China has produced a prototype of what its says is the world's first 600km/hr maglev (magnetic levitation) train.
The train, independently developed and manufactured by China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation, is thought to be the fastest ground vehicle in existence and is being developed for commercial use in coming years after further trials.
At present, the maximum operational speed of high-speed rail services stands at 350 km/hr, while the typical cruising airspeed of passenger aircraft is 800- 900 km/hr – meaning the new form of high-speed transit maglev train will fill that speed gap.
It can travel with two to 10 carriages, each carrying over 100 passengers. The levitated train is free from wheel-track friction, so it needs little maintenance and lasts longer between each overhaul.
It works on high-temperature superconducting power that makes it look as if the train is floating along the magnetized tracks.
China is already home to the world's largest high-speed rail network, stretching over 37,000km – and the fastest current commercially operating train – the Shanghai maglev.
China is also playing a leading role in high-speed maglev technology at the frontier of global rail transit development. The Shanghai maglev, also known as the Shanghai Transrapid, has a top speed of 430 km/hr, though it usually operates at less than that. It was designed to connect Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the outskirts of central Pudong, Shanghai – covering a distance of 30.5 km in just over 8 minutes.
As the fastest ground vehicle available, the 600km/hr maglev train will provide the best solution for trips within a range of 1500 km. For instance, it takes approximately 4.5 and 5.5 hours to travel door-to-door from Beijing to Shanghai by air and by high-speed rail respectively. That time is cut to around 2.5 hours by a high-speed maglev train.
The 600 km/hr maglev system has taken maglev technology to the next level, using conducting technology that repels and pushes the train up off the track. China says it is fast, efficient, safe and reliable – and offers high-capacity, flexible, punctual and green services.
The new maglev train project started five years ago, according to the People's Daily, producing a number of technological breakthroughs and advances. The project independently developed and manufactured a five-carriage engineering prototype with a designed top speed of 600 km/hr, and tackled technological barriers in acceleration, adaptability to complicated environment and localisation of core systems.
It also made huge strides in the development of complete-set high-speed maglev train engineering technologies, including system integration, vehicle production, traction power supply, rail trails, and transport control and communication.
The People's Daily reports that a train with five carriages has been running well on a test line within the factory.