High-speed trains (HSTs) have the advantages of comfort, efficiency, and convenience and have gradually become the mainstream means of transportation. As the operating scale of HSTs continues to increase, ensuring their safety and reliability has become more imperative. As the core component of HST, the reliability of the traction system has a substantially influence on the train. During the long-term operation of HSTs, the core components of the traction system will inevitably experience different degrees of performance degradation and cause various failures, thus threatening the running safety of the train. Therefore, performing fault monitoring and diagnosis on the traction system of the HST is necessary. In recent years, machine learning has been widely used in various pattern recognition tasks and has demonstrated an excellent performance in traction system fault diagnosis. Machine learning has made considerably advancements in traction system fault diagnosis; however, a comprehensive systematic review is still lacking in this field. This paper primarily aims to review the research and application of machine learning in the field of traction system fault diagnosis and assumes the future development blueprint. First, the structure and function of the HST traction system are briefly introduced. Then, the research and application of machine learning in traction system fault diagnosis are comprehensively and systematically reviewed. Finally, the challenges for accurate fault diagnosis under actual operating conditions are revealed, and the future research trends of machine learning in traction systems are discussed.