This is a bit of a rant! North America should push full-steam ahead with high-speed rail travel. Maybe I should say "fully-electrified".
My wife and I needed to get to Malpensa airport outside of Milan quickly from Florence. It was either that or get up at 3 am and drive from outside of Siena to Milan. That's a four and half hour drive without traffic problems. We decided to take the Eurostar train instead.
What a thrill. Cars on the highway seemed to be standing still. Eurostar trains can travel up to 320 kmh an hour (200 mph). I'm not sure how fast we were going but the trip took just over 2 hours from Florence to Milan. TGV applies to France. In Italy the high-speed rail network is known as Eurostar Italia AV. A trip from Milan to Venice is promoted at 2 hours, 20 minutes. It took us nearly 4 hours to make the same drive using the best roads available.
The train was very comfortable and we were only travelling second class. The cost was also reasonable. Furthermore, there was no need to arrive two hours ahead of time and go through all the security checks required at airports. There is security but it is far less "in-your-face".
You can even carry on your own bottled water and other liquids!</p>
Yes, the trains run on time. To the minute.
I was amazed at the length of some of the tunnels on the run up the center of Italy from Florence to Milan. They were impressive driving on the A4 but quite spectacular on the train. The money committed to the rail networks is mind boggling.
The stations in Florence and Milan (and I suspect in other major cities) are well-planned. Even with practically zero Italian it was easy to navigate around and find the correct platform and train. Seating is reserved. We actually bought our tickets in Siena for a departure from Florence.
This is a very civilized way to travel. To my mind Europe was right to concentrate on high-speed train travel. North America, both the US and Canada, should invest in high-speed rail corridors. I know this has supposedly been in the works for 20 years.
It's time to shift emphasis from air travel and roads to rail travel, at least in the more densely populated areas such as Washington-New York, in California and Montreal-Toronto. At least we tried to increase speed and comfort in Canada. I have fond memories of riding in the bar car on the TurboTrain.
If you ever travel to Europe, make it a point to go somewhere on a high-speed train. You'll love it.
That's my humble rant.
By the way. There are models of the Eurostar. Hornby makes one. I found this photo on the Internet.
There's also this great video circulating on YouTube of TGV high-speed trials in France. 574.8 kmh (357.16 mph)! Even if you don't speak French it is worth watching.
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