Speed on steel wheels has fascinated engineers for nearly two centuries, and a string of stunning records in the last twenty-five years has pushed railway engineering towards new frontiers. Japan - pioneer of high-speed train technology - set the precedent with its legendary bullet trains in 1964; since then a dozen countries have joined the high-speed revolution. Today, China is setting the pace as it crafts a nationwide network of super-railways, and Morocco and Saudi Arabia are on the cusp of launching trains that travel at 300km/h. The USA lags far behind, outpaced by Asia and Western Europe, where Eurostar links London to the international high-speed network - although a new-generation railway to northern England is still missing. Here is the full story of high-speed trains, retold in a journey across countries and continents. The Second Age of Rail is railway history in the making.
Murray Hughes is the editor of Railway Gazette International, in which capacity he witnessed many key events in the development of high-speed trains in different countries. Previously he was Foreign/News Editor for Modern Railways, and spent time working with Swiss Railways and the International Union of Railways in Paris. He has written a number of books and articles.