Compared with other modes of transport, train technology might seem to be progressing as slowly as a suburban commuter service rattling its way from one station to another.

This comparison is not entirely fair.

Better technologies are delivering everything from improved traction, braking and route-planning to sleek levitating trains designed to glide on air at an astounding 500kph (310mph). Energy-efficiency and safety are up, and derailments are down. There are schemes to transfer electrical energy from braking trains into local power grids, and even more radical plans for “moving platforms” that dock with high-speed trains.

Photo Credit: A train moves along the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, N.C. Les Chatfield / Flickr