Information published on 7 October 2014 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 418.

50 years of High Speed Rail

  • High-Speed

On 1 October 1964, Japanese Railways started operating the “Shin-kan-sen” (literally the “New Train Line”) between Tokyo and Osaka.

The 515 km of brand new line, the spectacular new train (whose nose looked like an airplane and obviously quickly nicknamed “Bullet Train”), with maximum line speeds of 210 km/h, the new (“Shin”) stations and the new concept of service, were the starting point of a long history of unfinished success – a history which represents the survival of long-distance rail passenger transport.

The success of the new concept of train services and system was extended step by step. First in Japan, then in Europe since 1981 (even if impressive performances were achieved before by some European and American passenger trains on upgraded existing lines), then increasing the speed, from 210 to 240, 260, 270, 300 and (up to now) 320 km/h, then Korea, then Turkey, then China, then America, then Morocco and Saudi Arabia...

On 1 October 2014, exactly 50 years after that essential milestone for rail passenger transport, high speed trains are operated around the world, with over 23,000 kilometres of high speed lines (and 13,000 more under construction), more than 2000 high speed trains run every day at 250 km/h or more (and almost 1000 more are being manufactured), 1.3 billion passengers use high speed every year and 15 billion people have already travelled on these types of trains without any fatal accidents at more than 200 km/h.

And on 1 October 2014, exactly 50 years after that essential milestone, the UIC Intercity and High Speed Committee met in Paris for one of its regular technical meetings. It was a very good occasion to celebrate half a century of the birth of a new transport mode, essential for sustainable transport in many regions of the world.
UIC High Speed cannot yet celebrate its 50th anniversary (of course) but has been working for almost 20 years, producing reports, organising workshops and conferences and organising the World Congress on High Speed.

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of High Speed in the world was held just after the working lunch, in the presence of UIC General Director, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, and was attended by all the members of the working group, including its Chairman, Michel Leboeuf and the Director of the UIC Passenger and High Speed Department, Iñaki Barrón.

For further information please contact Inaki Barron: barron@uic.org