back to article Japan on track to start testing Alfa-X, fastest train in the world with top speed of 400kph

The East Japan Railway Company (JR East) began testing a 10-carriage 400kph (249mph) bullet train on Friday night. Test trains will run twice a week and the process is expected to last three years. Bloodhound SSC cover off Bloodhound Super-Sonic Car aims to wake up Newquay: Rocket work restart in August READ MORE Once in …

  1. Semtex451 Silver badge

    Could we have some more words in this article?

    Or some 'Science' as its listed under that category, and/or some engineering phrases?

    Alight lets fill the space with some nice pictures?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: nice pictures

      Yeah, not like the blurry mess on the Bloomberg page.

  2. Flywheel Silver badge
    Joke

    Chris Grayling has expressed an interest

    Apparently he's going to fit wings to it and use it to fly supplies to the UK after Brexit!

    1. Velv Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Chris Grayling has expressed an interest

      Wrong company.

      This one actually has some vehicles.

  3. djstardust

    Well....

    Scotrail are in the process of giving us "brand new" upgraded HSTs from the mid 70s. Refurbishment is years behind because they're all rotten with rust from serving on coastal routes for many years.

    Even when fully in place they'll only be able to go max 75mph on our line because the tracks are shit.

    3rd world Britain strikes again

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Well....

      Have you thought of voting for independence, then you will immediately get trains as good as Japan.

      - all you have to do is paint your wishes on the side of a replacement bus service.

      1. djstardust

        Re: Well....

        The SNP will run out of money soon.... mind you they now have control over income tax so maybe not.

        Modern day Robin Hood on the way.

    2. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Well....

      Not really, we built the first trains; pioneered the science; made all the mistakes.

      Poorly designed tracks, without the experience of 100 years of engineering means that the trains have to travel slowly because corners.

      Trains that must travel slowly due to the track will naturally focus on outlasting God rather than being fast.

      Japan's rail infrastructure was built after the War, with trains already able to travel >100mph and electric/diesel being what they were built for.

      There are also passenger/freight aspects - Britain's rail network powered the industrial backbone of the country so the infrastructure needed to be way more complex than it did in Japan.

      What we have left in Britian is the remnants of a structure that is no longer required to keep every aspect of the country's production lines in order.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well....

        We have trains and track capable of 140mph but... Notwork Rail and the DfT won't let the beardy one run his Pendolinos at their design speed.

        We were almost the first to reach 125mph and that's as far as we will go apart from HS1.

        HS2 will NEVER EVER go at its design speed if it gets built. If Corbyn wins the next election every contractor will pull out the day he nationalises it along with the rest of the rail network.

        We will be back to the days of BR Curled Up Sandwiches. Trains may well need a man with a red flag to walk in front of the train just to keep people employed.

        If you are old enough to remember BR in the 1960's and early 1970's, you will know what I mean.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Well....

          90's me for using the trains, so thankfully never had the just cheese sandwiches (As stated by a Chris Tarrant Intercity 125 documentary, not sure if the one flavour was true?).

          Although never saw the Intercity 125 going into service where people apparently went "omg we can actually do brilliant things", or the Intercity 125 replacement that they for some reason decided to run in the worst conditions possible (Intercity Advanced Train or something, can't find it on wikipedia)

          1. djstardust

            Re: Well....

            It was the APT

            Absolutely pathetic tilting ..... apparently

            Lots of money down the shitter. Obviously the people pioneering HS2 have very short memories

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Passenger_Train

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: Well....

              Absolutely pathetic tilting ..... apparently

              Lots of money down the shitter. Obviously the people pioneering HS2 have very short memories

              You've got most of that completely backwards.

              The titl worked extremely well, so well that people were slightly seasick because they felt no cornering force when their eyes told them the train was tilting. They had to reduce the tilt to make the cornering felt.

              APT failed because of politics in nationalised British Rail, with conservative teams claiming it was too advanced and couldn't be done, even though it was actually working. When politics finally killed it the patents were sold to the Italians, who used them in the Pendolino trains that we eventually bought. Buying our own technology back due to political stupidity.

              As for HS2, its a victim of exactly the same politically-motivated backstabbing.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Well....

                "APT failed because of politics in nationalised British Rail, with conservative teams claiming it was too advanced and couldn't be done, even though it was actually working. When politics finally killed it the patents were sold to the Italians, who used them in the Pendolino trains that we eventually bought. Buying our own technology back due to political stupidity."

