel – EFEToledo


The magic of the landscape that crosses the window, the convenience of reaching the city center and, from there, taking a direct connection with a small town, is something that convinces more and more people. It’s a way of looking at the world from another point of view, almost looking behind the curtain, because when the trains slow down, they seem to peek into people’s homes.

We are therefore going to offer you some possible routes thanks to the high-speed rail network in the main European countries.

Atocha, Madrid, Spain

Spain aspires to connect all the capitals of the autonomous communities to Madrid in a maximum of three hours of travel

MP on Unsplash

Spain aims to connect all the capitals of the autonomous communities to Madrid in a maximum of three hours, and to Barcelona in six. The section between Barcelona and the state capital is essential for speed lovers, as it is one of only two European lines authorized to travel at more than 300 km/h. In two hours and 50 minutes, the 506 kilometers that separate Sants de Atocha station are covered. And if you want to repeat the historic route of the first AVE journey, you can continue to Seville, covering the 390 kilometers that separate the two cities in just two hours and 35 minutes.

France ranks second in Europe for the length of its high-speed rail line. The TGVs are a real source of pride and a symbol of greatness gala. The old PLM line (Paris-Lyon-Marseille), dating from the Belle Époque, is now covered in three hours. From the City of Light, you can take the Thalys which reaches Brussels in about 1h30, or go east to Strasbourg, capital of Alsace, on the other ultra-fast line in Europe: 396 km in 1h45. Once alighted at its splendid station, it is essential to get lost among vineyards, wineries and castles along a route that touches charming towns connected by excellent connections.

Berlin Hbf (Europaplatz), Berlin, Germany

Berlin Hbf (Europaplatz), Berlin. Germany has 1,571 kilometers of high-speed lines

Daniel Abadia on Unsplash

Germany has 1,571 kilometers of high-speed lines, where 300 km/h is not reached despite the fact that its Ice-3 can cross them without problem. The main axes are Cologne-Frankfurt (the fastest), Cologne-Berlin and Frankfurt-Stuttgart. Also the 282 kilometers, which separate Berlin from the port of Hamburg in one hour and 43 minutes, are more comfortable than by plane. For those traveling in autumn, an interesting route can be the one that leads from Munich to the capital: 616 kilometers of panoramic landscapes covered in about three hours and 50 minutes. From Oktoberfest to the Brandenburg Gate to the wonders of the Black Forest.

The fourth high-speed continental network is the one that crosses the Italian peninsula from north to south. The Frecce are among the fastest trains in the world. Moreover, Italy is the first European country opened to competition, with two operators to share the market. The 756 kilometers that separate Turin, under the Alps, and Salerno, south of Naples, can be covered in around six and a half hours. The Milan-Rome section is covered in just 2h50 and also stops in Bologna and Florence. For those who wish to reach Venice from Turin, some sections are still under construction, so the speed decreases, and the 440 kilometers are covered in around four and a half hours.

Milan Central Station, Italy

Milan Central Station, Italy

Tom Podmore on Unsplash

Interestingly, in the country that invented the train, the United Kingdom, the railway situation is far behind that of the rest of the major European countries. There are only a few hundred kilometers of tracks activated at 300 km/h, mainly those of the Eurostar which connects London to the continent, and around six hundred others where it travels at a maximum of 200 km/h. The most interesting internal high-speed line is that which leads from London to Edinburgh: 534 kilometers covered in four hours and 19 minutes.

In Scandinavia, Sweden has more than a thousand kilometers of high-speed network. Admittedly, convoys do not exceed 205-220 km/h, but, especially in harsh winters, they offer an interesting alternative to flying. In fact, they also arrive in Copenhagen and Oslo in about six hours where it is difficult to get bored, looking out the window the Swedish countryside appears first, then huge pine forests, alternated with large lakes , including Vänern.

Great speed

The Spanish network is the largest in Europe and the third in the world

In Portugal we find the Alfa Pendular, the high-speed train that runs along the coast between Braga and Faro with stops in Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon. It takes about six hours to cross the country. From north to south, you can enjoy the best of Portugal, starting from Sao Bento station in Porto, one of the most beautiful in Europe, with a triumph of tiles that offers a taste of color and charm. Portuguese. In just under two hours from Coimbra you reach Lisbon, where it might be better to stop running so much.

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