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High-speed rail is a type of rail transport that operates significantly faster than traditional rail traffic, using an integrated system of specialized rolling stock and dedicated tracks. While there is no single standard that applies worldwide, new lines in excess of 250 kilometres per hour (160 miles per hour) and existing lines in excess of 200 kilometres per hour (120 miles per hour) are widely considered to be high-speed, with some extending the definition to include lower speeds in areas for which these speeds still represent significant improvements. The first such system began operations in Japan in 1964 and was widely known as the bullet train. High-speed trains normally operate on standard gauge tracks of continuously welded rail on grade-separated right-of-way that incorporates a large turning radius in its design. Many countries have developed high-speed rail to connect major cities, including Austria, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uzbekistan. Only in Europe does HSR cross international borders. China has 22,000 kilometres (14,000 miles) of HSR as of end December 2016, accounting for two-thirds of the world's total. While high-speed rail is most often designed for passenger travel, some high-speed systems also offer limited freight service. Due to stiff upfront as well as maintenance costs, ridership realities, and flexibility for interoperation with existing railways, a fair percentage of projects and nations who initially expressed great interest in HSR are opting instead for nearly high speed rail. Historically many countries now having high speed rail invested in the existing network to allow higher speeds before embarking upon major new construction.
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