Are the trains in Spain faster than the planes?

If you’ve ever had a chance to travel around Europe, you’re probably familiar with its various high-speed rail networks. In France, the TGV and AGV lines whisk passengers between Paris and points beyond including Brussels and Lyon at speeds over 200 miles per hour. And in Spain, the AVE rail system connects Madrid to Seville and as of 2008, to Barcelona as well.

According to a recent post at Wired, the new high speed link between Spain’s two biggest cities has had a dramatic effect on the country’s transportation network. In 2007, the airline route between Madrid and Barcelona was the busiest in the world, carrying over 70 percent of the passengers traveling between the two. Yet upon the opening of the new Barcelona rail line last year, that percentage has already dropped to 60 percent, and experts predict the number of plane and train passengers on the route will be equal within the next 2 years.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of traveling by rail instead of air, there’s a significant convenience advantage as well. As heavy airplane traffic continues to choke airport runways worldwide, it’s likely many of us will be turning to the railways for trips shorter than three hours. And when you think about it, by the time you’ve made it through TSA clearance, located your gate and fought for an overhead bin spot, your quick two hour plane trip has often turned into four or five. Here’s hoping the U.S. continues to look into similar high-speed rail solutions like Acela. It’s no AVE yet, but certainly a good first step.

[Via PSFK]

France’s new AGV: and you thought the TGV was fast

Despite the many Frenchmen complaining about Sarkozy behaving more like a celebrity than President, he is still treated like a king at all of France’s important events. Tuesday February 5 was a classic example when a whole lot of pomp and circumstance went into the unveiling of Alstom engineering company’s new train, the AGV. In French that stands for automatrice à grande vitesse. Loosely translated: a really really fast train.

The TGV led to a lot of “oohs” and “ahs” last year when it broke the world speed record for a train. But going 574.8 km/hour was only a one time deal, passenger TGVs have a maximum rail speed of 320 km/h. The new AGV will up that to 360 km/h (224 miles/h) allowing passengers to do about 1000 km (600 miles) in three hours, getting one step closer to making train travel comparable to traveling by plane. The Alstom company is pretty proud of its production, comparing it to the Airbus A380 in terms of importance and innovation, probably on account of the fact that the train is more energy efficient than the TGV and has a larger passenger capacity.

The Italian operator NTV has already bought 25 trains and says it will have them running on Italy’s high speed tracks by 2011. Let the countdown begin.