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Transrapid (MagLev) Test Successful In China: 405 317

Posted by Hemos
from the were-you-sent-here-by-the-devil dept.
theBunkinator writes "Use your favorite translator (+ unit converter) to read about the first successful beyond 400km/h (~250MPH) test of the MagLev train in China. News Blurp in German at tagesschau.de. The offical Transrapid site is bilingual, with choice of German/English. Pictures & Video, too. Beats the Autobahn any day. Probably beats a plane in many situations as well."
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Transrapid (MagLev) Test Successful In China: 405

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  • Magnets: (Score:5, Funny)

    by ekrout (139379) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:31AM (#4793042) Journal
    "Magnets: Not just for your fridge anymore."
    • Re:Magnets: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by j0ebaker (304465)
      Are these things using Electro-Magnets? Imagine the impact of loosing power. I'd worry about bringing magnetic strip credit cards on board unless I was assured that the magnetic fields wouldn't erase them. This is interesting technology and I'd like to know the answer to these questions.
      • Re:Magnets: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Seahawk (70898)
        I believe som kind of wheels are mounted so in case of a power failure, the train would just stop and run to a halt slowly - no problem there!

        About the magnetic fields affecting credit cards - I really cant imagine that the magnetic field would be strong enough to matter as it would make such trains of very little use - so I would guess they have solved it some way!

        All in all - Be happy - MagLev is nice! :D
      • Re:Magnets: (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ozan (176854) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:18AM (#4793379) Homepage
        The train itself has batteries which have enough capacity to levitate it for about an hour. In case of a power-failure during travel the train would continue to float until it stops.

        There is no magnetic field in the cabin, credit cards, etc are safe.
        • Re:Magnets: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Contact (109819)
          That's still fairly worrying, though. It implies that in the event of a power failure, you now have a floating missile travelling at 250 mph towards the next station, with no way of braking, and (since it's floating) almost no frictional braking...
  • Autobahn? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Beats the Autobahn any day"

    But, but Autobahn is a highway... Besides, the Autobahn does carry more people per hour and kilometers than does this train any time soon.
    • Re:Autobahn? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BigBir3d (454486)
      Shall we compare emmissions output? Both sound and nasty chemicals...
    • Re:Autobahn? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yokaze (70883)
      Hmm, 450km/h, 959 persons, every 10minutes a train.
      This amounts to a throughput of 5754 persons/h.

      For a single lane Autobahn: 130km/h, distance between two cars, 170m. This amounts to 765 cars per hour. A typical car carries up to 4 persons.
      3060 persons/h.

      A typical Autobahn has at least 2 lanes, several have 3.
      This makes roughly 6kP/h or 9kP/h. So one could say a Autobahn with 3 lanes has twice the troughput than the Transrapid.

      But, this is the theoretical limit. The numbers for the Transrapid is devised from the implementation with two trains on the tracks.
      Double the number of trains you get the the same throughput.
      • Well, I don't know about germany, but here in america we certanly driver closer then 170 meters! Perhaps 170 decimeters :P
        • by Ethelred Unraed (32954) on Monday December 02, 2002 @12:14PM (#4793803) Journal

          Well, I don't know about germany, but here in america we certanly driver closer then 170 meters! Perhaps 170 decimeters :P

          Ever learn the two-second rule for driving? The trick is, you're supposed to always be at least two seconds behind the car in front of you, three or four seconds if the roads are slippery or it's raining or dark (or all three).

          You measure this by using bridges, signs, etc. as benchmarks -- wait until the car in front of you has passed the landmark, count "one-onethousand two-onethousand", and only then should you reach the same landmark. If you pass it beforehand, you're too close.

          So suppose you're driving 120 kph (the usual speed limit on the Autobahn, if there is one defined). 120 kph ~= 33 m/s. So by the two-second rule, you'd have to be at least 67m away from the car in front of you.

          Suppose you're doing a more typical speed on the Autobahn (even when there's a speed limit, it usually is roundly ignored). Most people drive around 140 kph (though you usually are getting run over by Mercedes and BMWs doing 200). That's a minimum distance of about 78m, assuming it's a bright sunny day with dry roads.

          If it's raining, you should double that; near or below freezing, at least double that again; low visibility, double that once more. IOW if it's raining, freezing and foggy, you probably shouldn't be on the road at all. ;-)

          Seriously, if you follow the two-second rule and keep in mind that you're supposed to double it in some circumstances, you're never rear-end anyone, and probably never get rear-ended either (since the person behind you *also* has more warning as a result).

          Cheers,

          Ethelred [grantham.de]

        • Re:170 meters!? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Snork Asaurus (595692)
          Many years ago, I worked for a (far) different division of a company heavily involved in development of MagLev trains. When I used to see them in their glossy corporate brochures ("Transportation of the Future"), I would roll my eyes and think "this will never get beyond the prototype stage". I may have to revise my opinion.

          I have driven in Germany many times, and can attest to fellow North Americans that the Germans take their driving far more seriously. They obey the speed limits right down to the km/hr., where they exist (secondary and city roads and many parts of the Autobahn), and on the stretches of Autobahn that are unregulated, they obey rules very carefully about slower traffic keeping to the right, proper signaling, passing etc. North American driving looks very sloppy in comparison. The sections of the Autobahn that are unregulated are (by comparison to here) beautifully engineered, built and maintained (flat, smooth, properly banked turns, etc.).

