The Italian state railways (Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane) ran the new Frecciarossa 1000 train between Milan and Rome at the end of April.

Built in Italy by a partnership of Bombardier and AnsaldoBreda, the new train – officially a V300ZEFIRO – has a top commercial speed of 360km/h and is capable of reaching 400km/h – making it the fastest regular passenger train. At the moment, it is limited to 300km/h due to infrastructure restrictions but will shortly commence testing at 350km/h.

Bearing in mind that this 2015 launch is 10 years ahead of HS2, what speeds will trains reach when the British network comes into service? Currently, the network is being planned for a 400km/h maximum speed but the designs are future-proofed so that this can be changed later if necessary. That will partly depend on the trains’ top speed, and also on the trade-off between that and energy consumption.

A total of 50 eight-car Frecciarossa 1000 trains have been ordered. The first will enter passenger service in June.

If you do away with the wheels, you can go faster. That’s what Japan’s JR Central railway has done, building a maglev railway for test purposes between Ōtsuki and Tsuru in Yamanashi Prefecture which was then further extended to 42.8km in 2013.

Maglev (MAGnetic LEVitation) uses magnets to both make the train hover just above a flat metal ‘track’ and also to propel it along. With no rolling resistance, and a streamlined shape, high speeds are possible. A manned train hit 603km/h (375mph) – a world record – towards the end of April, just a few days before the Frecciarossa 1000’s first run.

Eventually, similar trains will run on the Chuo Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. Although construction commenced in 2014, it is not expected to open until 2027 as far as Nagoya and 2045 all the way to Osaka. Some 90% of the total 286km route will be underground or in tunnels.