When it comes to travel, planes are often heralded as the fastest, most efficient way to get around — and in many cases, they are. But on certain routes, the time it takes to travel to the airport (which is often well out of town), go through security, and grab a pre-flight snack can add on a few hours. This is where high-speed trains shine. Train stations tend to be located in or near the city centre, and you don’t have to arrive two hours prior to departure to get through check-in and security lines. By Evie Carrick
And while the US isn’t known for its train systems, Europe and Asia are. Their high-speed train infrastructure is well developed, and the world’s fastest trains operate regularly between major cities, like Shanghai and Beijing or Paris and Strasbourg. These trains don’t max out at 100 or even 200 mph (160 and 320 km/h, respectively); they travel at speeds of up to 374 mph (601 km/h) during testing. Talk about efficiency.
Read on for the fastest trains in the world, ranked by speed.
1. L0 Series Maglev: 374 mph (601.8 km/h)
This Japanese train, which is currently being developed and tested by the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), holds the land speed record for rail vehicles, clocking in at 374 mph (601.8 km/h). While it may be tempting to book a ticket to Tokyo, keep in mind that this train is still being developed for regular commercial use. The first segment (Tokyo to Nagoya) is set to open in 2027, before being expanded to Osaka. When completed, the L0 Series will run at a maximum operating speed of 310 mph (498.8 km/h), making the trip from Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station to Osaka (over 300 miles, or 482.8 km/h) in one hour and seven minutes.
The L0 Series technology, called maglev (magnetic levitation train), actually makes the train levitate at speeds exceeding around 93 mph (149.6 km/h). The technology is currently being employed worldwide (see number four), and there are talks of it being used for a train between Washington, DC and Baltimore.
2. TGV POS: 357 mph (574.5 km/h)
France has had high-speed rail travel dialled in for many years. And in 2007, the TGV POS set the world speed record for rail vehicles at an impressive 357 mph (574.5 km/h), before being surpassed by Japan’s L0 Series in 2015. The train is operated by French rail company SNCF for use on the LGV Est route, which runs between Paris, eastern France, and southern Germany. While in regular service, the train reaches a top speed of 200 mph (321.8 km/h). It’s not 357 mph (574.5 km/h), but it’s still shockingly fast.
3. CRH380A Hexie: 302 mph (486 km/h)
While China’s CRH380A Hexie (also called Harmony) can cruise at a maximum speed of 236 mph (379.8 kph) for commercial operations, it reached a whopping 302 mph (486 km/h) during testing. And what’s even more impressive is that the high-speed electric train is just one of four Chinese train series developed to operate on the newly constructed high-speed main lines. The CRH380A may be the fastest, but the other three are nothing to scoff at—check out the CRH380B, CRH380C, and CRH380D.
4. Shanghai Maglev: 268 mph (431.3 km/h)
Similar to Japan’s L0 Series, the Shanghai maglev (also called the Shanghai Transrapid) is a magnetic levitation train that operates out of Shanghai, China. And while it lands solidly at number four on this list, thanks to a top speed of 268 mph (431.3 km/h), it’s actually the oldest commercial maglev train still in operation. If you fly into Shanghai Pudong International Airport, riding this train is easy. You can hop off in central Shanghai or take it all the way to the outskirts of central Pudong, where the line ends.
5. HEMU-430X: 262 mph (421.6 km/h)
While South Korea’s HEMU-430X was built to operate at a maximum speed of 267 mph (429.6 km/h), it only reached 262 mph (421.6 km/h) in March 2013. Although it might have fallen short of expectations (at least so far), the train gave South Korea some bragging rights: It is now the world’s fourth country (after France, Japan, and China) to develop a train that runs over 261 mph (420 km/h).
6. Fuxing Hao CR400AF/BF: 260 mph (418.4 km/h)
China’s Fuxing Hao (also known as Fuxing or the CR series EMU) operates regularly at speeds of up to 220 mph (354 km/h)—but during testing, it reached an impressive 260 mph (418.4 km/h), giving it a well-deserved spot on this list. The Fuxing Hao travels on several high-speed lines in China, including the popular route between Beijing and Shanghai.
7. Frecciarossa 1000: 245 mph (394.2 km/h)
This list may be dominated by China, but Italy’s Frecciarossa 1000 (also known as ETR 400) travels at impressive speeds through hot spots like Milan, Florence, Rome, and Venice. While Italy limits its trains to a speed of 190 mph (305.7 km/h), the Frecciarossa 1000 reportedly reached a peak speed of 245 mph (393.8 km/h) in 2016.