China has launched what’s believed to be the fastest ground vehicle in the world – a bullet train capable of hitting speeds of 600km/h, which could travel between cities faster than flight.
The maglev train uses electromagnetic force, with the train itself “levitating” above the track with no actual contact between the train body and rail, Reuters reports.
The vehicle was developed by China and built in the coastal city of Qingdao, with its launch announced by Chinese state media on Tuesday.
Its record-breaking speed means it could travel the 1000km distance between Beijing and Shanghai in just two-and-a-half hours – a journey that normally takes three hours by air and five-and-a-half hours by high-speed rail.
While trains on the Beijing-Shanghai line currently have a maximum operating speed of 350km/h, a high-speed maglev running at 600km/h could narrow the gap between high-speed rail and commercial aircraft, which typically cruise at 900km/h.
Speed isn’t the only advantage of the maglev train. Liang Jianying, deputy general manager and chief engineer of the state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation, which developed the train, said it also emitted lower levels of noise pollution and required less maintenance than other high-speed trains.
There are no intercity or inter-province lines in China yet, but cities are doing research into how to take advantage of the high-speed possibilities. Shanghai has a short maglev line running from one of its airports to town, Reuters reports.
Using magnets to reach super speeds
Maglev trains float on a magnetically powered cushion of air instead of using wheels on a track, which reduces friction and allows the craft to reach incredibly fast speeds.
China has been using electromagnetic force technology in trains on a limited scale for almost two decades.
Several countries, including Japan and Germany, have been looking at how to build maglev train networks, although compatibility with existing train networks is an obstacle.
About six years ago, a Japan Railway maglev train achieved a top speed of 603km/h on an experimental track in Yamanashi, setting a new world record.
Japan is now building a new Chuo Shinkansen maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya, with trains set to hit top speeds of about 500km/h. It is scheduled to be completed in 2027.