The 1970s saw an energy revolution and a new dynamic in rail passenger transport, brought about by electrification and the development of high-speed lines put into service in Japan some years previously. In France and in various European countries, new railway lines were constructed for speeds of up to 250 km/h and then 300 km/h. The services on these lines connected major cities, resulting in the development of transport systems which in turn led to a social and economic boom in the towns, cities and regions served. These lines were extended over time and later connected to form high-speed transport networks. Encouraged by the technical and economic success of these railway developments, other countries such as Korea, Taiwan and China followed suit and built their own high-speed networks, and many other high-speed projects were developed in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, America, India, Morocco and elsewhere.
Connected with the conventional rail network, high-speed lines offer not only speed, but also access to larger areas and greater numbers of services. This brings about a need for upgrading and electrification of existing conventional networks and the development of new, faster rail lines.
These harmonised developments provide access to larger areas, affording greater regional penetration and enhancing intercity connections to support economic growth and modern mobility requirements.
In parallel with high-speed development, modernised train stations, improved onboard services, the integration of new technologies and interfaces with other modes of transport align with an intermodal vision that responds to transport needs for the 21st century. There are major benefits to be gained from the technical and commercial performance of high-speed rail.
Average rating: 4.6 / 5
Intercity and High Speed Committee
Intercity & HS Committee is a UIC working group composed of members who already have decades of experience in operating HSR and some others who are still focused on the design and construction of their own network. The main purpose is to exchange best practices on the full life cycle of the corresponding assets.
The Intercity and the High Speed Plenary Committee meets three times per year, at least once in Asia. Some other intermediate and technical meetings are dedicated to tackling specific activities or subjects.
Chairman: Andrew McNaughton (HS2)
Honorific Chairman: Michel Leboeuf
Vice Chairmen: Eduardo Romo (FCH)
& Huo Baoshi (CR)
UIC HS Team
Marc Guigon, Director UIC Passenger Department
Beatrix Perrot, Assistant to the Director
Kenzo Fujita, Senior Advisor
Juhyung Lee, Senior Advisor
Vanessa Pérez, Senior Advisor
UIC aims to support its members in various ways. More particularly, its High Speed Committee regularly conducts studies and researches requested by one or several members.
Statistics – Database & HS World Atlas
UIC generates databases unique in the world that provide an overview of the HS reality regarding: lines, rolling stock, traffic...
Workshops, Conferences and Congresses
Every two years, the UIC Passenger Department organises in cooperation with a UIC member the UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail.
More specialised seminars and workshops are also held to examine in greater depth the issues addressed by the High Speed Committee.
In order to meet the many requests from its members for comprehensive and unbiased information on the subject, UIC has staged different training sessions on high speed systems with the involvement of railways companies, supply industry and ministries.
As a consequence of the activities conducted within the Intercity & HS Committee, the UIC - Universities Alliance for High Speed Rail was created, with the purpose of improving the relationship between the I&HS Committee members, rail actors (rail infrastructure managers, railway undertakings, rail associations and manufacturers belonging to the rail sector) and universities (any university or college worldwide, including engineering, architectural and business schools with an interest in High Speed Rail Systems) for the sake of the HSR activity developed by UIC’s members throughout the world.
UIC fulfills the driving role of defining processes for our Members and for the railway community.
This applies to all railway areas, including high speed, for which International Railway Solutions (IRS) will be published by the end of this year, particularly in areas such as infrastructure, le control-command and signalling, energy ou interfaces’ management.
To consult the full range of UIC Leaflets & IRSs, please visit this link:
Initially intended as national projects connecting the larger cities within a country, the high speed routes were linked to each other to form a network and were inter-connected to the conventional railway network, thus enabling time-savings to be made on the high speed lines.
The possibility of covering distances of over 100 km in just few hours has enabled high speed rail to compete on longer distances.
Thus the idea was born of having international corridors or an inter-state system connecting routes between different countries such as France and Spain, the UK and continental Europe, Zurich and Milan, as well as the Northeast Californian corridor.
Average rating: 4 / 5
The high speed network
The high speed network began its development in 1964 in Japan. Its extension, mainly driven by Japan, France, Spain, Italy and Germany, was slow until 2000. At this point an acceleration could be felt, but it was only in 2008 that, thanks to heavy investment by China, the scale of the whole network changed dimension.
Today more than half of all high speed lines are in Asia.
Some countries or regions, such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Taiwan, have completely finished building the extent of their high speed network. Some countries are continuing development but have already carried out the bulk of it, such as Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Japan. Some countries are still planning significant extensions, such as UK, South Korea and China. Some countries have just started developing and implementing HSR, such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, USA and Russia. Finally, some countries plan to implement high speed rail in the future, such as several Eastern European and Asian states.
It is worth noting that not all high speed lines are run at the same speed. Several factors come into the explanation. Firstly, there is the distinction between the design speed and the operational speed. The most recent lines are designed to run at 350 km/h (and even 400 km/h), i.e. the infrastructure and the superstructure can withstand this speed. However, the maximum commercial speed (operational speed) may be lower than the design speed because the rolling stock is not suitable for it. The operational speed is determined by the certification process during which evidence must be provided that the rolling stock can successfully run on the line at the targeted speed plus 10%.
Secondly, some so-called high speed lines are designed for speeds lower than 250 km/h. This can be due the mix of traffic or the network consistency. If the infrastructure is to be run by freight and passenger trains or by long-distance and regional trains, the line capacity is increased by reducing the maximum speed. In addition, some lines are sometimes built predominantly to provide networks with consistency by, for example, linking different sections. In this case the maximum speed may be lower.
The outcome of this is that the global high speed network is not homogeneous in terms of speed as shown in the last graph of this page.