                Apparently, on that first "public" run, it was full of invited enthusiast and journalists and set off early in the morning in the dark. The journalist had naturally done what journalist do when on a junket and had got pissed at BRs expense the night before. Apparently the majority of the motion sickness sufferers were journalists and the "illness" only manifested once it became light enough to properly see through the windows. So you can imagine the write ups!

                Of course, the APT wasn't helped when it broke down within minutes of leaving the station on it;s next trip, and not much further on on the trip after that.

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: Well....

                  Also some insane requirements:

                  Initially it had to run on both electric and non-electric lines and go between them at speed, so needed a gas turbine engine in addition to all the electric gear - this got dropped after all the prototypes were built.

                  Health and safety said you couldn't ave electricity in a passenger car, so it had to have a separate power car, but passengers couldn't go through it - so it had to have 2 dinning cars on either side. This got dropped after the project was abandoned for all other electric trains

                  Then there were the typical 70s strikes, the designers were from aerospace so the railway engineers wouldn't work with them, the drivers went on strike because it didn't have a stoker etc

                  1. anothercynic Silver badge

                    Re: Well....

                    Remember though that although BREL was defining and building the APT, there was a more... classic train they built (just in case the APT didn't happen), which is the electric service (IC225) that goes to Edinburgh from Kings Cross... The gas-turbined trains never ran well, they found the gas turbine spat its dummy a lot...

                    1. Tony Gathercole ...

                      Re: Well....

                      Close but not quite. APT was designed by BR Research at Derby (significantly by people recruited from outside the rail industry) - The IC125 (HST) was the product of the established engineering teams (BREL if you like) and was indeed an internal industry development as a fallback as it wasn't clear if the APT would ever make it into service. When introduced in the mid-1970s it was as fast as the Japanese bullet trains and (I think) still holds the world speed record for a diesel-powered production train.

                      The IC225 (Class 91) was actually an evolution of the APT power car and experience by then had shown that it could safely be positioned at one end of the train in a push-pull configuration with a driving trailer at the other. If you look carefully at the Mark 4 train-sets you'll see that while they don't tilt (as the APT designed to) the profile was such that it could have been added or included in later builds. However, 225 KPH (140 MPH) was never authorised and so they've never run at the nominal design speed.

                    2. MJI Silver badge

                      Re: Well....

                      IC 225 is a non tilting APT-S driving motor car as a locomotive with some sub Mark 3 carriages.

                      Came after APT

                      HST was the fallback

                    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

                      Re: Well....

                      "The gas-turbined trains never ran well, they found the gas turbine spat its dummy a lot..."

                      Gas turbines are sensitive wee beasts and will do so at the drop of a hot unstart - which at the hands of an unskilled (or uncaring) operator is trivial to do.

                      Pilots are a lot more careful about starting these because they tend to either have to pay for the damage and/or after a couple of incidents they become ex-pilots.

                      Gas turbines are also only worthwhile if they can be run at near full load. Anything else is going to be highly inefficient.

                  2. MJI Silver badge

                    Re: Well....

                    The orginal plans were for gas turbine due to light weight and cheap fuel.

                    The prototype was electric powered, the squadron sets were going to get a driving motor coach (what became a class 91).

                    POP the test rig

                    APT-E the gas turbine powered experiment

                    APT-P the WCML prototypes

                    APT-S the production version

                    If BR had been allowed to build a production version with the snags removed we would be travelling in it today.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Well....

                "APT failed because of politics in nationalised British Rail"

                Most of said politics being the remnants of the nationalised companies scrapping with each other as if they were still competitors - the reason the Central Line (and several others) was torn up was because the operating company was bankrupted and subsumed into one of the larger 4 before nationalisation and those power rivalries just kept on giving all the way to the Beeching reviews.

                THAT is typical British management failure at work. When you merge competing companies you don't LET the management in the old ones stay if they keep that shit up.

                It's the same basic cause that did for British Leyland (the overall incompetent management and contempt for the customer who'd "buy british no matter what" didn't go away when the export markets started making their feelings about quality very clear by voting with their wallets)

            2. MJI Silver badge

              APT was world class and better than Pendodildo

              APT, was a very good design and those first 3/6 trains were APT-P P for prototype.

              They ran in two sets coupled power car to power car.

