Europa a bordo de los trenes de alta velocidad 30 años después del primer AVE

Europa a bordo de los trenes de alta velocidad 30 años después del primer AVE

On April 14, 1992, passengers on the Madrid-Seville AVE were the pioneers of high-speed rail in Spain. The line shortened the journey between the state capital and Andalusia by four hours. In the following thirty years, the Spanish network would become the largest in Europe, and the third in the world only behind China and Japan, consolidating itself as an efficient transport option, perfect both for business trips and for vacations.

In Europe, high speed was officially born in September 1981 with the inauguration of the Sathonay-Saint Florentin section of the TGV line between Lyon and Paris, in France. Since then, twelve countries of the Old Continent (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Spain and Sweden) have developed internal networks with trains capable of reaching at least 250 km per hour, the minimum indicated by the European Commission to be considered high speed.

Numerous commuters daily use the first AVE trains in the morning in Girona to go to work in Barcelona.

Pere Duran / NORD MEDIA / Collaborators

Most countries have adopted a maximum speed of 300 km/h, while in Spain 310 km/h has been chosen and in France 320 km/h. Previously, there were already several lines exceeding 200 km per hour, which today are considered conventional, the first of which, the Direttissima Florence-Rome route, dates back to the thirties of the last century.

Today, the European high-speed network measures about 9,500 kilometers, if we only consider the lines capable of reaching 300 km per hour. It is far from the Chinese record of 35,000 kilometers, but much higher than the United States network that has only 735 kilometers. The return of rail transport seems unstoppable. In fact, it is proven that when the train travel time is less than three and a half hours, this is the most efficient means of transport.

High speed

When the travel time by train is less than three and a half hours, this is the most efficient means of transport

Unlike airplanes, trains do not involve long hours of waiting for controls, or luggage restrictions and the seats are, without a doubt, more comfortable. Experts from the American consulting firm ADVITO predict that high speed will soon be the majority in business travel, with a growth forecast of around 40% by 2030.

Interconnections between the capitals and large cities of different European countries are growing, albeit slowly, thanks to multi-voltage trains, capable of traveling using the different systems of electrified lines. At the moment, it occurs mainly in Northern Europe, with many connections between Germany and Scandinavia. But also with the Eurostar trains that connect London with Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, taking advantage of the tunnel under the English Channel, or thanks to the Renfe-SNCF collaboration to link Barcelona and Paris in just six and a half hours.


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The magic of the landscape that runs through the window, the convenience of reaching the city center, and from there taking a direct connection to a small town, is something that increasingly convinces more people. It is a way of looking at the world from another perspective, almost peeping behind the curtain, because when the trains slow down they seem to peek into people’s homes.

So, we are going to propose some itineraries possible thanks to the high-speed rail network in the main European countries.

Atocha, Madrid, Spain

Spain aspires to connect all the capitals of the autonomous communities with Madrid in a maximum of three hours of travel

PM on Unsplash

Spain aspires to connect all the capitals of the autonomous communities with Madrid in a maximum of three hours of travel, and with Barcelona in six. The section between Barcelona and the state capital is essential for speed lovers, as it is one of the only two European lines authorized to travel at more than 300 km per hour. In two hours and 50 minutes, the 506 kilometers that separate Sants de Atocha station are covered. And if you want to repeat the historical route of the first AVE trip, you can continue to Seville, covering the 390 kilometers that separate the two cities in just two hours and 35 minutes.

France ranks second in Europe for the length of its high-speed rail line. The TGVs are a true pride and symbol of the greatness gala. The old PLM line (Paris-Lyon-Marseille), dating from the belle époque, is now covered in three hours. From the Ville Lumière, you can take the Thalys which reaches Brussels in about an hour and a half, or go east to Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, on Europe’s other super-fast line: 396 km in one hour 45 minutes. Once alighted at its splendid station, it is essential to get lost among vineyards, wineries and castles along a route that touches charming towns linked by excellent connections.

Berlin Central Station (Europaplatz), Berlin, Germany

Berlin Hbf (Europaplatz), Berlin. Germany has 1,571 kilometers of high-speed lines

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Germany has 1,571 kilometers of high-speed lines, where 300 km per hour are not reached, despite the fact that its Ice-3 can overcome them without problems. The main routes are Cologne-Frankfurt (the fastest), Cologne-Berlin and Frankfurt-Stuttgart. Also the 282 kilometres, which separate Berlin from the port of Hamburg in one hour and 43 minutes, are more comfortable than by plane. For those who travel in autumn, an interesting itinerary may be the one that leads from Munich to the capital: 616 kilometers of panoramic landscapes covered in about three hours and 50 minutes. From Oktoberfest to the Brandenburg Gate via the wonders of the Black Forest.

The fourth high-speed continental network is the one that crosses the Italian peninsula from north to south. The Frecce are among the fastest trains in the world. In addition, Italy is the first European country open to competition, with two operators to share the market. The 756 kilometers that separate Turin, under the Alps, and Salerno, south of Naples, can be covered in about six and a half hours. The Milan-Rome section is covered in just two hours and 50 minutes and also stops in Bologna and Florence. For those who wish to reach Venice from Turin, some sections are still under construction, so the speed drops, and the 440 kilometers are covered in about four and a half hours.

Milan Central Station, Italy

Milan Central Station, Italy

Tom Podmore on Unsplash

Interestingly, in the country that invented the train, the United Kingdom, the railway situation is far behind that of the rest of the large European countries. There are only a few hundred kilometers of tracks enabled at 300 kilometers per hour, mainly those of the Eurostar that connects London with the continent, and about six hundred more where it circulates at a maximum of 200 km per hour. The most interesting internal high-speed route is the one that leads from London to Edinburgh: 534 kilometers covered in four hours and 19 minutes.

In Scandinavia, Sweden has more than a thousand kilometers of high-speed network. Of course, the convoys do not exceed 205-220 km per hour, but, especially in the harsh winter, they offer an interesting alternative to the plane. In fact, they also arrive in Copenhagen and Oslo in about six hours in which it is difficult to get bored, looking out the window first the Swedish countryside appears and then immense pine forests, alternated with large lakes, including Vänern.

High speed

The Spanish network is the largest in Europe and the third in the world

In Portugal we find the Alfa Pendular, the high-speed train that runs along the coast between Braga and Faro with stops in Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon. It takes about six hours to cross the country. From north to south, you can appreciate the best of Portugal, starting from Sao Bento station in Porto, one of the most beautiful in Europe, with a triumph of tiles that offers a preview of Lusitanian colors and charm. In a little less than two hours from Coimbra you reach Lisbon, where perhaps it would be better to stop running so much.

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