          A few years after the wall came down, I drove from Berlin to Bavaria through the former east (Leipzig, etc). There was massive Autobahn (and everything else) reconstruction was under way. There were sections of new road that were like a glass table interspersed with sections that were like an old washboard - quite a difference. Oh, and there were a lot of Trabants on the road in the "former East". For those who haven't seen them, picture a small toaster on wheels with blue smoke billowing out the back (2-stroke engines) and a top speed of about 80km/hr. (~50 mph). I remember seeing a Trabant pulling a trailer that had a brand new Mercedes 500SEL on it and thinking it ironic. After passing another Trabant on a slight curve on the Autobahn, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw its passenger side door fly open. The car is so narrow that the (large) driver was able to reach over the passenger, grab the passenger door handle an slam the door shut while still steering the car.

          Interesting curiosities: I was told that in Germany, if you come up behind another car and want him to move over, you can be charged for flashing your lights at him and that you can also be successfully sued for giving another driver the middle finger gesture.

          • I have driven in Germany many times, and can attest to fellow North Americans that the Germans take their driving far more seriously. They obey the speed limits right down to the km/hr.,

            Uh, what part of Germany was that? I *rarely* see Germans pay much attention to the speed limit, unless of course they know there's a radar camera nearby (in which case they slow down for maybe a few seconds).

            I've lived in Germany now for almost ten years (Hannover-Hamburg area) and speeding (and trying to run red lights) seems to be the national sport.

            where they exist (secondary and city roads and many parts of the Autobahn), and on the stretches of Autobahn that are unregulated, they obey rules very carefully about slower traffic keeping to the right, proper signaling, passing etc.

            That I agree with -- indeed it's often a shock to be back in the States and drive there, where passing on the right is pretty much normal (even if it's technically illegal).

            OTOH it's not that big a deal, since the speed differential between any given car and the average speed is *far* lower (cars in the States drive about 70 +/- 10 mph; in Germany it's about 85 +/- 30 mph because of varying speed limits by type of vehicle) so passing on the right isn't that big a deal.

            North American driving looks very sloppy in comparison. The sections of the Autobahn that are unregulated are (by comparison to here) beautifully engineered, built and maintained (flat, smooth, properly banked turns, etc.).

            Yup, it never ceases to amaze me how perfectly built the Autobahnen are. But OTOH think about it this way: with the high speeds, you *have* to have a perfect surface -- otherwise the car would go flying at the first pothole (or take out the whole suspension).

            Interesting curiosities: I was told that in Germany, if you come up behind another car and want him to move over, you can be charged for flashing your lights at him and that you can also be successfully sued for giving another driver the middle finger gesture.

            Yes, both are true. Honking or flashing your lights at someone to get them to pull over is called "Nötigung" (basically means "forcing") and is punishable by law. Tailgating is also considered a mild form of Nötigung. In both cases you're encouraged to take down the license plate and turn them in (though I don't know if the plaintiff gets anything for doing it).

            However, the converse is also true. If you're in the left lane and only doing 80 kph, others can sue you for blocking the road.

            Using the finger is an offense in Germany on or off the road, actually, as is insulting someone (calling someone an a**hole is subject to fines). This results in rather interesting twists of conversation -- Germans have gotten rather good at verbally assaulting and insulting people without ever actually calling them anything...

            Cheers,

            Ethelred [grantham.de]

      • Fine, almost honor pre-calculus.

        1. There are no single lange Autobahns, at least not in Germany. (They might have em in Poland, but as far as I remember, there are no designated lanes anyways and, secondly, that's not called the Autobahn.)

        2. The average car does not transport four people, but around 1.3.

        3. Serious (empirical!) studies give us better numbers for the number of car throughput: A Swiss study [statistik.zh.ch] mentions up to 115 000 cars / day, 4800 per hour. According to guidelines used in planning of roads, the acceptable throughput for a 2x2-lane Autobahn is 20.700 to 70.000 cars/day, so it's far less than the figure mentioned. (Source [umwelt-verkehr.de]) That's data for both directions.

        4. Assuming 40.000 cars/day (in accordance with the guidelines), we end up with 2166 persons per hour.
    • Besides, the Autobahn does carry more people per hour and kilometers than does this train any time soon.

      A bold statement.

      Let's calculate: The autobahn has usually 2 lanes in each direction. If the drivers keep a distance of 2 seconds, we get one vehicle per second - maximum.

      Optimistically, we assume that each vehicle carries 2 people (in reality this number is much lower), so we get a realistical maximum throughput of 2 persons/second or 7200 persons per hour.

      Now let's compare: The Transrapid carries up to 1000 people. If we have intervals of 5 minutes between trains, we would get 12000 people per hour.

      • Lets not forget that it will get you there a lot faster and a lot safer as well. If they had one of these here in the States, I'd use it for certain!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:35AM (#4793076)
    Seeing China's current economic condition, it's probably just a repainted 1964 World's Fair monorail.
  • by Tsk (2863) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:37AM (#4793087) Homepage Journal
    which is described here [unipi.it]. And it's network described here [tgv.com]
    • by Bender_ (179208) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:55AM (#4793223) Journal
      Does not beat the French TGV

      The point is: the TGV has once reached a maximum speed of more than 500km/h with a specially designed trainset on special rails, while 400km/h is the usual travelling speed for the transrapid. I see quite a difference there. The TGV does not come close to 400km/h, let alone 500km/h in everyday travel..

      • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:33AM (#4793517) Journal
        The point is: the TGV has once reached a maximum speed of more than 500km/h with a specially designed trainset on special rails, while 400km/h is the usual travelling speed for the transrapid. I see quite a difference there. The TGV does not come close to 400km/h, let alone 500km/h in everyday travel...
        Nitpick: the world-record was made by a souped-up perfectly normal beas^h^h^h^h TGV fitted with a bigger transformer, bigger wheels, a smaller gearing ratio, 7 less cars than normal, various aerodynamic optimizations and a stiffer-than-normal catenary.

        And TGVs everyday come 80 km/h close to 400 km/h on the newest high speed line, the LGV Médditérranée where the top commercial speed is 320 km/h (that's exactly 200 miles per hour). And they are routinely tested at 400 km/h, and most journalists invited for the ride don't bother showing-up.

        So a pityful maglev is laughable.

  • by Alien Being (18488) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:38AM (#4793094)
    Passengers can now go 405 kilometers before they're hungry again.

  • use my suit of armour ->
    i mean what if i get stuck to the track ? :)
  • TGV (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maxwell42 (594898) <olivier DOT jaquemet AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:43AM (#4793135)

    Please note that you can already travel at 300Kmh using the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, 'High Speed Train'), in France, since since 1980...
    Not 400Kmh, but it works very well.

    More informations can be found here [tgv.com].
    (There is a nice flash map of the french railways).
  • by newsdee (629448) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:43AM (#4793137) Homepage Journal
    If this is like every other "high speed" trains, then it can only keep its maximum speed for short periods of time.

    I believe it's more related with the environment (i.e. "let's not hit a cow") than anything else. So I wonder if they developed a system to allow a constant high speed (other than "we don't care about cows")?

    • Maglev trains usually run on elevated platforms high enough to let roads and the like pass underneath while still low enough to avoid most birds. That, and it simply looks cooler on an elevated platform as these pictures [transrapid.de] show... :)

    • This train line is actually pretty darn impressive. I was in Shanghai three weeks ago, and to get from the city to the airport, we took a highway that for much of its length runs parallel to the train "tracks". The train's path is, for at least a good portion of the trip, elevated on huge concrete pillars, thus avoiding cows and other earthbound wildlife. The train itself looks pretty cool, too.

      Shanghai, BTW, is a very nice city- at least the areas I saw. I got the impression there is, relative to many other Chinese cities, a lot of money there.
    • This is wrong. The only reason that high-speed trains have to slow down is for picking up passengers. Other practical limitations are the extent of high-speed routes (with minimal curvature and slope and improved rails and electric system) and to some degree risk (while going through/near stations) and noise. These latter are, however, only a matter of spending.

      Our german system of ICE trains travelling at some 150 mph is just getting reasonably dense to be useful. Ultra high speed like maglev would only be useful for connecting very large towns (e.g. Berlin and Hamburg) some 300 km apart.

      By the way: Cows are not endangered by maglev since the rails are several meters above ground.

    • The "real" speed of this can only be estimated since currently there is no track long enough to give the train the chance to accelerate until the air drag is as high as the power of the impellent. It is estimated at about 600 km/h, AFAIK.
    • Errrr... the TGV runs at top speed for hour upon hour. The main problem being that you run out of France surprisingly quickly.

      Best wishes,
      Mike.

  • And ... ?? (Score:3, Informative)

    by AftanGustur (7715) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:43AM (#4793138) Homepage


    I'm missing something ???

    The French TGV [sterlingot.com] already drove over 515km/h.

    And that was in 1990 !!!

    • Re:And ... ?? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mas3 (620769)
      405 km/h was just testing speed.
      Travel speed will be about 430 km/h.

      515 km/h is a record, not the travel speed!

      --
      Stefan

      DevCounter ( http://devcounter.berlios.de/ [berlios.de] )
      An open, free & independent developer pool.
    • If you look harder, you'll find out that they used a specially-prepared trainset and a specially-prepared section of track for that speed run. Furthermore, the TGV runs about 300km/h in production; nowhere near 515km/h. As I understand it, the maglevs will run ~450km/h in production, which is substantially faster than the TGV.

      Not to mention that steel-rail trains are a completely different technology than maglevs. You might as well say, "so what, we've had airplanes that go >450km/h for 70 years."

    • In 1902, horses were also still faster than combustion engine powered cars.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        That said we're not far from diminishing returns with maglev vs tgv style trains.

        As you get closer to Mach 1, more and more people will start complaining ;).

  • HeadLines (Score:2, Funny)

    by phantompoett (630745)
    possible news in the future *In international news today the worlds fastest maglev train was derailed when someone threw "a really big magnet" on the track, the repulsion of the poles sent the train flying off the track at around 260 km/h *
      1. The special design of the tracks and the train means it's impossible for the Transrapid to derail. That's one advantage over wheeled trains.
      2. The Transrapid levitates by attraction. If you cut all power, the train will touch the track and grind to a halt, more or less elegantly. If you'd increase the power, the clamp thingie that wraps around the track would touch the track from below and probably cause a lot of friction and stop the train. In any case, there's no way that the Transrapid can separate from the tracks.

