Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015



Last Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown went to Fresno for a most important event. He attended the groundbreaking ceremonies for California's High Speed Rail Project. Soon, it will take around two hours to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles. To celebrate the first bullet train in the Western Hemisphere, we will list the TOP TEN BULLET TRAINS routes currently in operation.

#10. TGV  Paris-Marseilles. In the 1960's, France was drunk in the technology craze. Engineers designed underwater cars, hovercraft buses and high speed trains. While the first two ideas failed, the très grande vitesse (very high speed) train became a source of French pride when it opened in 1981.

#9. Afrosiyob.  Tashkent - Samarkand. When Marco Polo traveled between these two cities in the year 1265, it took weeks. Nowadays, Uzbek Rail can do the task in just over two hours. In a region deemed unsafe for air travel, this is a welcome sight. And...at just $25 for a one-way trip...it is the least expensive on the list.

#8. THSR  Taipei - Kaohsiung. When Taiwan's High Speed Rail opened in 2007, it did more than just whisk folks around an island. It also improved strained relations with Japan. A joint project with the motorcycle giant Kawasaki resulted the coolest looking trains you'll ever see!

#7. Talgo  Madrid - Barcelona. A similar story of a bullet train uniting cultures happened the next year in Spain. High speed rail means that Catalonia and Castile are now just two and a half hours apart. With seventeen El Pato (the duck) trains daily, communications between the two regions are improving.

#6. ICE  Frankfort - Cologne. Germany was slow to join the High Speed craze, but nowadays, it boast the second fastest train on earth. At 279 MPH, it takes less than an hour to link the two important cities.

#5. KTX.  Seoul - Pusan. Whoop! Whoop! Gangnam Station! From here, you can board the Korea Express. Constructed with a curious mix of public and private funding, ticket prices are fixed: Exactly half the current plane fare. The beautiful scenery becomes a blur when the top speed of 217 MPH is reached.

#4. Italo.  Rome - Milan. As everyone knows, Italians like to go fast. Hence, they invented the "Ferrari of the Rails," the Alta Velocità. It holds the record for the fastest all time rail speed of  356 MPH. There were no passengers...only terrified squirrels...as it accelerated through Emilia-Romagna.

#3. HSR.  Beijing - Shanghai. This train is the future of rail travel. Using Maglev technology, it levitates above the tracks. There are no vibrations whatsoever! This baby also achieves the top speed to legally travel on land: 302 MPH. In a nation that clearly represents the world's economic future, the HSR is the backbone.

#2. Eurostar.  London - Paris. Since Roman times, the crossing of the English Channel has been an issue. In the 1500's, Leonardo da Vinci proposed a floating bridge. Napoleon envisioned a platoon system. Then, in 1994, the world's longest undersea tunnel officially opened. It is truly a marvel showing how humans can overcome any obstacle!

#1. Shinkansen.  Tokyo - Osaka. Last year, the world's first bullet train celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1964, Japan joined the jet age in spectacular fashion, whisking people past Mount Fuji at 275 MPH. Since then, over ten billion passengers have boarded the first and the best. However, perhaps the most impressive statistic is the average delay: Thirty-six seconds. Now that's efficiency!

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