How Fast Do Cargo Trains Go?

How Fast Do Cargo Trains Go

How Fast Do Cargo Trains Go?

Cargo trains, also referred to as freight trains, play an essential role in transporting goods around the globe. They offer cost-effective and dependable means of moving bulk commodities such as coal, oil, or agricultural products. The speed of cargo trains plays a significant role in their efficiency. In this article, we’ll investigate factors affecting speed on cargo trains; compare average speeds between different modes of transportation; discuss high-speed cargo trains; and assess safety precautions associated with such trips. Federal regulators limit the speed of trains concerning the signaling technique used. Passenger trains are limited to 59 mph and cargo trains to 49 mph on track without block signal systems.

Average Speed of Cargo Trains

Cargo train speeds differ based on several factors, including distance traveled, type of cargo, and infrastructure. For example, cargo trains tend to move slower than passenger trains due to heavier loads that need additional stops for loading or unloading. But they can still reach impressive speeds in countries with developed rail infrastructure. For instance, Europe allows cargo trains up to 80 miles per hour (mph). By comparison, American railroads generally limit cargo train speed limits at 79 mph on most lines.

Factors That Affect Cargo Train Speed

Infrastructure and track conditions are two important variables that influence cargo train speed. Well-maintained tracks and proper signal systems allow trains to move faster during extreme heat, cold, or rain events. Train weight and composition also affect speed; heavier loads need more power when accelerating or decelerating, affecting their acceleration time.

High-Speed Cargo Trains

High-speed cargo trains are designed to travel faster than traditional cargo trains. They feature advanced technology, like high-speed brakes and aerodynamic designs that enable them to reach up to 200 mph. As a result, high-speed cargo trains have several benefits, such as faster delivery times, reduced transportation costs, and reduced carbon emissions. On the downside, these trains tend to have higher infrastructure costs, increased energy consumption, and require specialized tracks.

Examples of high-speed cargo trains include the Maglev train in Japan, which can reach speeds up to 375 mph, and the CargoMover in Germany, which can accelerate to 140 mph. However, no plans exist for building such trains in the United States.

List of High-Speed Cargo Trains in the world

Several high-speed cargo trains worldwide have been developed to transport goods quickly and efficiently. Here are a few examples:

  1. China Railway Express: This network of high-speed cargo trains connects China with Europe. The trains can travel up to 80 mph and transport goods in as little as 18 days.
  2. Eurostar e320: This high-speed passenger and cargo train operates between London and Paris/Brussels. The e320 can reach up to 200 mph speeds and carry up to 300 passengers and 32,000 pounds of cargo.
  3. TGV La Poste: This is a French high-speed cargo train used to transport mail and parcels between different regions of France. The train can travel up to 186 mph and carry up to 24 tons of cargo.
  4. Shinkansen E5: This Japanese high-speed passenger and cargo train operates between Tokyo and Aomori. The E5 can reach up to 200 mph speeds and carry up to 1,000 passengers and 12,000 pounds of cargo.
  5. Alstom Pendolino: This is a high-speed passenger and cargo train that is used in several European countries, including Italy, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. The Pendolino can travel up to 155 mph and carry up to 22,000 pounds of cargo.

Safety Measures for High-Speed Cargo Trains

Safety is paramount in the transportation industry, especially for high-speed cargo trains. These trains require specialized safety equipment like advanced signaling systems and automatic and positive train control to guarantee safe operations. Furthermore, in case of an emergency, these speedy freights also feature advanced braking systems that can bring them to a stop quickly.

High-speed cargo trains are considered one of the safest modes of transportation, according to the National Safety Council. In addition, studies have revealed that rail transportation has a significantly lower fatality rate than other forms, such as cars or trucks.

Rail Speed Limits in the United States

In most rail lines in America, cargo trains are limited to 79 miles per hour (mph). However, some have lower speed limits due to track conditions or other factors. Passenger trains, on the other hand, can travel at much higher speeds – up to 150 mph in some places – due to their smaller size.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sets speed limits for railroads in the United States to ensure trains run at safe speeds and can stop within a reasonable distance. Furthermore, FRA sets different speed limits for freight and passenger trains depending on factors like equipment type or other characteristics.

Railroad companies typically set internal speed limits that may be lower than the FRA’s. These decisions are based on track conditions, cargo type, and railroad layout. Railroad companies must guarantee their trains run safely and abide by all applicable regulations to maintain a smooth journey for passengers and freight alike.


Cargo train speed is an essential factor in the transportation industry. The average speed varies based on factors like distance, type of cargo, and infrastructure. High-speed cargo trains offer faster delivery times and other benefits but also drawbacks. High-speed cargo train safety is ensured through advanced safety measures and braking systems. Cargo trains play a pivotal role in logistics services; with new technologies developing rapidly, speed limits for cargo trains may improve in the future.


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