Is it a Bird, is it a Plane..?
No, Its another MagLev Train
Coming to a city near you soon ... but for now Shanghai's flashy Magnetic Levitation (Maglev), train [above, on the Pudong run], remains (marginally), the world's fastest train with speeds of approx 430pkh!
The technology used to propel this miracle was way ahead of its time seven decades ago, when it was first invented ... but sadly, was quickly forgotten with the rise of oil dependence and war. However, the still-futuristic magnetic levitation system is set for a renaissance that will redefine many aspects of our daily lives as it finally comes of age in the 21st Century.
With the potential to exceed speeds of 4000 mph (6437 km/h) if deployed in an evacuated tunnel, the Maglev is faster than any speeding bullet, locomotive or aeroplane; precisely because it is as much like a plane, as any railroad we have ever known; incredibly, because there is no physical contact between the track and the train... but better, as there is also no drag/lift ratios common to conventional flight.
True, the train has no wings, but no wheels or engine, either; therefore no rolling resistance and no moving parts (like ball bearings), which wear out, making this old technology super viable in a future world of rising prices and shrinking resources.
Transrapid, the German firm that developed the Shanghai Maglev train in 2003, described it as: *the first fundamental innovation in the field of railway technology since the invention of the railway itself...* an irony, if you consider that they overlooked this form of propulsion over 70 years ago for the other kind?
If you will pardon the pun, it is obviously the Magnets that ARE the attraction, because when in action, they lift the entire train about 10 to 15 millimeters above the special track, called a guideway, as it directs the passage of the train, rather than a means of it being *locked onto* to the tracks themselves through the gravity of conventional wheels.
Other magnets provide propulsion just like the Superman ride at your local theme park. Braking, and the breathtaking speeds ~currently up to 580 kph in Japanese test runs (a good 60% faster than the renowned Bullet Trains) - are attained largely due to the reduction of friction, or rolling resistance (see above for definition link).
Is there a need for such speed?
Certainly not on such a short sprint, barely 30 kms from the subway in Pudong to the airport, and not at the cost, note critics of the Pudong line, which was around a $1.2 billion investment.
Still, where China and Japan are concerned, I think the critics miss the point of the appeal, and the thrill!? Clearly, the Maglev isnt about getting from point A to B in Pudong. Rather, it's the ride, a glorious glide, from the past to the future . . . an addiction that will cost China a further $22-30 billion with the current consideration of a high-speed link between Beijing and Shanghai, among its current five-year rail plan.
Of course we cannot rule out countries with vast expanses of land like the US looking on with interest at this technology either, especially with incentives like a glide from San Francisco to Los Angeles, say, in less than two hours! A flash of excitement served, as you sip your tea or coffee, from the mundane motion of nowadays to the hyper-speeds of Tomorrowland, and not a single drop of additional oil, or pollution needed to get there.
Critics will tell you that the system was not developed further at the time because of the cost; maybe because of the war . . . and not since then either, where the current rail system is very well developed. However with Peak Oil already painting its dry futuristic landscape, the playing field is changing completely, and for countries like China, the United States and Australia, this new technology has huge potential. . . Maglev is pollution-free, with no exhaust and very little maintenance and in a world with no more oil, rather attractive.
In fact, the US have funded a few billion in pilot projects during the past five years (including the Venus Project ); and particularly for a proposed 47-mile Pittsburgh system and a 40-mile track linking Baltimore and Washington, DC; with yet another recently popping up from Chattanooga to Nashville.
On the other side of the country, Maglev-backers recently lobbied congress to fund a 180 km circuit between three Southern California airports that could be expanded to a 500kph plus (273-mile) web, designed to relieve the region's gridlocked road systems ... A chant now echoing across the developed world ...
LINKS FOR FURTHER READING:
For those wanting to read more about Maglev technology near your city, try this website: Maglev Quicklinks for dozens of updates of current trials and pilots from around the world.
YOU TUBE VIDEO RIDES :
Go for a YouTube ride on the Shanghai Maglev Pudong run at a speed of 431kph : or watch a documentary on the Japanese pilot maglev train at 581kph!
All links in Green.