The fastest train on earth is the JR Maglev levitation train system in Japan. The system is comprised of a maximum of five cars. A 3 car train reached a record speed of 581 km/h (361 mph) on December 2, 2003. It is a record for manned trains of any type or kind. The record for an unmanned Maglev is 587 km/h.
Railed Rocket Sled Records
The Maglev is the fastest non-conventional train on the planet, but other rail vehicles like unmanned rocket sleds have reached even greater speeds. The fastest unmanned rocket sled reached a top speed of 10,430 km/h (6,480.90 mph) on 30 April 2003.
The test was done in Holloman Air Force Base, in the United States. The fastest manned rocket sled reached a speed of 1,017km/h (631.94). The record was attained on 10 December 1954 in Holloman Air Force Base (USA).
Records for Scheduled Trains
This is the average speed from station to station. At number one is the CRH2-088C electric train in China. From Wuhan to Guangzhou North, it had an average speed of 313 km/h (194). The top speed was 350 km/h (217 mph). The record was achieved on 26 December 2009. It covered a distance of 922 km.
Records for Trains at Test Runs
If this classification is used, the fastest train on earth would be the CRH380A-6401L electric train in China. On 3 December 2010, it reached an average speed of 387 km/h while crossing Zaozhuang West to Bengbu South. The top speed was 486km/h.
If top speed is considered, the CRH380AL is the fastest at 486.1 km/h. Note that these are conventional wheeled trains. The Maglev uses a different system.
Trains Made for Testing Only (Conventional Wheeled)
The fastest is the SNCF TGV POS which reached a top speed of 574.8 km/h. It is an electric multiple unit and was tested in France. The record was attained on 3 April 2007. The second fastest reached a top speed of 515.3 km/h. The train was the SNCF TGV Atlantique. The top speed was attained on 18 May 1990 in France.
The third spot is also held by the SNCF TGV Atlantique. It had a top speed of 482.4 km/h. The record was set on 5 December 1989 in France. These trains have never been used for public transportation.
The facts above show that determining the fastest train on earth is not easy. You need to first set down specific criteria and train types.