The European Commission has published a brochure on the benefits of High-speed lines (HSLs) offering European citizens a safe, fast, comfortable and ecological mode of transport.
A high-speed train is a train capable of reaching speeds of over 200 km/h on upgraded conventional lines and of over 250 km/h on new lines designed specifically for high speeds. Today, trains running on the most recently installed lines can reach speeds of 360 km/h, while trains running on upgraded conventional lines can reach speeds of up to 250 km/h.
High-speed lines have truly revolutionised sustainable mobility, by allowing a significant increase in the speed and frequency of journeys between the major European cities. This cuttingedge infrastructure illustrates the Union’s immense capacity for technological innovation and the vitality of European industry, which is constantly developing new systems, especially in terms of rolling stock. The reduced travelling times, higher levels of passenger comfort and low environmental impact enable HSLs to compete with and complement road and air travel, thereby helping to implement viable mobilit at European level. By the end of 2009, Europe had 6 214 km of high-speed lines on which trains could run at speeds in excess of 250 km/h.
There are currently different technical standards on the HSL European network and this generates significant extra costs. The huge potential of HSLs in terms of mobility throughout the continent has still not been fully exploited. That is why the European Union is promoting a pan-European HSL network. In order to do so, it is issuing common technical and quality standards for all Member States. It is also establishing a framework for the development and implementation of standardised tools, such as the European rail traffic management system (ERTMS). It is being assisted in this by the European Railway Agency (ERA), the body responsible for helping to integrate the European rail networks by improving rail safety and allowing trains to cross borders within the EU without having to stop.