The best new trains and routes of 2022

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(CNN) — Everyone loves a good train ride, and in 2022 the world made train fanatics proud with new routes, new operators and a new need for speed around the world.

From a night train that takes you from Austria to the Italian Riviera, to the new semi-high-speed line across Laos, from a luxurious trans-African odyssey to a new Swiss train that can “skip” rails, and finally even the United States thrills on the tracks, here are some of our favorite moments from the world of rail travel.

Swiss super train

GPX Rougemont

MOB

A late debut, operating in December 2022, the Swiss Golden Pass Express, or GPX as it’s known, connects Montreux, Gstaad and Interlaken with special panoramic trains that change height and gauge to slip between the different lines. The almost four-hour drive takes you past classic Swiss lakes and mountains. Previously, the journey required two changes.

Laos drives (semi) high-speed

The new semi-high-speed line through Laos is part of a long-term Beijing-Bangkok project.

The new semi-high-speed line through Laos is part of a long-term Beijing-Bangkok project.

Cao Anning/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

The big news in Laos this year was the semi-bullet train connecting the capital Vientiane with Boten, which borders China’s Yunnan Province. It passes top visitor destinations such as karst-capped Vang Vieng, the eco-tourism hub of Luang Namtha and Luang Prabang, the beautiful former royal capital. It’s part of a broader plan to connect Beijing to Bangkok and even Singapore over the next few decades.

Elizabeth Line transforms London

The Elizabeth Line has transformed travel to and through London.

The Elizabeth Line has transformed travel to and through London.

Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Getting from Heathrow Airport to central London has long been a tedious hour-long tube journey, an expensive taxi ride or an equally expensive Heathrow Express train journey.

Not anymore – the Elizabeth Line, which opened in May after a $25 billion and four-year delay, connects Reading and Heathrow in the west with Abbey Wood in south-east London and Shenfield in Essex, east of the capital.

It’s a faster, smoother journey with multiple stops within London itself. The final station, Bond Street, opened in November, along with through routes from the West (first changed at Paddington). The final schedule will be rolled out by May 2023.

Spain is becoming the competitive center of Europe

Iryo is the third company and fourth brand for Spain's high-speed network.

Iryo is the third company and fourth brand for Spain’s high-speed network.

Robert Solsona/Europa Press/AP

What’s better than a national high-speed rail network? Three of them. In November, Spain got fourth place (sort of) with the launch of iryo – a new high-speed competitor owned by major European companies including Italian operator Trenitalia, which has launched its popular Frecciarossa trains.

It is the country’s third operator and fourth high-speed brand. Iryo starts with Madrid to Barcelona via Zaragoza and Madrid to Valencia via Cuenca. Connections to Seville, Malaga, Cordoba and Antequera will start in March 2023, with Alicante and Albacete in June.

Hydrogen-powered trains are showing the way in Germany

World premiere: 14 Coradia iLint start passenger service on the first 100% hydrogen-powered route

World premiere: 14 Coradia iLint start passenger service on the first 100% hydrogen-powered route

Alstom

Not a new railway line, but a new way of traveling on rails – in August Germany put into operation the world’s first line that runs entirely with hydrogen-powered trains. The route in Bremervörde, Lower Saxony, runs 14 hydrogen trains with fuel cell drives.

The hydrogen trains (Coradia iLint model) were successively combined with the existing diesel rolling stock and should be fully operational by the end of the year.

Hellenic Train arrives in Greece

Thanos Kartsoglou/fsnews.it

Italy’s world-class moves have really spread across Europe this year. After launching the Frecciarossa service from Milan to Paris in December 2021, Trenitalia – the leader of the Polo Passeggeri (passenger hub) of Gruppo FS, Italy’s public railway group – launched a domestic French service between Paris and Lyon in April 2022.

Then, before founding iryo, it went to Greece where it founded Hellenic Train, a new Greek rail operator for passengers and freight. It has introduced electric trains on the busy Athens-Thessaloniki route – the journey between Greece’s two largest cities takes just under four hours – and also operates urban and suburban lines around the capital.

