The China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), one of the world’s largest train manufacturers, recently announced that it had begun work on a new type of magnetic levitation train that will able to achieve a top speed of 373 mph (600 km/hr), which is faster than any other train currently in operation.
According to Smart Rail World (citing a report by the Chinese press agency Xinhua), the state-owned company has started building a three-mile track on which to test out this maglev train. The firm is also working on a more modest 124mph maglev train, with the goal of “establishing domestic technology and standard systems for new-generation medium- and high-speed maglev transportation that can be applied globally,” Sun Bangcheng, a CRRC official, told Xinhua.
China’s high-speed rail network is the world’s largest, with over 12,400 miles of track already built, funded with $538 billion in government money. In recent years, train operators from around the world have been chasing faster and faster speeds. Last year, a maglev train in Japan reached a speed of 366 mph, breaking a world record that had stood for 12 years. But the train won’t be ready for commercial use until 2027, due to the concerns about the infrastructure and costs to build the long tracks.
Meanwhile, the Shanghai Maglev is currently the world’s fastest commercially operational train, routinely zipping back and forth between the city and Pudong International Airport at 267 mph.
Maglev trains are able to reach such dizzying speeds by swapping out the traditional fitted-wheels-on-track design for a magnetically powered cushion of air. Electromagnets simultaneously pull the train from the front and push it from the rear. The costs of constructions are astronomically more than traditional diesel-powered trains, but maglev is more sustainable and faster, which is why China is so bullish.
CRRC is not just building high-speed rail projects in China. The company is also spearheading projects in the UK, Australia, Southeast Asia, Iran, Mexico, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, and Russia. Noticeably absent from that list is the US, which is still struggling to get its own high-speed rail network off the ground.
For what its worth, the US Air Force holds the world speed record for maglev at 633 mph. Earlier this year, a rocket-powered sled covered a distance equal to seven football fields in about two seconds. Its unclear how long this current record will stand, though, as the 846th Test Squadron say its engineers are already back to the drawing board looking for ways to go even faster.