High-speed rail is a pretty controversial subject in the U.S., especially in California where political tensions are high over a planned project spanning most of the state. But the ability to zip around quickly in a train is something that is a reality and not a fantasy in parts of Asia and Europe.

The travel company, GoEuro, recently published an article on their website rating high-speed trains across the world based on coverage, speed, and cost. Sadly, the U.S. didn’t show up on the ratings until slot 19 of 20. Meanwhile, Japan, South Korea, and China dominated the list, with France and Spain not far behind.

As you can see from GoEuro's map, Europe isn't doing too badly when it comes to some aspects of high-speed rail, but the company says that the region struggles to transition further because to do so it needs to update tracks that date from the early 1800s in some cases. But what about the case of the U.S.?

Well, according to a writer at Grist, the answer might be at least partially about political will. While there are some reservations about GoEuro’s choice to rank speed as an important scoring factor, Grist argues that the U.S. should definitely be investing more into its passenger rail system.

So far, California is the closest state to any major developments in high-speed rail. But the planned cross-state system isn’t slated to connect San Francisco and LA until 2029. That’s quite a long time to wait, for some of the most agitated stakeholders.

It’s no secret that California’s high-speed train development is still quite controversial. Southern California residents and lawmakers are upset at the recent update that the track will be built from the Central Valley to San Jose first, rather than toward Los Angeles. Some say they are concerned that development may never make it to LA at all, particularly in the absence of a long-term funding source.

It might be a while before the U.S. is competitive with countries in Asia, or even Europe when it comes to fast passenger trains. But there are definitely efforts to ramp up the system in ways that would be new to many.

Photo: ChinaFotoPress / Stringer (Getty Images)
Map: GoEuro