              The tiliting gear was world class and still better than the Pendodildo. Faster too with over 160mph done.

              The tiliting gear in the Bombardier cross country is more APT than the Italians.

              APT - hydraulic rams controlled by G force sensors.

              Pendodildo - screw jacks controlled by lineside transponders.

              My source is impeccable, he invented the tilting train and was on the APT-E project.

              Main difference between APT-E and APT-P active tilt was the failover mode.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: APT was world class and better than Pendodildo

                "Pendodildo - screw jacks controlled by lineside transponders."

                Which explains a few incidents of Pendilinos getting their tilt locked in place and having to carefully limp into stations or stop, lest they hit lineside equipment.

            3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

              Re: Well....

              Thanks, yes APT thats it, from what I have seen looks like the Virgin tilting trains we have today.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Well....

          "If you are old enough to remember BR in the 1960's and early 1970's, you will know what I mean."

          I also remember the late '80s. The railways may have been privatised but the same misanthropes were running them.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Well....

          If you are old enough to remember BR in the 1960's and early 1970's, you will know what I mean."

          I am, but if you remember, BR only came into effect in 1947 and inherited *steam trains* on a knackered, war torn network after WW2. They went from that to a fairly comprehensive Intercity 125 network in about 25 years.

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: Well....

            But even the HST125 had issues... BR asked for a lot more of them than DfT would authorise in the end... mostly because DfT even then didn't believe the use case or the prediction that people would want to get from one place to another quickly. The HST has done remarkably well in the 42 years it's been in service, but I agree with the industry that they have to go.

            Many of them have been 'reengined' at least once (removing the Paxman Valentas and replacing them with MAN engines), and as much as FGW (GWR) and others have refurbed the interiors time and again, the underlying bits are falling to pieces. Wabtec who are refurbing them for Scotrail have so far found that virtually every carriage is unique in its own way, which has delayed the whole process for the Inter7City service time and again. Sorry, Scotland!

            GWR is retaining some sets of the HSTs for their 'Castle' sets, which are similar to the Inter7City in Scotland, but the rest of the high-speed services are all Class 800 (800/801/802). Before anyone bitches about the seating in those, remember that THAT was specced by the DfT too (oh joys, again!), and the firmness is not all that much of a problem. It's more the pitch of the seat back that makes the seats more uncomfortable.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Well....

              "Wabtec who are refurbing them for Scotrail have so far found that virtually every carriage is unique in its own way"

              At some point a sensible accountant would decide "sod this" and buy new Bombardier sets as cheaper to maintain in the long term.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Well....

              "THAT was specced by the DfT too"

              In other words, if you scratch the veneer, the spirit of BR is alive and well and pulling strings from behind the curtain.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well....

          An old fart who thinks renationalisation of something instantly magically sends us back in time 50+ years, and somehow thinks our private train industry isn't crap on its own merits.

        5. Tom 64
          Facepalm

          Re: Well....

          >"If you are old enough to remember BR in the 1960's and early 1970's, you will know what I mean."

          Oh and Britain's privately run services since then have been good, do you? Go to Japan, and see how trains should work.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Well....

            "Go to Japan, and see how trains should work."

            You don't even need to go that far. The Netherlands is a good starting point.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Well....

        Poorly designed tracks, without the experience of 100 years of engineering means that the trains have to travel slowly because corners.

        They were OK for the trains at the time. Today's problem is that Britain is a long, thin, country that is very densely populated in just the places where high-speed trains would be useful, and with a central mountain spine in the way. That makes it difficult, politically and financially, to buy the land to straighten out the tracks.

        France, for example, is the opposite. twice the area of the UK, with a big empty space in the middle where the tracks needed to be laid.

        Eurostar is a prime example of the different situations. The area between Paris and Calais is old coal-mining land, with high unemployment and low incomes. People there were trying to force the train to go past their towns, to bring jobs in. Across the channel you hit Kent, the "Garden of England", land of orchards, mansions and Mercedes. Those folks were spending their money to keep the nasty, noisy train away.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well....

          > and with a central mountain spine in the way

          Woah: "mountain spine" feels like an exaduration (unless you are Dutch!)... The highest point in England is Scafell Pike (978 metres : 3208 ft.).

          Surely there are multiple examples of similar hilly terrain that fast trains already go through (Japanese? Chinese?)

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Well....

            Woah: "mountain spine" feels like an exaduration (unless you are Dutch!)... The highest point in England is Scafell Pike (978 metres : 3208 ft.).

