A Quick History of High Speed Travel

When it comes to high-speed travel, it has always been fastest to catch a plane or a train. The following is a brief history of both forms of high-speed travel.


1830 — The line between Liverpool and Manchester saw the first record train speed of note, set at 36 miles per hour on its first run. After a VIP was injured at the track-christening event, the record speed was set in a valiant attempt to get him to hospital. Unfortunately, despite the record speed being set, the former Member of Parliament died.

1839 — An engine dubbed ‘Lucifer’ smashed the train speed record by clocking 57 mph in Staffordshire.

1889 — The Paris to Dijon line saw the train speed record broken once again, when a Thomas Crampton designed engine hit a top speed of 89.5 mph.

1903 — Germany snatched the train speed record by being the first to crack the 100 mph mark, hitting 126 mph on a military railway line.

1964 — It wasn’t until over 60 years later that Japan would enter that fastest train race, with the famous Shinkansen’s aerodynamic ‘bullet trains’ clocking 130 mph.

1981 — France opened its own high-speed train line in the early ‘80s, with its Paris to Lyon line hugely popular, travelling 264 miles in two hours and 40 minutes. The top speed of the French TGV trains reached 161.6 mph.

2002 — As always, when the Chinese put their minds to something, they generally go all out, as was the case with their staggeringly fast passenger train, which hits 267 mph. This incredible train works by creating a magnetic connection between the cars and the tracks, allowing it to move way faster than regular trains.

2007 — TGV in France took the world train speed record back in a big way with a 25,000 hp engine managing to hit speeds of 357 mph in an exhibition run. Passengers reported feeling dizzy as speeds crept up over 300 mph.


It wasn’t until the 1930s that air travel started to become a reality, and by this time trains had already gotten off to a huge head start in terms of viable high speed travel options. Nevertheless, air travel began making a comeback.

1903 — The Wright Brothers made the first successful flight.

1927 — Charles Lindbergh successfully made the first solo flight across the Atlantic.

1930s — The DC-3 engine is developed, allowing the cost of flying a plane to be cut by 50 per cent and making passenger air travel reasonably affordable.

Post WWII — Following the massive learning curve of the war years, air traffic boomed post war, with planes finally being able to fly high enough to avoid weather systems.

1959 — Boeing released the 707 aircraft, which cut flying time between London and New York from 12 hours to six, a feat that had until only recently taken six days by ship.

1971 — Southwest Airlines became the first carrier to offer deals affordable to the average person, though it could only do so within the State of Texas due to Federal government regulations. This eventually led to the deregulation of the airlines in 1978, and the onset of cheap flights for all.

1976 — The Concorde made its appearance in the late ‘70s as the most high-speed travel option of all. Combining extreme fuel efficiency with drastically increased speed, the Concorde flew the London to New York trip in three hours and 30 minutes. After a tragic crash in 2000, which killed 100 people, Concorde planes were retired from service.

Your best choice for high-speed travel will always depend on how far it is that you’re going. If you’re going to heading overseas to a Jakarta hotel, you’re best to fly; while if you’re already in Laos and you’re heading to a Vietnam resort, your best bet will definitely be to take the train.

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