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Ranking the Top Performers in European High-Speed Rail

AGV Italo

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Automotrice Grande Vitesse (AGV) Italo, the first train in the AGV series, is currently the fastest operating train in Europe and third fastest train in the world. It will continue to hold the title as the fastest operating train in Europe until 2015, when it will be toppled by Frecciarossa 1000’s (V300ZEFIRO or ETR 1000) entry into service.

AGV Italo has an operational speed of 360kmph and broke a record speed of 574.8kmph during its test run on the East-European high-speed line in April 2007. The train entered service in April 2012 and is touted as the most modern train in Europe, with 98% of its components recyclable, and its lifecycle cost and electric consumption 15% less than that of close rivals.

AGV Italo is built by Alstom and operated by Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV). Alstom has been contracted to supply 25 AGV trainsets over 30 years. The 11-car very high speed train runs on the Napoli-Roma-Firenze-Bologna-Milano corridor.

Siemens Velaro E / AVS 103

Siemens Velaro E, commonly known as AVS 103 in Spain, is the second fastest train in Europe and the fourth fastest in the world. The train design is based on further developments of Deutsche Bahn’s ICE 3 trainset.

The Siemens Velaro E has a normal operating speed of 350kmph. It did, however, set a new world speed record of 403.7kmph for series-production trains during its test run on the Madrid-Barcelona line in 2006. The train started operations in 2006 and is fully operable in snow and ice.

The trains in the series are operated by Spanish National Railways Renfe and are manufactured by Siemens at its Krefeld-Uerdingen factory in Germany. Siemens will supply 26 trains to Renfe as part of two different contracts signed in 2001 and 2005.

Talgo 350 (T350)

Talgo 350, commonly known as El Pato (meaning The Duck in Spanish), is the third fastest train in Europe and the fifth fastest in the world with more than 46 trains operating in Spain. The T350 operates at a speed of 350kmph, but achieved a maximum speed of 365kmph during a trial run.

The El Pato high speed train started operations in 2005 on the Madrid-Zaragoza-Lleida section of the Madrid-Barcelona line in Spain and was initially designated as RENFE AVE Class 10.

The high speed train was developed by Patentes Talgo (Tren Articulado Ligero Goicoechea Oriol) and manufactured by Patentes Talgo in collaboration with Bombardier Transportation.

The train is made up of two end cars, with a maximum of 12 coaches, and is equipped with natural tilting system. The front end is also specifically designed to prevent aerodynamic resistance.


ICE 3, a variant of Deutsche Bahn’s Intercity Express Trains, is Europe’s fourth fastest train running at speeds up to 330kmph. The trains in the series are operated by Deutsche Bahn and Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and manufactured by Bombardier in collaboration with Siemens.

ICE 3 was introduced in 1999 and, like all other variants of Intercity Express Trains, it was designed by Alexander Neumeister. The electric multiple unit trains (EMUs) are normally made up of eight passenger cars built from aluminium bodies and featuring no power heads.

Half of the train’s axles are driven and the associated traction equipment is distributed under the floor over the full length of the train. The trains integrate bogie skirts and fairings to screen brake discs and axleboxes giving around a 10% reduction in rolling resistance.


Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) trains operated by SNCF are the fifth fastest in Europe. The trains in the series have been in service since 1981 and are capable of running at an operational speed of 320kmph.

The TGV trains running at this speed currently include Duplex, Euroduplex, Réseau, POS and 2N2. A TGV train set dubbed V150 broke the world speed record for conventional rail trains, reaching 574.8kmph.

TGV train sets are manufactured by Alstom and Bombardier. Europe is operating 550 TGVs serving 230 destinations currently. Alstom-built TGV Euroduplex, the third generation of TGV Duplex, is the only train equipped with signalling equipment to meet the operational requirements of all European rail networks.

TGV Euroduplex, which came into service in 2011 on the new Rhine-Rhone high speed line, is also the world’s first double-deck high-speed train. The trains in the Euroduplex fleet can carry 1,020 passengers.

ETR 500 Frecciarossa

Elettro Treno Rapido 500 (ETR 500) Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) trains operating on the high-speed line between Turin and Salerno in Italy run at a speed of 300kmph. The high-speed trains are a renovated version of the ETR 500 and are designed for a maximum speed of 360kmph.

The trains in the fleet are operated by Trenitalia and manufactured by TREno Veloce Italiano (TREVI), a consortium of Alstom, Bombardier and AnsaldoBreda. Pininfarina was involved in providing the stylistic and aerodynamic analysis for the trains.

The ETR 500 trains started operation in 2008 and are made up of 11 air-conditioned carriages with two locomotives at each end.

The cars are equipped with climate control and sound insulation and feature ergonomic seats, to provide maximum comfort. The trains in the fleet provide services to 88 locations on a daily basis.


Eurostar trains are an elongated version of the TGV and have a normal operating speed of 300kmph. A train in the Eurostar series ran at a record speed of 334.7kmph through Kent on section one of the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) in 2003.

Eurostar train sets, designated as Class 373 in the UK, are operated by Eurostar UK, while SNCF operates three Eurostar trains in France. The trains are manufactured by Alstom and Bombardier, and commenced operation in 1994.

The trains consist of more compact cars compared to TGV Trains to adapt them for use in the UK and in the Eurotunnel. The trains consist of two parts with a rigid connector in the middle, to enable the train to detach in case of a breakdown or emergency in the Eurotunnel.

Thalys PBKA

Thalys PBKA, also known as the red train, is a modified version of the TGV. The trains in the PBKA series are owned partly by French, Belgian and German railways, and operated by Thalys.

The trains run between Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam at an operational speed of 300km and maximum designed speed of 320km.

The trains entered service in 1998 and 17 Thalys PBKA trains are currently in operation. The motor cars of the train are technologically similar to those of TGV Duplex sets, except that they have a single deck.

Each Thalys PBKA train is 200m long comprising of eight carriages with a total weight of 385t. The trains feature 377 seats including 120 in business class (Comfort 1) and 257 in standard class (Comfort 2).

Pendolino Tilting Trains

Pendolino high-speed trains, manufactured by Alstom, are designed to run at speeds of up to 250kmph on both high-speed and conventional lines. The Pendolino trains currently run in 11 countries and are certified to travel in 13 countries, with more than 500 trains operating worldwide.

Most Pendolino trains integrate Alstom’s Tiltronix tilting technology, which enables them to tilt by up to eight degrees in curves and still run at 250kmph, allowing it to travel 30% to 35% faster than conventional trains. The trains can be configured with four to nine cars and are designed based on ETR 401 and the British Advanced Passenger Train.

The trains in the Pendolino series first entered commercial service in 1988 with majority of them produced at Alstom’s Savigliano factory in Italy. Some of the major operators of Pendolino trains include SBB (Sweden), Trenitalia and Cisalpino, Virgin Trains (UK) and Findland’s VR.

RENFE Class 130 / Talgo 250

RENFE Class 130, also known as Talgo 250, has a maximum operational speed of 250kmph on high-speed lines and 200kmph on conventional lines. The dual voltage electric trains are equipped with variable gauge axles and are specially designed for high-speed services on the Iberian gauge in Spain.

The trains in the series are manufactured by Talgo and Bombardier, and are operated by Renfe for its Alvia services in Spain.

The Class 130 services in Spain commenced operations in 2007 and 45 units are currently operational in the country.

The trains are constructed of aluminium and feature 11 coaches and two drive heads. The train weighs about 343t at full load, has a car width of 2.942m, height of 3.365m and length of 183m. The front end system for the trains was developed by Voith.

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