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China-Developed Maglev Tech Passes Modest Milestone in Shanghai

By Yang Ge / Jun 23, 2020 01:28 PM / Economy

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

It may sound modest, but a low-speed trial that took place Sunday in Shanghai could be paving the way for a futuristic Chinese rail network capable of speeds up to 600 kph (373 mph).

Just a year after its official launch in the port city of Qingdao, a rudimentary magnetic levitation (maglev) train being developed by top railway equipment builder CRRC Corp. has conducted an important trial in China’s commercial capital. The trial itself won’t break any speed records, with the single-carriage train ambling down the 1.5 km track at speeds of around 50 kph, with a maximum of around 100 kph.

But the test successfully demonstrated the technology’s coupling capabilities — a key factor for maglev trains that attain their super high speeds through frictionless travel that see trains “float” above the track through use of magnetic forces. The planned top speed of 600 kph is considerably higher than China’s current high-speed rail network’s top speed is 350 kph.

Following Sunday’s test, CRRC is planning to launch a five-carriage maglev train by the end of this year. Many more trials will be needed after that to gradually increase the speed to someday reach the 600 kph goal, Tongji University Professor Sun Zhang told Caixin. Accordingly, fans of the futuristic technology shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for maglev trains to make their commercial debut in China.

A good comparison could come from a similar system being developed by Japanese rail operator JR, which began trials for its own maglev on a 42.8 km track in 2015. A planned line that will use that technology to connect the cities of Tokyo and Nagoya over a distance of about 350 km is still way off in the distance, with a planned launch set for 2027.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

Related: China Announces $14 Billion for Intercity, High-Speed Rail Projects


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