The sub-luminal phase velocity of electromagnetic waves in free space is generally unobtainable, being closely linked to forbidden faster than light group velocities. The requirement of sub-luminal phase-velocity in laser-driven particle acceleration schemes imposes a limit on the total acceleration achievable in free space, and necessitates the use of dispersive structures or waveguides for extending the field-particle interaction. We demonstrate a travelling source approach that overcomes the sub-luminal propagation limits. The approach exploits ultrafast optical sources with slow group velocity propagation, and a group-to-phase front conversion through nonlinear optical interaction. The concept is demonstrated with two terahertz generation processes, nonlinear optical rectification and current-surge rectification. We report measurements of longitudinally polarised single-cycle electric fields with phase and group velocity between 0.77c and 1.75c. The ability to scale to multi-megawatt-per-metre field strengths is demonstrated. Our approach paves the way towards the realisation of cheap and compact particle accelerators with femtosecond scale control of particles.