Average rating: 5 / 5
Although increasing the speed has entailed many technical and operational changes, HSR still fulfils the same quantitative and qualitative requirements as classical rail:
This evolution has also made it possible to benefit from many other innovations beyond those simply enabling higher speeds, as there is no point improving one aspect of a journey chain (travel time) if the other links in the chain remain weak.
In addition, a thorough review of all the interfaces between the system components and of all the operating and maintenance procedures is necessary, as time gained for the passenger by the increased speed can be cancelled out by an unacceptably high ticket price.
Average rating: 5 / 5
HSR is still a grounded, guided and low grip transport system: it could be considered to be a railway subsystem. The most important change comes from the speed. As travel times had to be reduced for commercial purposes, speed emerged as the main factor. HSR means a jump in commercial speed and this is why UIC considers a commercial speed of 250 km/h to be the principal criterion for the definition of HSR.
However, a secondary criterion is admitted on average distances without air competition, where it may not be relevant to run at 250 km/h, since a lower speed of 230 or 220 km/h or at least above 200 km/h (since under this speed conventional trains can do) is enough to catch as many market shares as a collective mode of transport can do. This also applies in very long tunnels whose construction cost depends on the diameter linked to the square of the speed, at least. For such speeds above 200 km/h, the infrastructure can be categorized in “High-Speed” if the system in operations, complies with:
Average rating: 5 / 5
Rail is a grounded, guided, low grip transport system
It needs specific ground infrastructure which is costly to implement and maintain but contributes greatly to efficient land use.
The rails provide the guiding system. By controlling the direction of the train, they allow it to go very fast. However, this means that trains cannot overtake one another.
Low grip refers to the contact of a steel wheel on a steel rail. As the train glides on the track, it is easy to carry very heavy loads with a low environmental footprint, but very difficult to brake and stop, or to accommodate steep gradients.
Because of the huge investment required, rail can only be commercially attractive and financially acceptable as a mass transport system. This is just as well, as it is typically a heavy haul system.
Classical rail networks are largely spread worldwide. They comply with various gauge standards, but the best performance is achieved using the 1.435 m track width.
Most of these networks are made up of mixed-traffic tracks. The maximum speed never exceeds 200 km/h (exceptionally 220 km/h). Built during the 19th century, many stations are now located in the centres of large cities where most urban transport lines converge, facilitating door-to-door trips.
When compared to other transport modes, classical rail has proven to be very safe and environmentally efficient. However, the aviation and automotive sectors have introduced many improvements and are still introducing innovations in their respective systems. This has had a strong negative impact on rail market shares for medium- and long-distance trips.
More than 50 years ago, Japan, followed by France and many other countries, decided to stop the decline of classical rail in this market segment by introducing brand new concepts for the rail mode rather than upgrading existing structures. This represented the birth of high speed rail.
Average rating: 5 / 5
The 10th UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail, the largest international congress and exhibition devoted to High-Speed Rail in the world, will be held from 8 to 11 May 2018 in Ankara at the Chamber of Commerce Convention Center. The main theme is “Sharing knowledge for sustainable and competitive operations”.
This World Congress – and Exhibition – on High-Speed Rail is the biggest event organised at global level entirely focusing on all aspects of high-speed rail development and operations.
This 10th edition is jointly organised by UIC and Turkish State Railways (TCDD), under the high-patronage of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey and with the support of the Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, and of a series of leading international organisations: Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF), International Transport Forum (ITF) of the OECD, Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). The heads of these organisations will attend and speak at this congress, as well as the representatives of the United Nations’ UNECE and UITP.
A large number of CEOs of UIC member railways from all parts of the world are going to present and discuss their experiences and perspectives for the future of High-Speed Rail operations. Discussions during round tables will also involve representatives of research institutes, manufacturers, universities and competitors from other modes.
This 10th edition of the Congress is being organized around 3 main blocks: sessions, professional exhibition and technical visits. 4 plenary sessions and 25 parallel sessions will revolve around the most significant technical, economic and social streams. In addition, 2 round tables will give participants the opportunity to interact and exchange knowledge.
Strong focus will be placed during round tables on the following topics:
The parallel sessions will deal with 5 main streams: infrastructure, railway system, operations and stations, trains, and finally commercial, economy and society.
A special session will be dedicated to the digital revolution and its impact on mobility, to the work of start-ups and universities connected to high-speed rail and more generally to mobility.
The trade exhibition on 8 – 11 May is open to all actors and partners who are committed to the operations of high-speed rail systems across the world: manufacturers of rolling stock, contractors of infrastructure, safety and security infrastructure, service providers, solutions for passengers and stations.
A programme of technical visits to the high-speed sites of Turkish State Railways is proposed to congress participants (new high-speed railway station in Ankara, new high-speed maintenance workshop, running on new high-speed line).
Since the introduction of High-Speed Rail system, more than 15 billion(to be checked) passengers have travelled on high speed trains at global level – twice the world’s population. High Speed is still experiencing development around the world. Turkey was particularly relevant for the location of this 10th World Congress on High Speed Rail. High speed rail operations in Turkey started in March 2009 on the Ankara-Eskisehir line, followed by Ankara-Konya in 2011, Konya-Eskisehir in 2013, Ankara-Istanbul and Konya-Istanbul in 2014.
Nowadays there are nearly 24,000 km (to be checked) of high speed lines operating in the world. In the next 20 years, this figure will double. This means a significant challenge from industrial, technological, financial and social points of view.
This congress is also an excellent opportunity to travel from Ankara to Konya (Turkey’s cultural centre) by high speed rail and to visit Ankara’s brand new railway station.
For further information please contact Marc Guigon, Director of the UIC Passenger Department: