Geographies in Depth

China is building a floating train that could be faster than air travel 

A China Railway High-speed (CRH) Harmony bullet train pulls into Shanghai Railway Station May 23, 2012. China will fast track approvals for infrastructure investment to combat a slowdown in the economy, a state-backed newspaper reported on Tuesday, showing how Premier Wen Jiabao's call for policies to support growth is being put into action. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS TRANSPORT POLITICS) - GM1E85N188J01

China's fastest bullet trains currently travel at speeds of over 400 km/h. Image: REUTERS/Aly Song

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how China is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

China

This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

China has unveiled a prototype of a new magnetic levitation (maglev) train designed to reach speeds of up to 600 km/h.

Maglev technology uses strong electromagnets which lift and propel the train forward on a cushion of air. Without the problem of friction between wheels and rails, maglev trains are able to hit greater speeds than conventional locomotives, and with less noise and vibration.

China already has the world’s fastest commercial maglev service. The Shanghai Maglev, with a top operational speed of 431 km/h, has been carrying passengers on a 30 km stretch between Shanghai’s Pudong airport and the city centre since 2003.

The super-fast train is set to roll off the production line in 2020. Image: Xinhua

In 2017, Fuxing bullet trains went into service on the 1300 km Beijing-Shanghai line, significantly reducing journey times. These trains travel at around 350 km/h, but the prototype maglev will be so fast it could provide a competitive alternative to air travel, according to its developer.

Ding Sansan, deputy chief engineer at the train’s developer CRRC Qingdao Sifang, a subsidiary of the state-owned China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), told the media that a trip from Beijing to Shanghai that takes about four and a half hours by plane, including preparation time for the journey, and about five and a half hours by high-speed rail, might last only three and a half hours on the maglev.

However, before it takes any passengers, the new train, built in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao, is scheduled to undergo a period of extensive testing.

Discover

What is AMNC, the World Economic Forum's meeting in China?

Future train travel

China isn’t the only country experimenting with maglev technology. Japan, a pioneer of high-speed rail, broke its own world record, hitting 603 km/h during a test run of an SC Maglev train in 2015.

The country is building a new maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya, scheduled to open in 2027.

Have you read?

The service will run at a top speed of 500 km/h, covering the 286 km distance in 40 minutes instead of the current journey time of 1 hour 32 minutes. There are also plans for maglev trains to halve the journey time from Tokyo to Osaka by 2045.

Though Japan, South Korea and western European countries including France, Italy, Spain and Germany have extensive high-speed rail networks, China has more than 29,000 km of lines – around two-thirds of the world’s total.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geographies in DepthSupply Chains and TransportationEmerging Technologies
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Talent trends in Asia: How to boost workforce productivity and well-being

Peta Latimer and Catherine Li Zhaoqi

June 20, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum