New 'Super HSR' Could Cut SH-BJ Train Ride to 30 Minutes

By Emily Guzman, September 19, 2017

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Getting to Beijing from Shanghai in just 30 minutes sounds pretty great. Suffocating on the way? Not so much. 

This is but one of the many issues researchers and developers at SpaceX and CRRC must overcome before super high-speed magnetic trains (known as "Super HSR") jump from dreams to reality, Sina reports. The trains would cut the five to six hour journeys from Shanghai to places like Beijing, Wuhan, Xi'an and Changsha to just half an hour. (So much for the capital's first Maglev or those faster Beijing-Shanghai trainsset to launch this month).

Beijing Maglev
Beijing is set to start operating its first Maglev train later this year, and Shanghai already runs the world’s first commercially-operated Maglev line, flying passengers from the city to Pudong International Airport at 431km/h

The idea of using magnets to exponentially increase train speeds was first proposed in 2013 by SpaceX, a leading American aerospace company founded by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk

Chinese rolling stock manufacturer CRRC then decided to pick up where SpaceX left off, finding a way to potentially increase speeds from 310 to 600 kilometers per hour. CRRC reported that they reached 310 kilometers per hour during a test back in July, but 600 kilometers per hour is still a long way off. 

READ MORE: China Developing World's Fastest Maglev Train with Speeds of Over 600km/h

Even so, CRRC is still devising a way to get speeds up to a whopping 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers per hour. How do they plan to do this? A vacuum. 

Imagine space — cold, airless, and entirely inhospitable to human beings. That is what CRRC believes will be the solution to their speed problem. Theoretically, a vacuum is the perfect environment for a frictionless, resistance-less train ride — especially since the train in question will employ the use of magnetic levitation (Maglev) technology, according to technical director of China Aerospace Science and Industry Group, Mao Kai. Maglev trains operate using magnetic levitation, meaning they actually hover above the track which enables them to run smoother and faster than traditional trains.

A rendering of the 'Super HSR'
A rendering of the "Super HSR"

The idea of this magnetic levitation technology leads to a bevy of other technical issues that have possible solutions, but the future of the high speed trains are still mired in uncertainty. Building such a train will also likely have a hefty price tag.

For now, a three-step plan is in place to be executed in the coming years. 

As Mao Kai explains to Sina, the first phase will involve building a regional intercity train traffic network with trains that will reach speeds of 1,000 kilometers per hour. From there, the second phase will involve building a national super city group train traffic network with trains reaching up to 2,000 kilometers per hour. Finally, the third phase will involve the completion of a "one way" train traffic network.

As for a timeline, Mao Kai cannot give an accurate appraisal because research is still in its fledgling stage. For now, 2,000 kilometer per hour trains are more science fiction than reality, but in the years to come, this national project just might take flight. 

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