What is Intercity Trains? Brief History and Other Interesting Facts

Are intercity trains the key to reducing traffic congestion and promoting sustainable urban mobility?  But what exactly is this train? 

What is Intercity Trains?
Maglev train. Image: Xihua.

In this article, we will delve into the world of this rail-based vehicle. We'll explore its history, average ticket prices around the world, and identify the fastest trains in operation today.


Intercity rail can be defined as a type of passenger train service that operates between cities, towns, or significant urban centers, providing transportation for people traveling longer distances. These trains are designed for relatively fast and efficient. Moreover, these trains are known for their speed, comfort, and connectivity, making them a popular choice for travelers.

Brief History of Intercity Train

Early Steam-Powered Trains (Late 18th to early 19th century)

The concept of this train travel began in the early 19th century with the invention of the steam locomotive. In 1804, R. Trevithick built the first full-scale working steam locomotive in the United Kingdom. 

However, it was George Stephenson's locomotive, "The Rocket," in 1829, that is often considered the breakthrough moment for steam-powered locomotion. These early locomotives were used primarily for industrial purposes and gradually started connecting nearby cities.

The Birth of Intercity Rail (Mid-19th Century)

The 1830s and 1840s marked the rapid expansion of railways and the birth of intercity rail travel. The world's first public railway line, the Liverpool to Manchester Railway in England, opened in 1830. 

This event marked the beginning of scheduled passenger services between cities. As the rail network expanded, intercity train travel became increasingly popular due to its speed and efficiency compared to horse-drawn carriages.

Railways Across Continents (Late 19th Century)

During the latter half of the 19th century, railway networks expanded rapidly in Europe, North America, and other parts of the world. Countries such as the United States invested heavily in railway construction, connecting vast regions and allowing people to travel comfortably between cities. Trains became larger, faster, and more luxurious.

The Electric Era (Late 19th to Early 20th Century)

Electric locomotives started replacing steam engines in some urban areas, especially for commuter rail services within cities. This transition improved train efficiency and reduced pollution in densely populated areas.

Dieselization and Modernization of Intercity Train (Mid-20th Century)

The mid-20th century witnessed the transition from steam and electric locomotives to diesel-electric locomotives, which were more efficient and required less maintenance. This shift marked a significant step in the modernization of intercity rail travel.

High-Speed Rail (Late 20th Century to Present)

In the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, several countries introduced high-speed rail networks. Japan's Shinkansen, also known as the "bullet train," was a pioneering example, starting operations in 1964. High-speed trains brought a new level of speed and efficiency to intercity travel, with top speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour (320 kilometers per hour) in some cases.

Fastest Intercity Rail in the World

In general, intercity trains are known for their speed. They can go very fast, which means you reach your destination quickly. But what’s the fastest one in the world?

The answer is definitely the Shanghai Maglev. It’s PRC (China) HSR. Though Japan is known for their Shinkansen, China is now the world’s leading manufacturer when it comes to High Speed Rail. 

This HSR operates from Longyang Station to Pudong Airport. It can run as fast as 268 mph or 431 km/h. t's one of the most impressive trains in the world today.

Scenic Views and The Most Beautiful Intercity Train in the World

As the train travels between cities, you can also enjoy the scenery outside. You might see fields, mountains, or even rivers. It's a great way to take in the beauty of the landscape. And indeed, some intercity routes are known for their beauty.

The most popular ones are definitely the intercity rails in Switzerland. A simple ride from Milan to Zurich can be a beautiful journey in itself. However, the price of scenic rail journeys is usually higher, which is reasonable since they primarily serve an entertainment purpose.

Affordable Travel: Intercity Train Ticket Price

While scenic train’s ticket could expensive, in general one of the best things about intercity rail is that they are often more affordable than other transportation options. This makes them a great choice for people looking to save money on travel.

The average fare itself varies. Some countries like India don’t even charge their citizens. While in UK, you have to spend at least 15 Euro.


In conclusion, intercity trains are a fast, comfortable, and eco-friendly way to travel between cities. They offer scenic views, safety, and affordability, making them a popular choice for many travelers. Next time you plan a trip, consider taking an intercity rail to experience the convenience and charm of rail travel.

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