            The Pennines are still tricky for trains, which struggle with more than a 4% grade, Have you seen how hard something like Tornado has to work to climb Shap Fell on the west coast mainline? Even a modern electric HST has relatively low limits compared to road vehicles.

            Surely there are multiple examples of similar hilly terrain that fast trains already go through (Japanese? Chinese?)

            3.85% grade for the Japanese bullet train, according to wikipedia. The Paris-Lyon TGV track reaches 3.5%. Long sweeping curves can make it easier, but then you're back with the problem of finding and buying lots of land. Going through is possible, of course, the Swiss are experienced there, but it's far from cheap even for short tunnels.

          2. Any other name

            Re: Well....

            Woah: "mountain spine" feels like an exaduration (unless you are Dutch!)... The highest point in England is Scafell Pike (978 metres : 3208 ft.).

            Surely there are multiple examples of similar hilly terrain that fast trains already go through (Japanese? Chinese?)

            Don't forget the Spanish, who run the second-largest high-speed train network in the world (after the Chinese). The Madrid-Zaragoza-Barselona route climbs up to a 1000-meter high mountain range along the way, at speeds of >300 km/hour. I've taken that route many times, and it is a truly magnificent piece of engineering.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Well....

              I think Shap is England's mass transport peak at 316 metres AMSL.

        2. ArrZarr Silver badge

          Re: Well....

          It being okay for trains at the time is the point I was trying to get across.

          I did also consider the prevailing lack of flatness in the UK, but considering that Japan is even worse for mountains, didn't think that point had much value.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Well....

        "What we have left in Britian is the remnants of a structure that is no longer required to keep every aspect of the country's production lines in order."

        Not quite. There was a second rail "revolution" in the 70's when we had the biggest and fastest high-speed rail network outside of Japan. The Intercity 125 was a huge improvement on what we had been used to and leapfrogged the rest of the world. Going for even higher speed really does need much better and straighter lines and in a crowded country like the UK that is always going to be a hugely expensive undertaking.

        Considering the size of the UK, I'm not sure we even need trains all that much faster than we have now. Capacity is the problem, and faster trains need longer gaps between them. Maybe what we really need is new lines but not with such a high top speed so they can be cheaper and little more twisty and turny.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Well....

      Be grateful you at least have trains. Here in the States, except for the northeast area, our train service is either totally crap or non-existent.

      1. P.B. Lecavalier

        Re: Well....

        Yep. Meanwhile in US and Canada the number of miles of operational high-speed train is the following: Zero (hey same thing in km too!!). Montréal--New York, by train? 10 hours. With a car or bus? less than 6 hours.

        And we are told that we are "advanced" economies.

        1. waldo kitty
          Holmes

          Re: Well....

          And we are told that we are "advanced" economies.

          Economy is one thing... Infrastructure and technology are two other and different things...

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Well....

        "Here in the States, ... our train service is either totally crap or non-existent"

        For which you can thank General Motors, Standard Oil and the Firestone Tire Company.

        The history - and FTC actions - is well documented.

    4. MJI Silver badge

      HST - Quality Trains

      Lucky you, we are losing them for those rubbish Hitachi things.

      Want to swap?

      HST - lasted 40 years simply because it is that good!

  4. _LC_ Bronze badge
    Happy

    It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42009839

    "A rail company in Japan has apologised after one of its trains departed 20 seconds early."

    ... and they all halt where they are supposed to, no running required. They employ and train real people to achieve this, where other countries can't seem to get rid of people fast enough.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

      Yup. I work for the European arm of a Japanese company, so am over there occasionally and one of the real joys is travelling on the Shinkansen.

      It's also something of an experience when you're stood on the platform and one that isn't stopping passes through at speed. The noise and pressure wave are "interesting", although they do display warnings in both Japanese and English on the notice display boards that a non-stopper is coming through because of it. Suffice it to say they're neither quiet nor subtle...

      You can literally set your watch by them, the tickets give you both carriage and seat number for reservations, and at the stations they even have little marks on the platform to show you where to stand and the train pulls up exactly to them every time. It's wonderful - even a dumb Gaijin like me can do it.

      But it's other little things like the way the conductor (who they always have) will bow to the carriage both when he/she enters and leaves it. Plus the way that the things are cleaned at the end of every journey (not every day), and are generally spotless anyway.

