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All aboard the world’s fastest trains (pictures)

Elon Musk's Hyperloop is just a pipe dream, but these superfast trains are already up and running.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
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1 of 13 Gruppo FS Italiane

World's fastest trains

With Elon Musk's next-generation transportation system, the Hyperloop, recently unveiled, many are calling into question moving forward with high-speed trains.

Musk claims the Hyperloop will cost a fraction of what's need to pay for high-speed rail projects. For example, California's high-speed rail route from San Francisco to Los Angeles is currently budgeted at $68 billion for a trip that will take 3 hours. Musk said the Hyperloop aims to make the trip in 35 minutes -- and will cost just $6 billion to build.

But with the Hyperloop still a dream, for now, high-speed rail is our best option for medium distance transportation. Here, we take a look at a few of the fastest trains in the world.

The Frecciarossa 1000, seen above, also known as the V300 Zefiro and ETR 1000, is a next-generation high-speed train developed by Bombardier Transportation and AnsaldoBreda. The $2 billion, 220-mph train will go into service in 2015, making the trip from Rome to Milan in just 2.2 hours.

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2 of 13 Julien Bertrand/Wikipedia

Belgium's HSL-1

Belgium's HSL-1 has a top speed of 186 mph and can make the trip from Brussels to Paris in just 90 minutes. It has already been running for 15 years.
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3 of 13 Flickr user Mikhail Shcherbakov

Italian ETR 500

Italian ETR 500 (Elettro Treno Rapido 500) has been running for years, and at 190 mph, it makes the trip from Milan to Bologna, Italy, in just an hour.
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4 of 13 Flickr user mpk

European Eurostar

Traveling between London, Paris, and Brussels, the Eurostar train speeds along the European countryside and under the English Channel at speeds up to 186 mph.
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5 of 13 Wikipedia/Mikel Ortega

Spanish AVE Talgo-350

The Spanish AVE Talgo-350 trains run at a top speed of 205 mph on the Madrid-Barcelona and Madrid-Valladolid rail lines, although it was designed to reach speeds of up to 220 mph.
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6 of 13 Flickr billy1125

Taiwan's THSR 700T

Taiwan's THSR 700T has been cruising along the rails at 186 mph since 2007.
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7 of 13 Flickr user tekken90

South Korea's KTX 2

Built by Hyundai Rotem, the KTX-II was the first commercial high-speed train developed in South Korea. Seen here along the Gyeongbu line, the rail has been in service since 2010, and can travel at 190 mph.
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8 of 13 Sebastian Terfloth

Germany's ICE 3, Class 403

Germany's ICE 3 Class 403 high speed train which travels at 199mph and is built by Siemens Bombardier, is seen here traveling along the Frankfurt-Cologne line near the Oberhaider Wald Tunnel.
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9 of 13 Flickr user bindonlane

France's TGV

France's high-speed train TGV Réseau has a 236 mph capability, but it's normally limited to running at 199 mph.
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10 of 13 Japan-guide.com

Japan's Shinkansen E5

Japan's pointed Shinkansen trains, built by Hitachi Kawasaki, have a top speed of 275 mph, and regularly travel at speeds of up to 200 mph.
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11 of 13 Wikipedia/Alancrh

China's CRH380A bullet train

China's CRH380A bullet train is seen here in the Hongqiao Station on the Beijing-Shanghai railway. The CRH380A topped out at speeds of 302 mph and regularly runs at 217 mph.

The CRH380A is manufactured by CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company, and can carry up to 494 passengers along its routes from Shanghai to Nanjing and Shanghai to Hangzhou.
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12 of 13 Wikipedia/Alex Needham

Shanghai's magnetic levitation

China's magnetic levitation train is currently the fastest train in the world. Floating above the track on magnets, this train makes the 18-mile trip from downtown Shanghai to Shanghai Pudong International Airport in just 8 minutes, hitting speeds up to 268 mph.

Technically, the low-friction maglev train is capable of going even faster -- about 311 mph. Elon Musk said the Hyperloop would travel more than twice as fast, topping out at 760 mph at certain stretches.

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13 of 13 Central Japan Railway Company

Japan's coming L0 Series

What's next for train travel? Japan recently made several successful tests of the Central Japan Railway Company's next generation L0 Series magnetic levitation trains which broke all records.

The L0 trains -- now the fastest in the world -- will travel between Tokyo and Nagoya, a trip of 218 miles and will take just 40 minutes, beginning in 2027.

That is, unless Elon Musk's Hyperloop gets funded, gets built, actually works, and gets adopted worldwide. Hey, it's possible, right?

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