Train speeds: Bulgaria, England, Germany, Japan, Romania and the U.S.

Written by on October 7, 2017 in World - Comments Off on Train speeds: Bulgaria, England, Germany, Japan, Romania and the U.S.

Everyone knows that most trains on the Balkans are rather slow. The task here is to see how big the differences really are.

If trains in Southern and Eastern Europe were comparable to the Japanese Bullet Train system, they would be a good alternative to the airplane, for European trips. But this is not the case.

A train trip from Hamburg in Northern Germany to Sofia takes exactly 48 hours and 33 minutes. The first part of the trip is lightning fast, while the second one is the opposite. The same trip by car can be done in 24 hours.

On a train ride from London to Sofia, passengers will see a lot, but they have to sit on their seats for 46 hours and 45 minutes, and change trains six times, in Brussels, Cologne, Munich, Budapest, Craiova and Vidin.

The task here is to compare the duration of train journeys, like the one from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia to Burgas, at the Black Sea, a distance of about 380 kilometres.

Trip 1: Japan

The distance from Tokyo to Kyoto ist actually 500 kilometres, or 120 kilometers longer than the Bulgarian model trip. In spite of this aspect, Japanese bullet trains beat everything and everyone. The Shinkansen Train covers this distance in stunning 2 hours and 18 minutes. The average speed, including stops, would be 229 km/h.

A Japanese bullet train.

Trip 2: United Kingdom

From London to Blackpool, 400 kilometres need to be covered. The British train system does it in 2 hours and 47 minutes. Sure, as opposed to Japan, Germany or Bulgaria, not too many mountains need to be bypassed, but that kind of duration is still impressive.

Trip 3: Germany

The 392 kilometres from Munich to Frankfurt take the Intercity Express train (ICE) 3 hours and 12 minutes. This is still quite fast.

Trip 4: United States

In the U.S., people mostly drive, up to a certain distance, or they fly. But there are some interesting Amtrak connections, e.g. between Washington D.C. and New York City. The ‘Amtrak Acela’ does this trip of 363 kilometres in 4 hours and 43 minutes.

A German ICE train.

Trip 5: Romania

The distance between Râmnicu Vâlcea and Constanța, at the Black Sea coast, is 413 kilometres. The fastest connection offered by CFR Calatori takes 8 hours and 13 minutes. This distance is larger than the one between Sofia and Burgas. Also passengers need to change trains, and they need to go via Craiova, which means this trip does not exactly happen in a straight line.

A Bulgarian train.

Trip 6: Bulgaria

The trip from Sofia to Burgas, a distance of 380 kilometres, takes 6 hours and 29 minutes, on the BDZ’s fastest train, which is actually better than expected. Here, the Bulgarian train operator is just as fast as buses, while on slower trains, this journey takes up to 8 hours. This means, Bulgaria seems to be making some headway, by renovating tracks on some stretches.

Regarding the fares, Bulgaria definitely wins. A one-way trip is 22.70 Leva, the equivalent of 11.61 Euro. The German trip (392 kilometres) costs 195 Leva or 100 Euro, nine times as much.



About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at)