High-Speed Trains

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Robin Basselin and Ryan Geertsma look at one transportation of the future. Can high-speed trains make transportation easier, safer and faster?

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Robin Basselin.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube.
Voice 3 

“Monday morning in Tokyo, Japan. It is eight o’clock in the morning. The Shinkansen express train is leaving for Osaka. It takes passengers out into the country. It makes the 560 kilometre trip in just two and half hours. Every day many passengers across the world travel like this. Today, millions of people use high-speed trains. Soon, millions more will use them too. More and more countries are turning to high-speed trains. They are a way to meet the growing transportation needs of the 21st century.”

Voice 1 

These words begin a short film about high-speed trains from the California state government. These are trains that travel much faster than normal trains. Some of them move at over 400 kilometres an hour! Today’s Spotlight is on high-speed trains.

Shinkansen in Japan
Shinkansen in Japan; Image by Syun_sft from Pixabay

Shinkansen in Japan;

Voice 2 

Many people think that high-speed trains are the transportation of the future. There are double the high-speed railways that there were even a few years ago. Japan, Germany, France, Spain and China have the most high-speed railways. But there are plans for expanding the railways in the United States, Italy and Russia. Governments are starting new high-speed railway systems in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Voice 1 

Japan developed the first large system of high-speed trains in 1964. This system of trains is called the “Shinkansen.” In English this word means “new main line.”

Voice 2 

Shinkansen trains are also called bullet trains. The trains are rounded like a bullet from a gun. Their sides are very smooth. Their front end is often pointed – as if they have a nose! This helps the trains move along their lines, or tracks, with great speed. The Shinkansen trains travel at over 200 kilometres per hour.

Voice 1 

Many people may be frightened to ride on such a fast train. But high-speed trains are fun to ride! A man who lives in the city of Osaka describes it on the website Hubpages:

Voice 4

“Once you are on the train you can sit back and rest. While riding, train workers will bring drinks, snacks and meals. You can purchase these. The only other thing you should do is look out of the window. You could see the beautiful, snow covered Mount Fuji out of your window as you pass by.”

Inside the Shinkansen train in Japan, 2010
Inside the Shinkansen train in Japan, 2010; Ben Salter from Wales, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Voice 2 

There are two main kinds of high-speed trains. The first kind of high-speed train is a magnetic levitation or mag-lev. This kind of train does not have a fuel engine. It uses electricity and magnetic power to move along at high speeds. This kind of train is easy to identify. It does not ride on the track like other kinds of trains. It floats, or levitates, a few centimetres above the track.

Voice 1 

The only maglev train that carries passengers is in Shanghai, China. The Shanghai mag-lev train is the fastest passenger train in the world. It goes up to 430 kilometres per hour! It began service in 2004. It runs from the airport into the city of Shanghai. This trip is about 30 kilometres long. But it only takes the mag-lev train eight minutes!

Voice 2 

The other main kind of high-speed train is not as fast as the mag-lev train. But it is more common. These high-speed trains use the same tracks that traditional trains use. But they are designed to go much faster. The Shinkansen in Japan is this kind of train. The TGV train is also this kind of train. The TGV opened in 1981. It is a popular high-speed train that is based in France. It can go up to 320 kilometers per hour.

Voice 1 

But the Shinkansen, TGV and mag-lev in Shanghai are all similar in one way. They are all owned by the government. In Italy, the new high-speed rail line, NTV, is private. Individuals and companies own it, instead of the government. The leading businessman of NTV is Luca di Montezemolo. He is also the chairman of the famous car company Ferrari. Di Montezemolo hopes that the train will be good for the Italian economy and for travellers.

The NTV train in Italy, 2013
The NTV train in Italy, 2013; Peter Broster, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Voice 2 

The new NTV trains in Italy are red, smooth and shiny. They look a bit like Ferrari sports cars! But they are better for the environment than driving cars. Many people can travel in them at one time. This saves space and fuel. Trains also create less air pollution than cars. And a railway track takes up much less space than a large road for cars.

Voice 1 

High-speed rail also has advantages over travelling by airplane. Airports must usually be away from big cities. This leaves enough room for the airplane to land. Trains do not need as much space. This is how the mag-lev train can reach into the city of Shanghai. It is faster and easier for passengers in the city to get to a train station than an airport.

Voice 2 

And, of course, high-speed rail is fast! High-speed rail travel is faster than travelling by car or bus. But it can also be just as fast as travelling by airplane. Before riding on an airplane, passengers spend a lot of time waiting. Airplane travel also requires passengers to go through more security.

Voice 1 

Finally, travelling by train can be safer than travelling in a car or by airplane. In 50 years, the Shinkansen in Japan has never had an accident!

Voice 2 

Safety, environment and time are all reasons why high-speed trains are popular. Many people think that high-speed rail may soon be the most important transportation. Today’s program ends with news from the British Telegraph newspaper about one exciting new international project:

Voice 5 

“China is talking about building a high-speed railway to India and Europe. It would take ten years or more to complete this international high-speed railway. Passengers could get on a train in London and step off in Beijing in just two days. This is over 8,000 kilometres away. This railway would bring together the whole of Central, East and Southeast Asia.”

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘High-Speed Trains’.

Voice 2 

You can leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook – just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Is there a high-speed train where you live? How do you travel in your city or country?

Join the discussion

  • In my country, we just have the traditional trains and I have never use them. So, I hope we will have high speed trains in the short time.

  • I am from Vietnam, my country have traditional trains from Hanoi to HCM city, it’s about 1700km and that is the longest railway in Vietnam, I have never gon by train because it very noisy and uncomfortable. I hope one day we have high speed trains like that.

  • I am from Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh city. There is no high-speed tain in my city now, but the goverment is starting new high-speed rileway. I’m excited to ride this high speed train.

    I’m travel in my country by the car. I never got on trian or airplane in my life, I’m just traveling with my car

  • No , there is no any tyoe of trians in all country where i live , even it has not a traditional train .
    I am spending alot of time to go to 30 km away from where i live .
    I wish in one day i live in a country has trains to safe my time .
    I really tired from our transportation system .
    I dissatisfied obout oll of this.

  • In Italy Frecciarossa 1000 is the most modern train in the Trenitalia fleet. Comfortable, safe and ecological, it is built to travel on all the AV networks in Europe. It can reach the maximum speed of 400Km / h

  • Over 600 kph, the fastests train word record – that what I found. I would like to ride inside this kind of train, it must be cooll…

  • In my city we don’t have a high speed train, but the government starting now to support this way of transportation. I’m so excited to traveling by one !.

  • There is no high-speed train in my country. If you want to see everything through the window panes, you can take the bus to the city campus. You can also travel around the city on a motorbike. Even in my own country, many people take trans-provincial motorcycle tours. The majority of them enjoy thesense of discovery and adventure. That will be an incredible trip with your friends. I used to have similar experiences with my friends. They are superior to dining in a fine restaurant or visiting a famous museum. And I believe that a high speed train will never provide the same sense of adventure and excitement. A high-speed train is not suitable for travel; it is more suitable for going to work when you need to save time, in my opinion. However, I believe that in the future, my country will also have high speed trains, and I would like to experience the sensation of sitting on a high-speed train. That would most likely be fantastic as well.

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