Europe's High-Speed Train Networks Continue to Expand

While those of us who live in the U.S. continue to (vainly) pine for better, more reliable public transit systems - let alone high-speed train networks - our European brethren, having already enjoyed a bumper crop year of train-related developments, will soon witness the creation of a new, pan-European rail network. This past July, seven operators joined forces to form Railteam, an alliance working to build a high-speed train network spanning all of Western Europe. "The idea of a European network of high-speed rail is at last being realized. It will be a real alternative to air travel," said Guillaume Pépy, chief executive of France's SNCF and chairman of Eurostar, a train service that links Britain with the rest of Europe.

Though Railteam currently lacks operators in Italy, Spain and Portugal - due to their lesser-developed rail networks - that will likely all change in the coming years, as several new lines, including one linking Madrid to Barcelona, are completed. Pépy predicts that it should be possible to travel by high-speed train from Paris to Bratislavia within the next 15 years. In a decision sure to move these developments along, the European Union last year approved legislation that will require national rail systems to open up to operators from other countries by 2010.Railteam has already set up a common reservation system - similar to those operated by airline alliances - that will begin operations in 2009; furthermore, in an effort to appeal to potential customers who might otherwise opt for flying over riding the train, it has also pledged to offer a frequent-traveler program. Train executives are banking on travelers' new-found interest in energy efficiency and lower carbon footprints to buoy their networks' expansions; the allure of solid profits - a roundtrip, first-class ticket between London and Paris can cost upwards of $866 (though coach tickets can be found for $120) - has also made high-speed trains a winner in the corporate playbooks.

Via ::BusinessWeek: High-Speed Trains Erode Europe's Borders (news website), ::Gristmill: High-speed rail (blog)

See also: ::Britain's First Biodiesel Train Takes to the Tracks, ::Taking the Train to New York: The Only Way to Fly
Image courtesy of lorelei via flickr