Thailand’s temporary “floating” train

Thailand's

Thailand’s “Floating Train” is a temporary event due to high water levels.

Jiraporn Kwang Kuhakan/Reuters

Rising water levels meant Thai passengers could ride a ‘floating’ train across one of the country’s largest reservoirs in November.

The train leaves Bangkok for Lop Buri province, where the water has reached the top of the Pasak Jolasid Dam. Thoughtfully, the train even stops once it reaches the middle to allow passengers to disembark and take selfies in this unexpected water world. The train runs until February, although tickets were already sold out in November by the turn of the year.

Italian express to beer country

The new night train from Vienna and Munich takes you to the Italian Riviera and the Cinque Terre (pictured).

The new night train from Vienna and Munich takes you to the Italian Riviera and the Cinque Terre (pictured).

stevanzz/Adobe Stock

A later entry in the list, ÖBB’s new night train, launched on December 11, will take you from the snowy cities of Austria and Germany to the balmy Italian Riviera or vice versa.

Perhaps it’s more fun going north – from La Spezia (the starting point for the Cinque Terre) the train heads north up the Ligurian coast, stopping at Genoa and Milan before passing Lake Garda to Verona and turning from them farewell to Italy in Padua and Austria in Villach. Here it splits in half – one half departing from Austria and Germany, calling at Salzburg at 6:49am before arriving in Munich at 9:20am, while the other half stays in Austria and continues to Vienna.

There used to be a Vienna-Milan night train – the new route extends it beyond the Italian fashion metropolis.

A night in Scandinavia

SJ's new EuroNight train travels through Sweden and Denmark to Hamburg, Germany.

SJ’s new EuroNight train travels through Sweden and Denmark to Hamburg, Germany.

rudi1976/Adobe Stock

Sweden is home to Europe’s ‘flying shame’ movement, and Swedish operator SJ has capitalized on this with its night train from Stockholm to Hamburg, which launched in September dubbed EuroNight. It departs from the Swedish capital around 5.30pm and makes a long stopover in Malmö before traveling through Denmark, arriving in Hamburg before 7am

America joins the rail revolution

Amtrak's new Acela trains will debut on the Northeast Corridor in 2023.

Amtrak’s new Acela trains will debut on the Northeast Corridor in 2023.

Amtrak

Let’s face it – the US lags far behind much of the world when it comes to train travel, so an increase in speed on a popular route is big news.

In June, Amtrak’s infrastructure upgrades meant that Acela trains can now travel at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour on the relevant New Jersey section of the Northeast Corridor. Sure, this stretch between New Brunswick and South Brunswick is only 16 miles long, but it’s a good start.

Also in 2023, Amtrak will introduce next-generation Acela trains, capable of speeds of up to 160 mph, on the Northeast Corridor to replace older rolling stock.

An African Odyssey

The new Copper Trail route begins spectacularly at the Victoria Falls.

The new Copper Trail route begins spectacularly at the Victoria Falls.

Rovo’s Rail Tours

One for those with the time and money to spare: In July, Rovos Rail launched its new route, the Copper Trail, which cuts through four countries in sub-Saharan Africa and travels almost 2,000 miles in a Hyper-Lux train.

The 15-day luxury journey begins at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and travels north through Zambia, then west through the DCR to Angola, ending in Lobito on the Atlantic Seaboard.

In between are day trips to national parks, an elephant sanctuary and city walks, including Huambo, Angola’s second largest city. It’s as stunningly expensive as it is beautiful, of course — 2023 prices start at $13,600.

France: see the future

Invited guests and journalists take part in the presentation of the new SNCF TGV

Invites and journalists attend the presentation of SNCF’s new next-generation high-speed train TGV ‘M’ at Alstom’s factory in La Rochelle, western France, on September 9, 2022.

Xavier Leoty/AFP/Getty Images

Manufactured by manufacturer Alstom, the double-decker train with a longer, more aerodynamic nose will debut on the Paris network in 2024 before rolling nationwide. The trains are larger, with better accessibility for passengers with disabilities.

Duncan Forgan, Ben Jones, Francesca Street and Barry Neild contributed to this report.

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