May 10, 2009

The World's Fastest Train

Magnetic levitation (maglev) trains float above the track, using the power of science to achieve blazing fast speeds. The world's fastest commercially operating train is propelled from within the city of Shanghai to an airport outside the city limits by magnets. The maglev runs on an elevated platform, so I watched the cityscape zoom by from my window seat when I took it. A digital display overhead indicates the current velocity, which tops out at 431 km/h. Seven minutes and 30 kilometers later I had arrived at my destination.

I did not need to go to the airport, so I bought round trip tickets for my joy ride on the fast moving monorail. A Chinese man mentioned that the technology for the Shanghai airport link had been purchased from the Germans at great cost (over $1 billion USD), so that it could then be reverse engineered by Chinese talent. This demonstration track is known as the IOS (Initial Operating Segment). His body shook with unabandoned glee as he explained that the much longer Beijing-Shanghai intercity link could then be constructed at a fraction of the cost using local technology.

“Speed provides the one genuinely modern pleasure.” - Aldous Huxley