China to run low-cost maglevs by next year

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

China has finished production of the first of its Chinese-built magnetically levitated (maglev) trains in Zhuzhou, Hunan. Described as low-cost and eco-friendly, the trains are to begin operating next year on the Daitai line between Haidian District and Beijing. The three-coached trains are able to carry up to 600 passengers and run at a top speed of 100 km/h.

A maglev train in Shanghai.
Image: Alex Needham.

"It's ideal for mass transportation, as it is quiet and environmentally friendly", says Xu Zongxiang, general manager of Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Company. "Its manufacturing cost is about 75 percent of a conventional light-rail train".

The train claims zero emissions as opposed to conventional trains which run on coal or diesel. It has a minimum turning radius of 50 meters and the production company has stated that it has reduced the risks of derailment and overturning. The company is exploring possible future operations in certain cities. Meanwhile, the Daitai line between Haidian District and Beijing is scheduled to operate by next year.

Liu Youmei, a railway transport specialist, said, "It can be used for public transport in populous areas and at scenic spots with fragile environment."

China operates the first commercial maglev in the world, in Shanghai between a metro station and Pudong International Airport. The train takes less than 8 minutes to cover the 30 km route with a top speed of 430 km/h. Maglev trains can accelerate to high speeds as they run suspended in the air by magnetism, avoiding friction between the train and the tracks.