China has unveiled a prototype maglev train capable of a top speed of 600 kph.
Liang Jianying, chief engineer at CRRC Qingdao Sifang, the manufacturer said the train would go into service in five to 10 years. The maximum speed would make the train, self-developed by China and manufactured in the coastal city of Qingdao, the fastest ground vehicle globally.
Using electro-magnetic force, the maglev train “levitates” above the track with no contact between body and rail.
China has been using the technology for almost two decades on a very limited scale. Shanghai has a short maglev line running from one of its airports to town.
While there are no inter-city or inter-province maglev lines yet in China that could make good use of the higher speeds, some cities including Shanghai and Chengdu have started to conduct research.
At 600 kph, it would only take 2.5 hours to travel from Beijing to Shanghai by train – a journey of more than 1,000 km.
By comparison, the journey would take three hours by plane and 5.5 hours by high-speed rail. Countries from Japan to Germany are also looking to build maglev networks, although high costs and incompatibility with current track infrastructure remain hurdles to rapid development.
According to China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), the production of this fastest train shows China is becoming a “transport superpower”. China will next carry out more route tests and assess the engineering viability of the trains in the coming few years, according to Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily.
Unlike conventional engines and rolling stock, maglev, or magnetic levitation, trains are propelled by powerful electromagnets. The lack of friction makes them capable of travelling at much higher speeds than conventional trains.
The superfast train is central to plans announced by Beijing in July last year for a smart transport network featuring up to nine maglev lines stretching more than 1,000km (620 miles). Developing the maglev train had been listed as one of China’s key goals in building transport infrastructure.
People’s Daily said the new train, which has been under development since 2016, “fills a gap between aeroplanes and high-speed rail” and adds to the flexibility and convenience of the country’s transport network.