      Hope I didn't ruin your joke.

  • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003@@@columbia...edu> on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:46AM (#4793155) Homepage Journal
    The cruising speed of a typical commercial jutliner is about 550 mph. [united.com]

    The speed of sound is about 761 mph [fiu.edu] (sea level, bleah bleah.)

    • The speed of sound is about 761 mph

      Wrong! Sound travels 741.1 [demon.co.uk] mph at STP. I knew memorizing that value way back in 7th grade would pay off some day! I never imagined I'd be able to troll Slashdot with it, though...

    • The boarding time of an average train is less than 30 minutes. The boarding time of an average (non-international) air plane is more than 90 minutes.

      The unloading time for the average train is less than 20 minutes. The unloading train for the average air plane is more than 30 minutes.

      This means that the train has at least 50 minutes advantage.

      • The boarding time of an average train is less than 30 minutes.

        Ahem. Dunno where you live, but where I live (Germany, UK and NZ) the boarding time of an express train is less than 3 minutes.

      • Not to mention that your railway station is already in the centre of the city - precisely where people want to go.

        Which is why the TGV captured such a huge share of internal travel in France.

        Not to mention that it looks stunning.

        Best wishes,
        Mike.

      • With emphasis on "at least". Here in the States, anyway, few cities have an airport in the center of town, whereas most train stations are just exactly there, so unless your business is at the airport, the train can knock off another 45 minutes or more just getting into town.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:46AM (#4793156) Journal
    From the german article not anytime soon. The line is running from the city to, TADA, the airport!

    If anything this thing will make airtravel therefore easier by getting people to and from the airport faster.

    I recently had to go to london from amsterdam and checked out the three different methods. Boat, train (via channel-tunnel) and plane. Plane beat the other by a few hours. Mostly because of the number of transfers(?) and the inevitable waiting time this entails, required in the other two.

    • I recently had to go to london from amsterdam and checked out the three different methods. Boat, train (via channel-tunnel) and plane. Plane beat the other by a few hours.

      The train has to go via France. The ferry is, admittedly, slow with the transfers and so forth, but hey, it has two bars and a movie theatre.

      But imagine, say, a Melbourne-Sydney train travelling at 400kmh ... that's a little over two hours from centre to centre, which easily beats an aeroplane.

      (The flight is only an hour, but when you arrive, you're at the airport)
    • by G-funk (22712)
      Plane may be a few hours faster, but if it's only a matter of 2-4 hours, I'd always take the boat, coz goddammit it's just so much more fun than a plane.
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:50AM (#4793176) Homepage

    5 or so years ago this would have been reported as

    "Under the guise of a civilian transporter the Chinese goverment demonstrated a potentially terrible military weapon, capable of accelerating several tonnes upto half the speed of sound"

    Just think, if Iraq had just done this we'd declare war.
    • 5 years ago, didn't we (US) think "Chinese technology" an oxymoron? Now we consider their fairly modest rockets a threat worthy of an ABM program. Relations have not improved a whole lot. We can't quite decide whether China is our biggest nuclear threat or our #1 growth trading partner, or both.

      If Iraq had done this, it'd mean they had an economy.... Can you imagine someone in Iraq in a hurry to get somewhere, except out? So, you're right, the natural conclusion would be that it was military, a step towards a supergun or something. A not-very-practical horizontal supergun, but Hussein probably wouldn't figure that out. Or the hawks. :)
  • Not cost-effective (Score:5, Informative)

    by BadDoggie (145310) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:51AM (#4793186) Homepage Journal
    Here in Munich, we dodged a bullet as the Transrapid idea from the airport to city center was killed. The current S-Bahns can be sped up to 160km/h (from a current 80-120, generally), which would take the travel time down to 16 minutes versus the expected 10 for the Transrapid. This requires no more land, no additional building disruptions (lots of construction and really bad traffic here in Munich), and, even more importantly, the S-Bahn can do the job for half the cost and one-fifth the energy.

    The Transrapid would've cost us about $38 million per kilometer and additional annual costs of $215K. For comparison, ICE train tracks (Inter-City Europe express tracks) cost $16.5 million per km and around $165K annually.

    It gets worse. There's a 30km test track in Emden, and the train has never been up to it's supposed max speed of 500 km/h. The distance from the Munich airport to the city center is only about 20km, and the thing needs 5km just to get up to 300 km/h. Planned costs were set at $1.6 billion (with a "B" as in, "bwooaaaahhh!") -- expected costs around 50% more. Planned completion was 2006 and expected 2008-2010.

    Munich dodged a bullet, but now faces over a year of public transport hell as the main through-tunnel for all S-Bahns is upgraded to increase capacity from 20 to 30 trains an hour. (All S-Bahn trains pass through this tunnel, resulting in massive delays whenever there's a problem even near the tunnel, which extends some seven stations, 5 in the tunnel and end points.) To make things worse, the video schedule displays along the lines run Windows and crash at least once a week. Luckily, the trains don't.

    woof.

    • ICE train tracks (Inter-City Europe express tracks)

      A nitpick: ICE stands for Inter City Express. I'm actually quite sad that each European has its own, more-or-less incompatible high speed train system, with the ICE being the German train.
      • On a more smiling note, you could see a bit of german-french difference in attitude when you look at their original designs for their high speed trains. Or more exactly to their reactions on the other's creation.

        The germans considered the french trains to be awfully fragile. The french thought the german one to be a heavy, unelegant brute :-)

        Currently, the french ones are starting to look a bit more solid and the german ones lighter and more elegant...

        Reinout
      • As a Briton who has to use our sorry excuse for a rail network can I invite any of our European partners to come over and run our trains?

        German, French, Italian - we don't care, we'd just like something that moves at a reasonable speed.

        Best wishes,
        Mike.

    • I agree that it's not effective to move from the city to the airport, but between cities it should do very nice.

      Airports take up lots of space and are very noisy. (= even more space made unvaluable. Who wants to life near the airport?) while a train can stop directly in the city.

      So instead of city -> airport -> airport -> city you could go directly from city to city. On the same continent, this should always be faster than planes.

      • Which continent? Rhode Island?

        Please explain how a train with a theoretical maximum standard speed of 500km/h is faster than a plane which cruises at 1000km/h.

        For small hops, especially because of travel to and from airports, check-in time, slotting, etc., the train can be faster, but once the distance exceeds about 400km (around 250 miles), the plane starts winning all races.

        Amtrak takes three days to cross the North American continent; Delta, six hours. I'm flying from Munich to London Wednesday: two hours, three including intermediary travel. My Sunday return is 28 1/2 hours on four or five trains, plus a subway and a walking connection, and it requires an overnight stop in Paris.

        woof.

        • If you want to travel from the center of London to the center of Paris, you have two options:

          1. You can fly. It takes 15 minutes to get to Heathrow; theoretically you're supposed to arrive 2 hours before your flight, but you could get away with arriving 30 minutes before departure. The flight takes an hour; then if you're very lucky, you might be able to get out of the airport in 30 minutes. Catch a train into central Paris, and you arrive 45 minutes later. Total time: An absolute minimum of 3 hours.

          2. Take the Eurostar. From the center of London to the center of Paris, 3 hours.

          If you don't want to arrive half an hour before your flight leaves, the train is going to be faster than the plane. Speed up the train a bit -- the Eurostar isn't the fastest of trains -- and it will always be faster than the plane.
        • by Nehemiah S. (69069) on Monday December 02, 2002 @12:18PM (#4793845)
          Because it takes an hour to get to the airport, 2 hours to get through security, then another hour to get your baggage, rent a car and get out of the destination airport.

          If you could take the subway to the rail station, in, for instance, NYC, then take a maglev to chicago (750 miles) at 250 miles per hour, then go from the rail station to downtown on the El, you are talking about a 3.5 hour trip, doorstep to doorstep. As opposed to 5 or 6 on an airplane, even if it only takes 1.5 hours flying time.

          I wouldn't want to go from NY to LA on a train, but for transit amonst the centers of the east coast megacity, I don't think they can be beaten- unless airplanes get a whole lot more time-efficient (they may be, in Europe, but they currently suck here in the US).
    • by smagoun (546733)
      Munich may have made the right choice, considering that there's already an existing infrastructure and the distance is relatively short. However, some of your facts need to be put in perspective.

      You state that the maglev needs "5km just to get up to 300 km/h." While correct, you neglect to compare this to ICE, which takes 30km to reach the same speed. Since there's no wheel/rail friction, maglevs can accelerate much more quickly than conventional high-speed trains.

      Furthermore, maglev trains use less power than conventional high-speed trains once you get past about 200km/h. At 300km/h, ICE trains use 71 Wh/km. Maglevs use 47 Wh/km; a maglev could go 400km/h on the same amount of power it takes to get the ICE up to 300km/h.

      Maglevs are also quieter, safer, easier to maintain (no moving parts!), and so on.

    • by KjetilK (186133)

      The current S-Bahns can be sped up to 160km/h (from a current 80-120, generally), which would take the travel time down to 16 minutes versus the expected 10 for the Transrapid.

      Yeah, I think it should be rather obvious that maglev trains are not suited for distances as short as this. It is weird that they would even plan to use it for city-to-airport connections. This is not going to be useful for distances shorter than a few hundred kilometers, but given that these trains can go from city-centre to city-centre, they can shorten the time it takes to travel between cities considerably. Therefore, I would expect maglev trains to eventually be competitive on distances between 400 and 1500 kilometers. But it seems to take longer than I would have guessed 15 years ago.

      To make things worse, the video schedule displays along the lines run Windows and crash at least once a week. Luckily, the trains don't.

      Which reminds me of a trip I had with one of the newest trains here in Norway. I happened to be seated beside an american who worked in the telecom industry, and he said that before I entered the train, the train had stopped for a few minutes, and they said on the speaker "we are standing still while the onboard computers are restarted". We both went: "Uh-oh, I hope they're not running Windows on those control systems"...

  • A semi-monorail related story. That means only one thing. Please mod down the 1000 idiots that go to snpp and post that stupid song for the 1000th time this year! It was funny the first time, but its beyond a joke
  • by Insightfill (554828) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:54AM (#4793214) Homepage
    There's often a Simpson-esque rally in the US press whenever another country pulls this sort of thing off. People often ask "Why can't we just covert/reuse existing railways."

