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Wheel Radius Travel Time

200 Years of Acceleration

Klaus Spiekermann, Michael Wegener

At half-time of the EXPO 2000 at Hanover, a contribution by IRPUD was incorporated into the "Mobility" exhibit at the EXPO Theme Park. The IRPUD contribution shows 200 years of acceleration of travel from the stage coach to the high-speed train.

Means of transport on wheels have been continuously improved since 5,500 years. But, only in the past two centuries have travel speed exploded and travel times been dramatically reduced. Rail travel times from Hanover are only one example of this phenomenon: ever more distant destinations can be reached in the same amount of time.

This shrinking of space can be visualised by so-called time-space maps. In time-space maps the elements of a map are presented in such a way that the distance between two points on the map is not proportional to their physical distance as in topogrphical maps, but to the travel time between them. This change of metric leads to distortions of the map compared with the familiar map image.

The following time-space maps show the destinations reachable from Hanover in a day's journey (12 hours) in the years 1820, 1854, 1910, 2000 and 2020. In all five maps Hanover is in the centre. The area shaded in red is the Federal Republic of Germany of today. (cf. Dortmund and the Railways).


1820. Travel speeds have not increased significantly since the time of the Roman Empire. In the age of the mail coach travel speeds on improved roads are no more than 10 km/h.


1854. After the invention of the railway, the track network in Europe expands rapidly, because industry depends on the rapid transport of bulk merchandise. Travel speeds are between 30 and 40 km/h.


1910. The European railway network is complete. Capital cities such as Paris, Vienna and Berlin are its most important hubs. Average travel speeds of up to 60 km/h are achieved.


2000. High-speed trains such as the ICE and TGV serve mainly national connections. The average travel speed is 120 km/h. On newly built track sections a maximum speed of 250 km/h is achieved.


2020. High-speed trains travel across national frontiers. They are up to 30 times faster than the mail coach 200 years before. The average travel speed is 160 km/h.


Contribution to the exhibit "Mobility" at the Theme Park in Hall 4 of the EXPO 2000 in Hanover from 7 August to 31 October 2000.

© 2000 Klaus Spiekermann, Michael Wegener, IRPUD