Trainspotting: TGV at 578 kmph

Choose life, choose reducing your carbon footprint, choose highspeed train travel instead of flying

Thank you SNCF, for making trainspotting cool, at least for a day. Yesterday, a especially modified train with bigger wheels and go-faster stripes set a new train speed record of 578 kmph. The only thing that is faster on rails is the Maglev train, which doesn’t  even touch the rails, and at that, only goes a few kilometres per hour faster.

It is fair to ask whether this record attempt was worth the 30 million Euro price tag. Travelling along France’s more minor train routes, there the decay and tattiness to be seen that is indicative of the large sums of money that have been diverted into the TGV programme. That said, France’s highspeed network is a great asset: where there are highspeed lines, flying simply takes longer. The development of the highspeed network has also pumped large sums of money into structures research, especially in the domain of bridge design. This record is in part another stage of that research process. The data recorded from sensors on the trains, tracks and bridges will help improve the understanding of these components under the intense vibrations that a train travelling at these sorts of speed can generate.

There is no doubt however that a significant reason for spending so much money on this attempt is the hard sell. France wants to export highspeed technology to South Korea and even to the United States. It is just possible that a train that travels at over 300mph is enough to make even the US, where internal flights rule the day,  sit up and take notice.

Check out this trainspottingtastic coverage from France2: