Tuesday, February 7

China has turned (literally) the maglev, the hyperfast magnetic levitation train

China begins the countdown to test one of the jewels of its public transport system: the railway Xingguo, a hanging maglev. The vehicle combines two technologies that differentiate it from the majority of trains that circulate around the Asian Giant or the rest of the planet: magnetic levitation, which uses a system of magnets to support and propel the wagons; and the suspension railway, which hangs “upside down” to reduce its impact on urban traffic. According to the Chinese news channel CGTN, Xingguo will be the first train in the world to meet these characteristics.

The new railway left the assembly line several months ago, at the end of 2021, and is now facing its final adjustments to undergo the fine-tuning tests in July. The track created for his test measures about 800 m, with double track, and it is expected that Xingguo can reach 80 km/h. The train is a collaboration between Jiangxi University of Science and Technology and the China Railway Science and Industry Group, assembled in Wuhan and now being polished in Ganzhou.

“Xingguo is a new type of suspended vehicle featuring permanent maglev technology,” Yang Bien of Jiangxi University of Science and Technology told CGTN. The key that makes Xingguo a pioneering vehicle, emphasizes the Chinese chain, is that combines both technologiesthat of the maglev and that which is normally used by suspended railways.

Silent, cheap and without slowing down traffic

Already during the presentation of the vehicle, at the end of 2021, those responsible stressed its peculiarities compared to conventional maglevs. “It is understood that the magnetic levitation on the ground is electromagnetic, which requires electricity to float the vehicle. The hanging train uses permanent magnetic levitation technology, which can float the train without electricity, so it is more environmentally friendly. environment,” says the official media People Daily.

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“It uses the repulsive force between permanent magnets and permanent magnet tracks to achieve vehicle suspension by non-contact traction. It has a series of features such as safety, energy saving, comfort and convenient maintenance,” he adds.

Now Xingguo will have to face a test phase with a monorail 800 meters long and with a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour (km/h), which will make it a landmark in China. At the end of last year it was pointed out that it could even reach 120 km/h.

With its implementation, China seeks advantages that combine the strengths of maglevs and suspended trains: silent services, with an infrastructure that does not require occupying large areas and does not interfere with pedestrians or road traffic in cities. Although it is true that their capacity is usually much lower than that of underground trains —about half—, they are also much cheaper. It is estimated that its cost is around one fifth.

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“To the occupy less land, the hanging trains do not interfere with pedestrians or motorized vehicles. They have independent right of way,” explains Wang Zhongmei of the China Railway Science and Industry Group (CRSIC) to STDaily, before emphasizing its lower overall cost. Another of its advantages is its ability to climb, its reduced turning radius and less pollution.

Neither maglevs nor suspension trains are unique to China. The state newspaper itself People Daily acknowledges that China is the third country to exploit suspension train technology, after Germany and Japan. In the North Rhine, the Wuppertal Monorail has been operating for quite some time, and another suspension train, the Shonan Railway, has been operating between Fujisawa and Kamakura.

Something similar happens with maglevs. In Japan one of these vehicles managed to reach a speed record of 603 km/h in 2015, in Shanghai they have one capable of exceeding 400 km/h and last year China premiered a new model in Qingdao that can reach 600 km/h and aspires to become the fastest train in the world. The key to its speed lies largely in its magnetic levitation system, with a system of magnets that eliminate friction.

Cover image | China Railway Engineering Corporation

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