    The problem becomes one of how you define straight. These tracks need to be really straight for long lengths to get such numbers, and while your typical subway or Amtrak route looks straight, that's only when viewed at lower speeds (under 60MPH). Even then, lots of these routes are shaky. Take it up to over 100 and suddenly, it's not so straight anymore.

    Anyone who's taken their car to really high speeds on public roads can usually attest that a straight road at 70 isn't as straight at 120.
    • Another problem with using existing railways in the US for high speed service is that the tracks are segmented- made up of lots of short peices of steel rail bolted together. This is fine at speeds generally under 90mph (and, in the special case of the Acela, on selected tracks, 150mph).

      This sectioned construction is, of course, the reason for the familiar "click-clack" noise that trains make as they go along their merry way. It allows for thermal expansion, and makes construction modular and repair relatively easy. Unfortunately, this type of construction isn't suited for traveling at high speeds, the small discontinuity between each section causes a lot of vibration and stress on the train's suspension (see example: Acela).

      These tracks are also shared with freight trains, which place a huge amount of stress on the rails when compared to a (much lighter) passenger train, pushing the rails slightly out of alignment and level each time a train passes by, requiring frequent checks and maintenance.

      Bullet train systems throughout the world use continuous welded rails (CWR) for high speed travel. This is just as important as long, straight, properly banked tracks for high speed travel. Unfortunately you cannot simply upgrade freight tracks to CWR, because the frequent mainenance required would become more difficult and expensive. High speed trains in other countries do travel on regular tracks in some places, but they cannot approach the "normal" cruising speed that they can on their dedicated, continuous tracks.

      I seriously think that the best solution for the US is a whole new rail network for passenger traffic. Expensive, yes. But the benifit of having an alternative transportation system is worth the increase in cost over upgrading an interstate highway from 2 lanes each way to 4. The price increase isn't even too enormous. For example- a typical interstate improving project, widening I-40 to 4 lanes in Greensboro, NC is costing taxpayers $22m per mile, whereas according to the California High Speed Rail network's homepage, a high speed rail network would cost an average of $38m per mile, including stations and trains.

      Maglev is of course another option, but it's largely untested, especially in commercial service. Welded steel rails are, to this day, just as fast, safe, proven, and less expensive. The choice seems clear to me.
      • Some very good points.

        Additional dings against rail in this country are mostly political.

        Most of the "middle of nowhere" stops for Amtrak were due to pork-barrelling in the 70's to get Amtrak approval. With Amtrak bleeding cash, it becomes less clear whether rail is a business or a public service. Nobody asks the CTA in Chicago, for example, to be fully self-sufficient (heavy subsidies).

        Roads and air travel are also heavily subsidized, but those subsidies are buried deeper and aren't as apparent. For example, the millions of dollars spent in widening an expressway leading to an airport might be paid for with not only gas taxes, but also general taxes diverted for the purpose. United Airlines would have no additional outlay, but would benefit.

        The additional bugaboo is that most travel is designed around the car. Suburbs are planted in the middle of nowhere with grocery and retail "a short drive away", but a long and dangerous walk or bike. Similarly, jobs are also being located without other amenities, but simply "cheap land" and "near a highway". It's like building a Sim City with Residential units in one corner and Commercial in the opposite, then connecting them with roads only. People then have a vested interest in their cars (fueled by commercials of people driving badly on empty roads and also low gas prices) and will fight most attempts at rail that don't connect them to their "current" job's doorstep.
  • How come there aren't any of these in the U.S? I would have thought that U.S being ahead in technology (or atleast money), they would have one of these running somewhere by now. Also,are there any health related problems when riding so fast and so close to electricity and magnetism for extended periods of time?
    • Also,are there any health related problems when riding so fast and so close to electricity and magnetism for extended periods of time?

      No - where did you get this silly idea? Consider - 'so close' being about 6-7 feet above the rails (and your heart and head being even higher than that), and 'extended periods' being anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour? That's nothing.

      The real dangers for being close to an energy source come from really high frequency stuff - radio (and not AM even, mind you - FM, VHF, UHF, Microwave, etc.) Those will cook you, and the higher frequency stuff is going to do it faster.

      I'm a broadcast engineer, and whenever we have someone climbing our tower to work, we have to lower power on our FM as they pass that region, by FCC reg... but even then, some tower guys are willing to and have been known to work on towers without lowering power. They figure they aren't up there long enough to cause damage.
      Note, this doesn't include AM, which they will happily climb live... as long as they can get onto them without first forming a circuit to ground (zzzzzzzzot), nor does it include microwave - get your head in front of a transmit dish, and turn your eyeballs into scrambled eggs.

      But low frequency AC and magnetism? Nothing.

      -T

    • First, there has been a trend against rail travel as car culture has risen in most US cities. In China car ownership is very low. In Europe, the cities don't have the roads and parking to handle heavy traffic like most US cities (you can look at this as an advantage or a disadvantage).

      Also, the geography of the US does not favor trains. The map is heavily populated on the coasts with little population in between. It is simply easier and faster to do most long distance travel in the US by air. Even in special regions like California that may lend themselves to intrastate rail travel, it is unclear if this will be cheaper than air travel. You can get some incredible bargains for LA-San Fran/San Jose flights, and rail operators of the upcoming line between those two regions will be hard pressed to beat these low fares.

