# Third-World Train Speeds

Developing countries often have no railroads, or poorly developed ones. In India, the colonial railway network and more recent additions form a tight mesh, and train speeds today are in the 80-90 km/h range, respectable by the standards of legacy rail lines in Europe and the US that have not received significant upgrades. But in nearly all other ex-colonies in Africa and Asia, the situation is far worse – some countries have no railways, and others do but have slow lines from port to the interior. This is an attempt to catalog the average speeds of various countries’ fastest intercity trains; only in few cases are they even as fast as many Amtrak trains. Most of the information is taken from Seat61.

Syria: before the war, the fastest trains traveled the 361 km between Damascus and Aleppo in 4 hours, an average speed of 90 km/h.

Egypt: the fastest trains between Cairo and Alexandria (called Specials) do it in 2.5 hours, a distance of 208 km. This is 83 km/h.

Indonesia: the express trains between Jakarta and Surabaya do the 725-km trip in 9 hours. This is 81 km/h.

Pakistan: the Shalimar Express and Karakoram Express go between Karachi and Lahore in about 16 hours, a distance of about 1,250 km, according to Wikipedia. This is about 78 km/h.

Thailand: from Bangkok, trains go to Chiang Mai in (at the fastest) 10.5-11 hours for 751 km, Nong Khai in about 10 hours for 621 km, Ubon Ratchathani in 8 hours for 575 km, and Surat Thani in 8:40-9 hours for 651 km. At the fastest, it’s about 73 km/h.

South Africa: from Johannesburg, the long-distance trains average in the 50s. The fastest is Johannesburg-Cape Town, which does 1,530 km in 26 hours, an average of 59 km/h.

Zambia: the Golden Jubilee Express trains travel the 467 km between Livingstone and Lusaka in 12:27, for an average speed of 38 km/h. The through-trains to Tanzania go between the border and Kapiri Mposhi, a distance of 882 km, in 16:39 (and the source says they’re often late by many hours), an average speed of 52 km/h. Tanzania, in the same link, has an average speed from Dar es Salaam to the border of about 38 km/h.

Bangladesh: the fastest trains between Dhaka and Chittagong do the trip in just under 7 hours; on Google Earth, the route seems to be about 310 km. This is 45 km/h on average.

Burma: the fastest trains between Yangon and Mandalay, a distance of 622 km, do the trip in 14 hours, for an average of 44 km/h.

Kenya: Nairobi-Mombasa trains take about 15 hours. The line is 610 km long, for an average speed of 41 km/h.

Vietnam: trains go between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in about 56 hours, a distance of 1,726 km. This is 31 km/h.