      The only downside is when I have to come back to the UK and use trains here afterwards...

      1. Oh Matron!

        Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

        "The only downside is when I have to come back to the UK"

        Fixed it for you.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

        You get the pressure wave from trains going through stations at 100 mph too. The announcement is something like: “the train now approaching platform 2 is not stopping here. Please stand well back from the platform edge”.

        It’s interesting to be that close to such a large mass at that speed and Ll the weird Doppler sounds,

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

          Actually, the Class 800 (GWR calls it the IET) causes less of a pressure wave than the old HST125 does.

          If you stand in Didcot when a Swansea to Paddington service (or Paddington to Swansea) service passes (which doesn't stop), the HST is noisy as hell, then slaps you with a massive pressure wave and shakes the entire platform as it tears past at full chat. The Class 800 is less noisy, causes less of a pressure wave, and you can actually continue to have your conversation while it's zooming through the station, not stop to wait for the goddamn train to pass. ;-)

          Of course, the IET and HST only do 200 kph, which is somewhat less than the 360 kph that a Shinkansen at full chat does. At least the IET has some pedigree (Hitachi has learned from its Shinkansen-building brethren in Japan).

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

        "the tickets give you both carriage and seat number for reservations"

        That happens here. Then you find that some other train was cancelled and the passengers from that were allowed on "your" train first so by the time you defeat their efforts to close the doors while you're still trying to board you discover that it's standing room sardine class only. Yes, there's a seat with your name on it and much good may it do you.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. GBE

        Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

        The only downside is when I have to come back to the UK and use trains here afterwards...

        The last time I was in the UK, I thought the trains were a joy to use. In almost all of the US "using a train" requires hopping into a boxcar. Be careful though, it's far easier to jump onto a moving train than it is to jump off...

      5. Anonymous Tribble

        Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

        "You can literally set your watch by them"

        Ironic when one of the reasons for standardised time was because of the British trains. Before that everywhere ran on "local" time. When the sun was directly overhead it was noon and before the railways it took so long to travel any distance that people didn't notice that "noon" in London was a few minutes different to "noon" in Bristol.

      6. baud Bronze badge

        Re: It's not only their speed, it's their reliability

        > tickets give you both carriage and seat number for reservations, and at the stations they even have little marks on the platform to show you where to stand

        We got the same thing for the high speed train in France and we even can choose our seat

  5. Clive Galway

    Fastest train in the world?

    Once in service from 2030, the Alfa-X will run at a mere 360kph or 224mph. This would make it the fastest train in the world

    ...

    In Blighty, HS2 is due to carry its first passengers in late 2026 and is hoping for a top speed of 360kph

    So same speed as HS2 then and 4 years later?

    Unless we hit more delays of course

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fastest train in the world?

      Apart from the fact that I regard HS2 (H2S?) as vapourware at the moment, I suspect that its 360kph, if it ever happens, will be on one bit of dead straight track before it crawls to 50kph due to the wrong kind of electrons in the overhead wires.

      Being bombed to bits in WW2 was not nice for the Japanese at the time but it certainly aided post-war reconstruction.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Fastest train in the world?

        "the wrong kind of electrons in the overhead wires"

        Or the wires no longer being overhead. Alternately the wires being damaged by the carbonised remains of the toerag who tried to nick them.

  6. Nosher

    Wishful thinking in the UK

    yeah, but Japan's Shinkansen/Bullet Train "is a passenger-only operation, untrammelled by compatibility with the existing system, unhindered by road crossings and freed of directly serving any but the largest communities". You also need a good chunk of nice straight track in order to achieve those sorts of speeds, and good luck with trying to do that in the UK unless you want to be bogged down in planning and objections until the end of time. Oh, and you'd have to keep all the old infrastructure as well, to run freight and all those crappy short-haul EMUs.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Wishful thinking in the UK

      You will find that Japan *also* has retained its old infrastructure. They don't travel just by Shinkansen. You can do Tokyo-Sendai in Shinkansen, then switch to the 'low level' station and use the local toddle train to carry on to your destination that's halfway between Sendai and the next Shinkansen station north of it. :-)

      However, whereas France and Japan consider new high-speed lines to be of national importance, some politicians in the UK (and most tabloids) consider them to be an inconvenience (until they're built and they use them). HS2 is not about speed (well... not primarily). It's about creating capacity on the WCML (West Coast Mainline) between Euston and Birmingham. Right now, a lot of communities and freight suffer because most capacity is taken up by the Virgin Trains Pendolinos providing 'high speed' service to communities north of Birmingham. HS2 should take much of that traffic, leaving capacity on the tracks between Euston and Birmingham for local trains.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Wishful thinking in the UK

      and the thing about trains is usually NOT the train... it's the part about getting to the station, the scheduling, the parking [or lack of it], how to get to/from your (assume work) destination once you reach it, and all of that.