    • Why no Rail USA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MacAndrew (463832) on Monday December 02, 2002 @12:19PM (#4793856) Homepage
      Health problems: No. The main RF hazard is radiation powerful and high-frequency enough to heat your tissue. The magnetic field has yet to be demonstrated harmful, though many continue to try. (I used to work with MRI, which involved a 1.5 Tesla superconducting primary magnet.)

      Why not here: Lobbyists. On one hand you have the money-losing Amtrak, on the other the money-losing but politically influential airlines. More important than airlines perhaps are those who really fear roads: the automobile industry. That industry includes not just auto mfrs, but also tire mfrs, gasoline suppliers and vendors, and so on. Rail service has a much smaller umbrella.

      America is stalled on rail because for years roads were emphasized, and subsidized. Los Angeles, where I grew up, is the classic example of car dependency and mediocre mass transit. People say that areas such as these are "not suited to mass transit" but forget that the layout of the city was determined by cars. Thus cars lead to more cars. In balncing one form of transportation against another, the hidden cost of pollution and auto fatalities and such are rarely assessed. (Yes, people die on trains, too.)

      In the Northeast Corridor, where I now live, trains should totally overcome the shuttle, which offers almost no time advantage for a downtown DC to downtown NYC traveler. The problem facing Amtrak, which is only one of many users of the lines, was to get funds to upgrade and electrify the tracks. Congress resisted, citing their operating losses and thus confusing annual deficits with capital investment. Over $2 billion was required to introduce Acela service, which still can only travel at a fraction of its normal speed over much of the route because of antiquated curves and grading.

      I don't endorse Amtrak, but see that its challenges are not fairly apprised. being subject to political control, for example, it must maintain unprofitable routes, while not being able to fully exploit the profitable ones, or develop new prospects. Even if Amtrak is successfully denounced, if anything that strengthens the case for rail by implying unexploited possibilities are there.

      I love rail service; you get a first-class (big) seat, can get up and walk around, can arrive 30 seconds before the train rolls, don't have a safety lecture about the motions to go through before you die anyway ;-), and so on. Sadly, it was 9/11 that gave trains a boost, when airports became even more aggravating. The train's time will come. ("We have the technology. We can rebuild [it]."
    • How come there aren't any of these in the U.S? I would have thought that U.S being ahead in technology (or atleast money), they would have one of these running somewhere by now.

      I wrote about this in a previous article [slashdot.org] (see the final paragraph). One of the problems (in addition to those already listed by others) is that the US Government wasn't willing to put up any research dollars to fund development of the MagLev train -- the idea for which was actually created at MIT (there's even an old videotape of the minature prototype experiment somewhere). Other governments were more than willing to fund the research even though it was going to benefit private companies. Needless to say, the combination of government money and private companies that look beyond the next fiscal reporting period to determine the allocation of their R&D budgets resulted in the US quickly being left in the dust.

      GMD

  • by Hanno (11981) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:58AM (#4793236) Homepage
    ...has been highly controversial over here. The state-funded Transrapid consortium has developed a high-trech train and then, when asking the German government for a track to deploy it live, suddenly found that actually noone in Germany cared for it.

    Germany, being a rather small country, yet with a very high density of population, has a very good and highly accepted high-speed railtrack system. (Japan and France are still far better, but still.) The Transrapid offers very little time benefit per direction, yet requires massive construction work for its tracks. Most people here say - why bother? Why do we have to pay billions of tax Euros for a 30 minute benefit?

    The Transrapid consortium has struggled during the last years to find an excuse on where to build its track in Germany and why, and so far, plans are still going back and forth.
  • by Thag (8436) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:58AM (#4793244) Homepage
    If your goal is just to reduce friction, why not simply float the train on an air cushion, like a hovercraft? It seems like it would eliminate a lot of the complexity.

    The air cushion could be fairly efficient compared to military hovercraft, since the ground clearance could be an inch or so, instead of feet. Your track could be prepoured concrete instead of electromagnets.

    I'm probably missing something.

    Jon Acheson
    • You can extend that idea a bit further and do away with the cusion and make it fly by using a WIG (Wing In Ground-effect).
      • You can extend that idea a bit further and do away with the cusion and make it fly by using a WIG (Wing In Ground-effect).

        Can a WIG fly low enough to physically follow a track? I thought they flew at 15-30 feet off the surface. If you lose the ability to run along the track, and only along the track, it's really not a train any more.

        Jon Acheson
    • If your goal is just to reduce friction, why not simply float the train on an air cushion, like a hovercraft? It seems like it would eliminate a lot of the complexity.
      This was already done by the french engineer Jean Bertin. The original Paris_Lyon high-speed rail line was almost built with this system. [aernav.free.fr]
  • by h4mmer5tein (589994) on Monday December 02, 2002 @10:59AM (#4793251)
    Yes the French TGV has gone faster, but only under specific test conditions after over 2000 hours of work on the track and engine.
    This story implies that the maglev was running at the same speeds it would operate at commercially. There's a big differance between that and the world speed record. To quote TGV themselves from their site [unipi.it]

    "Running at over 500 km/h (311 mph) with a specially prepared trainset on brand new track is an accomplishment, but one should not expect such speeds to be possible in commercial service anytime soon."

