Trains in the East

Europe and Asia: the vast and majestic continents to the east – so close and yet so far. A trip overseas can take a bit more than a daily dose of planning and preparation. So once you get there, why not see as much as possible? But how to get from place to place? That’s easy… the train!


Did you hear about Beijing? The Jingzhang Intercity Railway’s driverless bullet train was just completed in China. Sparked by the 2022 Olympics, this 4-year project connects the bustling capital of Beijing to the shimmering ski slopes of Zhangjiakou. This 108-mile route can take only 45 minutes on the train that reaches speeds of up to 217 miles per hour. In 1909 when the first train rain on this railway, the journey took 8 hours. And yes, it is driverless, although an attendant will still be on board for guidance. China’s fastest train, the Shanghai Maglev, is even faster – reaching speeds of 268 miles per hour.


Luxury trains, especially overnight journeys, are making a comeback. Imagine dressing for a five-course dinner, enjoying elegantly decorated interiors, and sleeping on pressed linen – all while the countryside dances outside of your window. It is like a first class plane ticket and a five star hotel all in one. Better even – you can see and experience the true natural beauties of the land you are passing through. Not to mention some trains allow you to step into history. Some of these trains and routes were built for royalty and have been in operation for over 100 years.


“Eco” in this case means both eco-friendly and economical.  Trains can be diesel-powered or electric, but even taking a diesel-powered train produces up to 84% less carbon than other methods of transportation. The German rail company Deutsche Bahn even lowered their long distance fares at the beginning of 2020 by about 10%. The reason for this cut is a lower “Value Added Tax” on rail travel imposed by the German government. The government hopes to encourage an extra five million people per year to choose the train for their long distance trips and have called rail travel “the most climate-friendly means of transport.” It is certainly possible other governments and rail companies will follow suit due to an increase in demand since train travel is predicted to be a travel trend in 2020.

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Written by Carol Gabbert, Van Zile Travel

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