      Public transportation in the USA is generally DISMAL, especially in Cali-Fornicate-You, where gummint types INSIST we use it, but then constantly screw it up and charge more for even lousier service year after year... [I think they just don't want people to have freedom of movement but that's another topic]

      And how about environmental stupidity getting in the way of laying track? Look at the *HORRIBLE* *CLUSTER-FEEL* that the Cali-Fornicate-You "Crazy Train" has gone through? It's outright CRIMINAL what they've done with voter-approved funds for THAT one.

      I like trains. They're big pieces of engine-driven steel on steel tracks that any overgrown boy would LOVE to have as his personal train set. I've done daily rides on them, too, which is why I know how FEEL'd UP the transportation to/from train stations is. When it got to the point where the trip to/from the station [on both ends] totalled MORE than the commute time, minus the hour train ride [with stops and slow windy sections], guess what _I_ did? That's right, I _DROVE_. And I hated it. And a year later I quit because the commute "drove me nuts". But taking 3 times as long every day JUST to take the train? That's just *RIDICULOUS* !

      Hopefully Japan has solved these problems on both ends of their new bullet train...

  7. Petergwilson

    Travelled on several different lines in Japan and all were great (even the double decker one). Clean, plenty of leg room and reserved seats only. The only strange part was when one was shown on the departures board as being delayed. Everyone was taking photos as this was such a rare occurrence. It was two minutes late arriving for us to get on but arrived at our destination exactly on time.

    1. Oh Matron!

      I love the fact that the seats swivel round depending on which direction you're travelling in.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Directional Seating

        The USA had this from the late 1880's.

        There is also a LNWR Observation Car on the Bluebell railway that dates from pre-1922 that has seats like this. I was a passenger on it last week.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Directional Seating

          The reversing direction seats were quite normal on British trams way back from the 19th century.

          The seat back just pivoted over to the other side of the seat.

          1. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: Directional Seating

            Lisbon still has some of those trams in service, but they're almost exclusively used on the most tourist / pickpocketing friendly lines

  8. Red Ted

    When 'testing' you can go as fast as you dare

    The French LGV Est set the world rail speed record for a wheel-driven train of 574.8kph (356mph) in April 2007.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When 'testing' you can go as fast as you dare

      I assume they've been on strike ever since?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: When 'testing' you can go as fast as you dare

        Power (=money) is roughly speed^2 for a high speed train, people wont pay 10x as much to travel at 600kph than they would for 200kph on most runs.

        Signalling etc also get interesting (=money) wen you can't see anything ahead in time to stop

        1. Red Ted

          Re: When 'testing' you can go as fast as you dare

          Trains aren't able to stop in the distance that they can see ahead. That's why they have signals that display more information than stop/go.

          It's road traffic that's meant to be driven in a manner that allows you to stop in the distance you can see ahead.

  9. Velv Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "In Blighty, HS2 is due to carry its first passengers in late 2026 and is hoping for a top speed of 360kph"

    Yeah, and experience should tell us it will be at least five years late (phase 1, London to Birmingham, not running until 2031, phase to nearer 2040), won't deliver the speed claimed (some trains might hit 300kph for short stretches), and be three times over the budget (topping the £100 billion mark, given the estimate was £33bn in 2010).

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of mass transit, and I really wish we could just bulldoze fast lines between our cities like the Chinese. But we have this thing called democracy so the NIMBYs get their say. And there's a lot of NIMBYs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: HS2 Nimbies

      They will stop HS2 from going at more than 25mph because of the noise and vibrations affecting their dinner parties. /s

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Not necessarily NIMBY, more like NIMFR (front room).

    3. 27escape

      I was just wondering if its so fast why it only knocks a minimal amount of time off the trip to/from Manchester?

