usually of steel, generally mounted upon cross beams (termed sleepers or tie of timber, or steel. The underlying support maintains the rails at a fixed distance (gauge) apart. Usually vehicles running on the rails are arranged in a train (a series of individual powered or unpowered vehicles linked together).
» UK Train Travel - According to statistics supplied by Great Rail Journeys (GRJ) – one of the UK's premier holiday companies that specialise in rail - an amazing 40,000 Britons are taking package rail holidays every year. These figures would have been hard to believe some five to ten years ago when the phrase “British Rail” was synonymous with poor service and unreliable transport. However, as we will learn taking a holiday via train has become increasing popular amongst persons who prefer a more comfortable and yet adventurous way of travelling. Traditional railway holidays were very much the norm in 50's Britain. Be it short breaks to cities such as London, York or Edinburgh or exciting trips across continental Europe many Briton's grew up with the rail package holiday. It is perhaps as a result of this that the back bone of the rail holiday industry in the UK is couples in their sixties and seventies reliving the vacations of their youth. Be it rushing to make tight connecting flights, crowed airports or a simple fear of flying – many travellers today simply don't want to get from a to b on an airplane. The very fact you have allocated more time out of your schedule to travel by rail ensures the whole experience can be a great deal calmer – which is one of the key reasons why it is popular with the elderly market However, this trend is certainly changing slowly – with more younger travellers choosing rail over flying. One popular type of rail holiday is EuRail trips across Europe. Often associated with backpackers, the Eurailpass is one of the most convenient ways to see Europe as the ticket offers unlimited train travel throughout 18 countries on their network – including the whole of Scandinavia. With frequent departures on busy routes, it is often the case that the train is a faster option than flying when you consider the commuting time it takes to reach most European airports on the edge of busy cities. This is especially the case when using fast train services such as the German ICE, French TGV or indeed the Eurostar which connects France with London. Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks to rail travel (at least outside the UK) is that it can be remarkably difficult to find information and actually book tickets. The large majority of travel agents no longer sell rail package deals and companies such as Euro Star have little information available once they get you as far as Paris or Brussels. In fact until very recently there were very few websites where anyone could gleam information about train journeys, times and bookings. Luckily there are a number of sites available now with a plethora of information such as www.seat61.com which - despite being run as a hobby rather than a business – is a tremendous resource for anyone wanting to plan a foreign railway journey. Domestically in the UK short weekend breaks on the train are becoming extremely popular. Be it a shopping trip to Glasgow or taking in a west end show in London, package deals which include two nights accommodation and rail tickets are becoming more available. Recently travel and rail companies www.superbreak.com and www.gner.co.uk have teamed up to provide short break package deals to five UK cities – London, Leeds, York, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Prices are competitive and they provide a real alternative to driving to these destinations on crowded motorways.Certainly this renaissance of rail travel is surprising to an extent. With the advent of budget airlines making air travel more accessible and price competitive many felt that this would be one competitor too many for the rail industry to remain an active part of the holiday market. However, it would appear that rail holidays have certainly found their niche and are likely to remain an active part of the UK travel market for years to come.
» USA Rail Travel - Trains can be a preferred mode of transportation because of the spacious design of its cars, the scenic routes, and the overall comfort of the train ride. Some people prefer to take trains because they do not require long waits at security like at airports. Train rides in the U.S. often take longer than car rides and plane rides, but the unique experience can trump the long ride. For longer rides many trains have sleeper rooms. The price of these rooms depends on the quality - whether or not there is a sink, or a private shower/toilet. All the trains will have couch seats. Most of the long distance services will have sleepers as well. You will pay a supplement for this in addition to the regular fare. If you are going across the country, you will most likely need to change in Chicago, unless you take the Sunset Limited. Any sleeper ticket can use the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago. There are also Metropolitan Lounges you can use in New York Penn Station, Boston South Station, Washington Union Station. The peak periods for most rail companies in North America is somewhere between March/April to August/September, however, you should check with the rail company. In the off peak season prices drop significantly on most carriers.
» High Speed Passenger Service - Although the railroad played a significant role in the transportation of both passengers and freight during the 19th and early 20th cent., in the latter part of the 20th cent., the automobile and the aircraft eroded the railroad's importance for passenger travel until the introduction of high-speed rail. Faster than the automobile and more convenient than the airplane, high-speed passenger service was pioneered in Japan with the introduction of the Shinkansen, popularly known as the "bullet train," in 1964. The French Train à Grande Vitesse, or TGV, introduced the high-speed train to Europe in 1981. Other Continental countries soon followed— Italy (1988), Germany (1991), and Spain (1992)—and the United Kingdom began a high-speed service in 1984. It was not until 2000, however, that high-speed service began in the United States with the Acela Express, running between Washington , D.C. , and Boston . Other countries that have or are developing high-speed rail lines include Australia , Finland , South Korea , Sweden , and Taiwan . Maglev trains (see) have been run experimentally on short tracks in several countries; a maglev line linking Shanghai 's financial district with its new airport was opened in 2002 with scheduled operation projected in 2004. High-speed trains have operational speeds of as much as 186 mi per hr (300 km per hr). The speed record, set by the French TGV Atlantique during tests, is 320 mi per hr (525 km per hr). To attain these speeds requires high-quality track, roadbed, and right of way. Among the features associated with high-speed trains are the absence of grade, or level, crossings; wide spacing between tracks; four tracks at through stations so that slower, local trains can be bypassed; concrete foundations topped by tarmac and then ballast to minimize movement of the track; curves with a radius greater than 3 mi (5 km); and the avoidance of tunnels.