China’s engineering progress has been nothing short of astonishing. After creating a high-speed railway in record time, it is now racing America to make the world’s next fastest train
In 2016, China’s Fuxing bullet trains overtook Japan’s SCMaglev and France’s TGV to clinch the title of fastest operating railway in the world. This new generation of Chinese trains, built in just 13 years, runs on hybrid-propulsion systems which operate at 350km/h. While the SCMaglev can go up to 603km/h and the TGV can go up to 575km/h, both trains are limited to 320km/h for normal operation, making them slower than Fuxing. China has already exported their technology to over 100 countries, including Russia.
In the future, the country is looking to supercharge its trains using magnetic levitation (maglev) technology underwater. By reducing friction using maglev trains in floating vacuum tunnels, Chinese researchers hope to achieve speeds of 2,000km/h. This research puts China in direct competition with America’s Hyperloop One, which aims to reach speeds of 1,000km/h. The American train is developed by Tesla and the Virgin Group, and is currently being tested on a full-scale test track in Nevada. The two countries’ vacuum-based technologies – shooting a pod of passengers at high speed through a sealed tube – are very similar, and experts say both technologies could have potential military use.
According to Chinese researchers, an experimental track for their vacuum tube train is already planned for construction. The country has built over 500 underwater tunnels in the past 20 years, and last year completed the feasibility survey for its longest tunnel yet – a 10-kilometre stretch in Zhejiang.
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For more stories and photographs from this issue, see Asian Geographic Issue 129, 2018