community

50 PLACES OF A LIFETIME
Get our picks for must-see destinations.

TOURISM FORUM
Sound off on tourism’s pros and cons.

MESSAGE BOARDS
Forum for travel tips and questions

TRAVEL TOOLBOX
Links for savvy travelers

TRAVEL ADVISORIES
Weather, road conditions, news, local events, more

ELECTRONIC EXPLORER
TRAVELER goes site-seeing.

FAMILY TRAVEL
Hints and links

NGS PUBLICATIONS INDEX
Search our complete TRAVELER index.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS
Travel with our experts.

REQUEST ADVERTISER INFO

 
 
 
 
Online Extra: High-speed trains





High-speed trains

The Thalys high-speed train (parked here at the Cologne train station in Germany) zips passengers between Brussels and Paris in an hour and 25 minutes.
Photograph courtesy of the Rail Europe Group

| High-Speed Train Links | Related Reading |



In the July/August issue we poll a panel of rail experts to bring you ten of the very best rail trips. Online: how high-speed trains are providing new, and sometimes faster, ways to travel.

Not all trains are leisurely paced and reminiscent of the past. Some are fast and futuristic, streaking across the countryside at up to 187 miles (300 kilometers) an hour and giving some airplanes a run for their money.

The sleek red Thalys, www.thalys.com, zooms between Brussels and Paris in an hour and 25 minutes. The Eurostar, www.eurostar.com, zips from downtown London to downtown Paris in just three hours by way of the Channel Tunnel—about as long as taking a plane and making ground connection, with less fuss. Since Eurostar’s inauguration in 1994, overall traffic between the two capitals has doubled, with 60 percent of travelers choosing high-speed rail over flying.

“You can have breakfast in your hotel in Paris and say, ‘Oh, let’s go to London for the day,’” says Nanci Adler of Carlsbad, California, who found the Eurostar a relaxing alternative to flying while on vacation last November. “You just sit there, drinking wine, eating lunch, and seeing all the little villages go by.”

High-speed rail networks that link major European cities and airports may eventually relieve congested air routes and roadways. Classic high-speed trains, such as France’s TGV, www.sncf.com/indexe.htm, require special tracks and flat, straight railbeds.

More nimble—and almost as fast—tilting trains, such as Italy’s Pendolino (“little pendulum”), www.fs-on- line.com/eng/treninavi/treni.htm, can handle sinuous routes on existing, but upgraded, tracks. Two new lines will link Madrid to Barcelona and Paris to Frankfurt by 2005. Plans for another route call for burrowing a tunnel through the Pyrenees to connect Montpelier in the south of France to Barcelona by the end of 2005.

Since fares are often competitive with air travel, high-speed trains are catching on worldwide. Besides Japan, whose bullet train started rolling 35 years ago, Australia, China, and Taiwan are considering fast train routes, and South Korea is planning to launch its first in 2001. In the United States, Amtrak hopes to launch its 150-mile-an-hour (241-kilometer-an-hour) Acela from Boston to New York to Washington, D.C., this year.

—Robin Terry

Robin Terry is a researcher for a TRAVELER sister publication, WORLD.

Post your opinion: Should taxes be used to expand U.S. train service?

nationalgeographic.com nationalgeographic.com ngtraveler