World's fastest trains

After a long-haul flight to Shanghai, it’s a relief to bypass snarled traffic by catching the Shanghai Maglev Train, whose top speed of 268 mph makes it faster than any race car. High-speed rail has improved the travel experience in a growing number of countries. If you’re traveling abroad, catch a ride on one of these high-speed trains. | Joe Yogerst, Travel + Leisure

World's fastest trains
Shanghai Maglev Train, China

Operating Speed: 268 mph
Record Speed: 311 mph
Launch Date: 2003

Racing along a scant 19 miles from Pudong International Airport to the Longyang Road Station of the Shanghai metro system, the world’s fastest commercial train is also the only magnetic levitation specimen on our list. The SMT’s top operating speed of 268 mph makes it faster than any NASCAR, Indy, or Formula One race car. Those interested in learning more about the technology can pop into the Maglev Museum at Longyang station (admission is free with a Maglev ticket).

9 More after the Break....

World's fastest trains
CRH380, China
Operating Speed: 217 mph
Record Speed: 303 mph
Launch Date: 2010

From a starting point of zero, China has accelerated to develop the world’s largest and busiest high-speed rail network in less than a decade. Its 5,800 miles of rapid trains now carry nearly half a billion passengers per year. The CRH380 and its various iterations are all capable of running at a maximum 236 mph on high-speed main lines. Look for them operating on four routes serving BeijingShanghaiGuangzhouWuhanNanjing, and Hangzhou.

World's fastest trains
ICE 3, Germany
Operating Speed: 199 mph
Record Speed: 229 mph
Launch Date: 2000

While Germany makes many of the world’s fastest trains, the launch of its own high-speed rail was delayed a decade by legal battles with environmentalists and other groups. But the Germans are making up ground fast. The super-swift InterCity Express (ICE3) currently runs between Frankfurt and Cologne in the Rhine Valley and Munich and Nuremberg in Bavaria, with nine more high-speed lines under construction or on the drawing board.

World's fastest trains
Shinkansen E5, Japan
Operating Speed: 199 mph
Record Speed: 223 mph
Launch Date: 2011

Japan’s famous bullet trains come in many different shapes and styles, none faster than the new Shinkansen E5. Nicknamed the Duck-Billed Platypus because of its distinctive nose, the sleek train serves the 419-mile Tōhoku route between Tokyo and Aomori at the northern end of Honshu Island. The E5 also features some of the industry’s poshest interiors: Gran Class leather shell chairs that power-recline 45 degrees.

World's fastest trains
TGV POS, France
Operating Speed: 199 mph
Record Speed: 357 mph
Launch Date: 2008

One of the first nations to leap onto the high-speed bandwagon, France introduced its revolutionary Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) in 1981. There have been numerous upgrades since then, most recently the speedy POS, a hybrid of existing TGV Réseau passenger carriages with brand-new Alstom locomotives. The train operates on two lines—LGV Rhin-Rhône in eastern France and LGV Est between Paris and Strasbourg—with more lines on the way. The POS set a world speed record for travel on conventional rails of 357.2 mph during test runs in 2007.

World's fastest trains
AVE Series 103, Spain
Operating Speed: 193 mph
Record Speed: 250 mph
Launch Date: 2006

Spain’s Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) service is known for its duck-billed Talgo trains. But even faster are the new Siemens Velaro Series 103 units that race between Barcelona and Madrid in two hours and 38 minutes. Over the past two decades, Spain has transformed its rail service from one of Western Europe’s slowest and least efficient into the continent’s largest high-speed network, spanning 1,900 miles and nearly every major Spanish city.

World's fastest trains
Sancheon (KTX2), South Korea
Operating Speed: 190 mph
Record Speed: 217 mph
Launch Date: 2010

Korail’s high-speed Sancheon trains make the trip between Seoul and the southern port cities of Busan and Mokpo in less than three hours. Manufactured by Hyundai, the trains take nearly seven minutes to accelerate from zero to 190 miles per hour but need just 1.2 minutes to come to a complete stop. And they’ve got competition: the KTX3 will have a maximum speed of 250 mph when it debuts in 2015.

World's fastest trains
ETR 500 Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) and ETR 575 AGV, Italy 
Operating Speed: 186 mph
Record Speed: 211 mph (Red Arrow), 224 mph (AGV)
Launch Date: 2008 (Red Arrow), 2012 (AGV)

Italy offers two competing high-speed rail services—the public Red Arrow and the private Automotrice à Grande Vitesse (AGV)—on the same tracks. The trains already connect TurinMilan,FlorenceRomeNaples, and Venice; a new line between Venice and Milan is under construction. Look for a next-generation ETR 1000 (with an operating speed of 220 mph) to overtake them by the end of 2014.

World's fastest trains
Eurostar Class 373, Britain, France and Belgium
Operating Speed: 186 mph
Record Speed: 208 mph
Launch Date: 1993

Thinking of flying from London to Paris? Think again: the Eurostar makes the trip in two hours and 16 minutes, with no airport security hassles. The longest and fastest train in regular service in the British Isles, the Class 373 operates via the Channel Tunnel between three beautiful train stations:London’s restored St. Pancras Station, the Gare du Nord in Paris, and South Station in Brussels. The train also stops at Disneyland Paris, and there are seasonal routes to Avignon and the French Alps. Italian design firm Pininfarina is currently updating the interiors of all 373s.

World's fastest trains
THSR 700T, Taiwan
Operating Speed: 186 mph
Record Speed: 196 mph
Launch Date: 2007

The aerodynamically optimized trains of Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) rocket down the island’s west coast between the capital, Taipei, and the industrial city of Kaohsiung in 90 to 100 minutes.

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