China revealed a prototype maglev train with a top speed of 600 km/h

The train could dramatically cut travel times in the nation.

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On Thursday, a Chinese manufacturer revealed a prototype magnetic levitation (maglev) train with a designed maximum speed of 600 kilometers per hour (about 372 miles/hour) in Qingdao, Shandong province.

The country’s latest high-speed maglev train, designed by the State-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), is scheduled to go into commercial production in 2021 after extensive tests. This sleek-looking train will soon enter a period of testing.

Take Beijing to Shanghai as an example – counting preparation time for the journey, it takes about 4.5 hours by plane, about 5.5 hours by high-speed rail, and (would only take) about 3.5 hours with (the new) high-speed maglev,” said CRRC deputy chief engineer Ding Sansan, head of the train’s research and development team, in a statement.

This is despite the fact that commercial aircraft’s cruising speed is about 900 km/h. At present, trains on the Beijing-Shanghai line have a maximum operating speed of 350 km/h. Feng said a high-speed maglev running at 600 km/h could narrow the gap between high-speed rail and air travel.

The driver's seat
The driver’s seat

Rather than using wheels and a track, a maglev train floats on a magnetically powered air cushion. This reduces friction and allows the craft to reach incredibly fast speeds, for instance, 430 kilometers per hour, the top speed of a maglev already in operation in Shanghai.

Ding says the prototype has been in development for around three years. He and his team believe that they have developed a lightweight, high-strength train body that will serve as a testing foundation for five more prototypes after this one.

New train makes rail travel more attractive
The new train makes rail travel more attractive

To complement and serve the progress Ding’s team is making, CRRC Qingdao Sifang, a subsidiary of the CRRC, will be building an experimental center and a high-speed maglev trial production center by the end of 2019.

The prototype has already achieved static levitation and is in ideal condition,” Ding Sansan said at a news conference, according to a report by China Daily. “We are building an experimental center and a trial production center for high-speed maglev trains and expect to put them into operation in the second half of the year.

CRRC’s new prototype will not be the first train to hit these speeds. Around 4 years ago, a Japan Railway maglev train achieved a top spot of 603 km/hour on an experimental track in Yamanashi and set a new world record

Now, the country is building a new Chuo Shinkansen maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya, with trains set to hit top speeds of about 500 kph, which is scheduled to be completed in 2027

This new prototype has entered the regional fight for the high-speed train in China. Japan’s proposed bullet train Alfa X, future Shinkansen trains, offer an (operating) speed of up to 360 km/h (224mph)—the nominal max speed is 400 kilometers (249 miles) per hour.

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