China tests ultra-high-speed trains

China has successfully carried out tests on a new ultra-high-speed maglev (magnetic levitation) train running in a low vacuum pipeline.

According to local media reports, three tests were successfully reported by researchers working on the project in Datong in Shanxi province, with the test understood to be the first full-scale super-navigation experiment in China.

The team from the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation hopes they will eventually be able to operate maglev trains in a tube with extremely thin air at speeds that rival planes.

The technology of maglev eliminates friction, while operating the train in a low-vacuum pipeline reduces resistance and noise, which are two main problems in traditional train transportation.

Currently, China only has one maglev line in commercial use, connecting Shanghai’s Pudong Airport with the Longyang Road Station in the city. The 30.5km journey takes about seven and a half minutes, with the train hitting speeds of 430 kph. 

Several new maglev networks are reportedly under construction, including one linking Shanghai and Hangzhou and another connecting Chengdu and Chongqing.

High-speed rail is the fastest and most efficient ground-based method of commercial transportation. However, due to requirements for large track curves, gentle gradients and grade separated track the construction of high-speed rail is more costly than conventional rail and therefore does not always present an economical advantage over conventional speed rail.

Maglevs were conceptualised during the early 1900s by American professor and inventor Robert Goddard and French-born American engineer Emile Bachelet and have been in commercial use since 1984.