      1. Mister Cheese

        Well, that depends on your definition of "minimal" - currently 2 hours 8 minutes from London, down to 1 hour 8 minutes with HS2 phase-2 - so near enough half the time.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Speed_2#From_London

  10. kingkane

    TGV has gone faster than that already. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8skXT5NQzCg I also believe the old Shinkansen has topped 400kph previously.

  11. Richard Scratcher

    Top Gear

    Railways (and other forms of public transport) have not been given the status and funding they deserve in the UK for many years.

    In the 60s the Beeching cuts took away a third of the network. In the Thatcher years billions were spent on more roads whereas the railways were sold off into private hands. Now we have an expensive and complicated ticketing system that is so crazy you can actually get fined £50 for leaving a train before your planned destination! I can understand the problem with travelling more miles than I've paid for but less? I should be free to change my mind and leave a train if I feel like it.

    The Chunnel brings European trains to UK cities. These fast trains had to slow down when they entered the tunnel... of course... but they had to slow down again as they exited the tunnel because our tracks are so crap.

    I remember getting stuck in a huge tailback on the M6 motorway because a convoy of 3 low-loaders with a police escort was crawling along and spanning two lanes. The load they were moving was three new railway carriages being delivered from the factory. I later learned that it was too expensive to book time on the tracks to send them by rail!

    Maglev and the linear induction motor were British inventions but it was left to other countries to do the research and development and create a product. We buy Pendolino tilting trains from the Italians having abandoned the active tilting mechanism on our own "Advanced Passenger Train".

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Shanghai Maglev's 431 > 400

    El Reg claimed that Japan was planning the... "...fastest train in the world with top speed of 400kph."

    The Shanghai Maglev train is supposedly the world's fastest commercially operating train at 431 kph. It's all over YouTube, so you can enjoy the video evidence yourself.

    Are we saying that a 'maglev train' is not a 'train'. ...What next, that a 'dwarf planet' is not a 'planet'?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Shanghai Maglev's 431 > 400

      "commercially operating" is perhaps a stretch, it's a short run mostly for tourists to say they have done it.

      Even given that they forgot to pay Siemens it still runs at a massive loss - still as a vanity project it beats a wobbly bridge or lighting up a tower

  13. YARR

    Carbon emissions

    So how do the carbon emissions per passenger mile / kilometer compare for high speed trains? Will they help to achieve zero-emissions target by 2050?

    1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: Carbon emissions

      > how do the carbon emissions per passenger mile / kilometer compare for high speed trains?

      That depends on where your electricity comes from.

    2. Glen 1 Silver badge

      Re: Carbon emissions

      Depends on how the *electricity* running them is being generated.

      Nuclear + wind ~= maybe.

      But we won't have enough nuclear capacity, and the gas turbine plants for wind backup will have to be 'offset'.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Carbon emissions

        Run steam trains on wood - then they are carbon neutral, organic, and natural

  14. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    The planned East West Railway here, effectively re-laying the Varsity Line between Cambridge and Oxford is part of HMGs plan for fast transit routes between the two great technology and education centres. Govt want it fast. Yet the local councils are doing what the French coal community did between Paris and Calais. If it goes the way the local councils want it, it'll still be quicker to drive there (especially along the new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway) or catch a train to London, the across to Oxford. Just the reason they closed the line in the late 60s (the crap DMUs didn't help then either).

  15. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    All this rushing about...

    ...so 20th century.

  16. drand
    Go

    Scream ifyou want to go faster

    All this talk of 125s and no mention of Paxman Valentas. They should be installed in all the trains just for the aural pleasure they provide.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Scream ifyou want to go faster

      The HST is the most punishing environment ever found for a Diesel power unit.

      Personally I like the 16CSVT, but I have found some internet footage of a pair of D18-25 and a 16CSVT working hard together. And the train they were pulling had stupidly fast acceleration.

  17. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    If you happen to be in York, I recommend you visit the National Rail museum

    One of the exhibits is Japan Shinkansen bullet train, circa 1964. Ironically it is situated next to British steam engines of virtually the same vintage (the last UK steam passenger service stopped in 1968).

    As a symbol of how far the UK has fallen in terms of rail technology I can think of no better example. It is like visiting a rocket ship compared to a model T ford and remember this is 54 years old, by Shinkansen would still hold up well in terms of design and performance to the majority of the UK's so-called high speed trains.

