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High-speed rail is a type of passenger rail transport that operates significantly faster than the normal speed of rail traffic. Specific definitions include 200 km/h (125 mph) and faster — depending on whether the track is upgraded or new — by the European Union, and above 90 mph (145 km/h) by the United States Federal Railroad Administration, but there is no single standard, and lower speeds can be required by local constraints. While high-speed rail is usually designed for passenger travel, some high-speed systems also carry some kind of freight service. For instance, the French mail service La Poste owns a few special TGV trains for carrying postal freight. The UIC (International Union of Railways) defines high-speed rail as services which regularly operate at or above 250 km/h on new tracks, or 200 km/h on existing tracks. A number of characteristics are common to most high-speed rail systems. Most are electrically driven via overhead lines, although this is not necessarily a defining aspect and other forms of propulsion, such as diesel locomotives may be used, as on Britain's HST services. A definitive aspect is the use of continuous welded rail which reduces track vibrations and discrepancies between rail segments enough to allow trains to pass at speeds in excess 200 km/h. Curve radius will often be the ultimate limiting factor in a train's speed, with passenger discomfort often more important than the danger of derailment. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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