October 31, 2010

Transport Innovations in China

Breaking High-Speed Train Speed records, Planning routes to Europe, and the development of radical new concepts for futuristic urban trains, China is trailblazing its way to the top of the race to build low carbon alternatives to air transport. Here are some recent developments on transport innovation in China.

China Claims High-Speed Train Speed Records

This month, Shanghai’s latest bullet train has obliterated the previous record for the fastest high speed train in the world by 21km/h. The lightning fast train was able to reach a speed of 415km/h, and come late October it will service lucky commuters traveling from Shanghai to Hangzhou (which are approximately 202km apart). To be clear, the Shanghai train broke the world record for high-speed train travel, not conventional rail travel. The record holder for conventional rail travel is the French TGV, which clocked in at 574 kph.

Meanwhile, last week the Chinese rail service is claiming yet another record has been smashed by one of their locally produced trains reaching a top speed of 421 km per hour – the fastest ever by a scheduled train. The new record was achieved by the government opening a new rail line between Hongqiao and Hangzhou, two districts that are 200km apart. On its inauguration, two bullet trains travelled between the two suburbs running up the impressive speed.

via inhabitat

China Developing Maglev Train That Can Go 1000kph

According to the laboratory at Southwest Jiaotong University, a prototype is currently being worked on that'll average 500km/h to 600km/h, with a far smaller train to hit upwards of 1,000km/h in "two or three years."

Maglev trains utilize a system of very large magnets to lift and propel train cars. The magnetic system is able to move at high speeds while being quieter and smoother than a traditional wheeled mass transit train. The current world record for speed on a maglev train is 361 miles per hour and was set in Japan in 2003. The Chinese plan to blow this record out of the water by coupling their maglev technology with underground tunnels that will act as vacuums.

Mag-lev train in Shanghai

The most common problem facing high speed transit is air friction that slows train cars down. The Chinese plan to eliminate this problem with their vacuum tunnels and say their trains will not have to compete with air friction while they travel. Researchers say that the trains could be ready for action in ten years. Though this high speed wonder seems like a great idea, the economic cost of the technology is staggering. How Much? A mere $2.95 million more than the current high speed rail for each kilometer of track.

via inhabitat

China To Connect Its High Speed Rail All The Way To Europe

Image: The Transport Politic
With initial negotiations and surveys already complete, China is now making plans to connect its high speed rail line through 17 other countries in Asia and Eastern Europe in order to connect to the existing infrastructure in the EU. Additional rail lines will also be built into South East Asia as well as Russia, in what will likely become the largest infrastructure project in history.

China hopes to complete this massive infrastructure project within 10 years, which will include three major rail lines running at speeds of 320 km/hour. The first will go from King’s Cross Station in London all the way to Beijing (8,100 km as the crow flies) and will take approximately two days. This line will also then extend down to Singapore. A second HSR line will connect into Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia. The last line to be built will connect Germany to Russia, cross Siberia and then back into China. The exact routes have yet to be determined.

Image: The Transport Politic

Financing and planning for this monstrous project is actually being provided by China, who is already in serious negotiations with 17 countries to develop the project. China states that other countries, like India, came to them first to get the project rolling, because of their experience in designing and building their own HSR network. Financing for the infrastructure will be provided by China and in return the partnering nation will provide natural resources to China. For instance, Burma, which is about to build its link, will exchange lithium (used in batteries), in order for China to build the line.

China benefits because it will be able to transport materials cheaply into manufacturing centers inside its borders and the Eastern Hemisphere benefits by getting a fast, efficient, low carbon transportation system. Considering China has already become the global leader in HSR, their leadership in this new venture could reasonably shift the balance of power in their direction. Also, get ready for a huge influx of HSR station designs in the coming years.

via inhabitat

China’s Straddling Bus

Developed by Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co., the bus can straddle up to two lanes of traffic — allowing regular vehicles to go under what is essentially an above-ground subway system. Vehicle drivers, beware.

Shenzhen’s bus can reportedly hold 1200 to 1400 passengers and could cut traffic jams by 20% to 30%. The partially solar-powered system can travel up to 50 mph — and it’s coming to China in 2011.

The train that never stops at a station

Perhaps this design has taken it's cue from the many air-launched rocket-powered aircrafts tested over the last 30 years.
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