    There are a legion of reasons for this, mis-management and betting on the wrong technologies, government ambivalence to public transport, privatization starving the industry of the ability to long term plan and invest. But one reason which I always find inexplicable is a nostalgic reverence for the past. I don't think their is any country in the world which seems to hold such a love of steam trains. There are some who would love instead of HS2 to see steam trains brought back into service, of course ignoring the fact steam trains were generally labour intensive, dirty and actually quite dangerous forms of transport which the actual drivers found pretty awful due to the huge amount of time spent cleaning out, starting up and the open dirty cabs they were forced to work in. While Japan highlights their high speed network, Germans the ICE etc, the UK train enthusiast will wax lyrically on the Mallard and how it was the fastest steam train in the world, ignoring the fact that it was a technological dead end, being superseded by diesel and electric trains in other parts of the world.

    Even building a simple relatively high speed rail route between two of the UK most populous cities has caused so much debate that their is still a chance it may not happen. In so many ways this is a symbol of a country that is increasingly retreating into its past , and failing to face up to modern realities.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Not nostalgia

      a nostalgic reverence for the past. I don't think their is any country in the world which seems to hold such a love of steam trains

      As someone who enjoys watching steam trains, I don't think its a nostalgia issue, but an engineering one. I do remember travelling on steam-hauled passenger trains, even as a small boy I could see that they were noisy and dirty.

      The thing about a modern high speed locomotive like a TGV is that it's impressive but boring, all the "works"are hidden inside & just hum away to themselves. A steam loco is 'real' engineering, you can see all the bits working together. I'd sooner watch a new steam loco like Tornado than a TGV, not because it's an old design but because there's something to see. I'm an engineer, I like watching the mechanical bits :)

  18. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Thomas the silly train

    Not much of a chance of this happening on any Shinkansen/Japanese trains?

    Probably won't be enough time to find a good clip and start playing it for the enjoyment of all...

  19. Tokyo Bunny

    Yes, trains.

    Almost all of our trains are Electric, and the Shinkansen track is purpose built with some serious volts.

    I quite like them, more relaxing than flying, quieter and better toilets too.

    We do have a few diesels, out in the distant reaches, I haven't seen one in years though. And we do have Steam Locomotives too, but forget about those, the crowds are too serious.

    Then again, you had the Deltic, that engine was practically magic.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Yes, trains.

      At least the UK is not too embarrasing still, we may not have the super fast lines, but still have an extensive 125mph network.

      The Shinkansen network along with the TGV network are world class high speed rail.

      Our lines are basically at capacity.

      Deltics, they made the hairs on the back of your neck raise. You do not get it until you stand near one and can simply feel the raw power.

      I still remember my first time seeing one close up about 40 years ago.

      I do have a soft spot for 50s as well. There was something about English Electric locomotives.

  20. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Well this is depressing

    Spent 1 hour and 20 mins on a Sydney train to travel a total of 50 km. It's a coin flip as to whether my usual train it is even running or not. Delays are more often than not. I drag my sorry arse into work. Coffee and morning dose of El! Reg to start the day. I read this article and the comments and realise that Australia, well Sydney at least, should be considered a 3rd world country.

  21. MJI Silver badge

    Railway engineering

    There has been some fantastic engineering in the UK.

    Brunels main line, superbly laid out in 1830s and still suitable for regular 125mph operation but APT-E tested at over 150.

    Churchward getting steam locos just right for the GWR that they had not changed that much under Collett and Hawksworth.

    Stanier taking the Churchward ideas into the Duchesses.

    Gresley with the high speed ECML Pacifics.

    Riddles making sure 9F was 10 coupled.

    Miller with the HST.

    All the unsung engineers who worked for EE, Brush and the other companies. Who worked closely with British Rail to produce some excellent Diesel and Steam designs.

    There are locos in service now nearly 60 years old running reliably and being reconditioned for another decade of operation, the engines in them started in 1930s and the latest version is still being built in France (after the gutting of GEC by the pair of incompetents).

    The last major BR coach design is still world class for safety, ride standard and is normally found sandwiched by the worlds fastest Diesel locos.

    Anyway a final note about the East Coast Pacifics and Gresley not wanting Diesel.

    Quite simple, the LNER could see that large steam engines were much more suitable for their services at the time. Speed was not an issue with regular 100mph operation. They could see that the future was electric, hence the Manchester Sheffield and Wath electrification with pre WW2 designed locomotives.

    The LNER were looking at large electrics to replace the A4s not the two generations of Diesels used from 62 to still today.

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