    If the maglev speeds are reproducable in a production - ie passenger carrying - environment then this is a major achievement and certainly seems to be what they are aiming for.

  • Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vlad_petric (94134) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:00AM (#4793260) Homepage
    This is precisely what a country with a GNIPC (gross national income per capita) of ~750$ (see WorldBank) needs these days.
    • Re:Money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ektanoor (9949) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:21AM (#4793408) Journal
      Well you could say that about the US building the A-Bomb right after Depression and during the hard years of WWII...

      Or about Soviet Union building up satellites and sending the first man to Space...

      Besides, the train AFAIK is built in one of the richest parts of China. And China is quite big and possesses a huge contrast in cultures, economies and resources. So I don't see a reason why they wouldn't loose some money to build a Maglev.

      If you consider that they should "feed the poor and then think about progress", I sincerly consider it populist demagogy. No country has ever solved this question by putting its feet into the swamp of development. On the contrary, most socialist countries who tried to follow such path went nearly bankrupt. The only way to give people a better living is to push every possible path of development forward. Wealth does not rise from "more equal distributions among the people" but from the development of infrastructures with far-reaching effects among the population. And Maglev is one such infrastructure. This system allows common citizens to have a better and speedier means of transportation. This system demands better enginners and technicians. This system is a challenge for lots of classical means of transportation. This system is a path to new scientific and technological researches. And more, this system allows people the use of faster travel, which may be much more economical than other means with the same speeds and approximatelly the same service.

      So this might be one of the things that may rise their GNIPC a few dollars more.
    • Oil == Crack (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 4of12 (97621) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:48AM (#4793606) Homepage Journal

      An advanced rail system like this might be slightly ahead of its time for China if the marketplace alone were determining when some company would build it.

      It's kind of sad, though, that here in the United States we probably won't see anything like this for many more years.

      It's strange, though. The Peoples Republic of China is a mixture of a market-driven and command-driven economies.

      Likewise in the United States, where heavy government subsidies in the 1950's built up the interstate highway system.

      Now, of course, the automobile dominates passenger traffic and the trucking industry dominates freight and our potentially efficient rail infrastructure is a government-subsidized crumbling ruin that neither the auto, trucking or oil industry is interested in seeing re-emerge.

      But railroads will re-emerge as the most efficient means of transportation for people and freight. Computer controls for regulating rail traffic will succeed sooner than they will for automobile and truck traffic.

      All it will take for the re-emergence of rail in the United States is some painful increases in the price of oil. Then we can go to Europe, Japan and now China to learn the technology that we've been neglecting.

  • At least... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Niles_Stonne (105949) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:06AM (#4793295) Homepage
    At least it wasn't:

    404: Maglev not found

  • by Mark_in_Brazil (537925) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:08AM (#4793304)
    Sorry about previous post. Hit "return" when reaching for "shift."

    I myself have discovered (by living in São Paulo and having a girlfriend in Rio de Janeiro) that traveling by bus is already better for me than traveling by plane.
    First, it's much more comfortable. The buses have seats that are much bigger and much farther apart (front-to-back) than airplanes. I am not a big person (173 cm and about 65kg, or about 5'8" and around 145 lbs) and I feel cramped in commercial airliners. Imagine tall and/or heavy people!
    Besides that, on a bus, the seats really recline (not the almost imperceptible 5 "recline" of an airplane seat), making it possible to sleep, which I now cannot do on airplanes (I used to be able to, but they are forever cramming more and more seats in, and thus limiting more and more the space each passenger has, and they have now surpassed my comfort limit). Additionally, there is no limitation on when you can recline the seat (there is no takeoff and landing) or on what kind of electronic devices you can use (it's nice to be able to use my cell phone to make or receive calls while en route) or when you can use them (again, no takeoff and landing).
    Also, you don't have to pass through really invasive security procedures to get on a bus. I also discovered something surprising: even though the bus travels much slower than a plane, I don't lose much time taking a bus. In fact, it's much better. Let me explain.
    If I take a plane, I have to get to the airport first. And I have to be there at least an hour before the flight (it would be 2 hours if I were in the US, but I am fortunate to live in a free country... if anyone thinks this is a troll, I'll be happy to discuss it with you. But basically, I enjoy many freedoms I couldn't dream of having in the US). After standing in a line to check in, I have to answer stupid questions, show ID, and check my luggage. Then I have some time to kill before the plane leaves. I usually get some kind of soft drink in the departure lounge (waiting area). Oh yeh... I have to show ID and my ticket to get in there. With all the noise and hurrying people around, it is all but impossible to make any kind of use of this waiting time by, say, reading. Then they call us to board. I then have to get in another line, present my ticket, and go to the plane. I then find my seat and sit down. I can try to read during this time, but again, there are people all around making a lot of noise and hurrying and arranging their stuff. Then the plane takes off. I can now try to read, but within a few minutes, the flight attendants come around with drinks. In the case of the São Paulo to Rio flight, the whole flight lasts only about 40-60 minutes (depending on direction, weather conditions, and air traffic at the destination). In the case of longer flights, the attendants come around several times to offer drinks and/or food.
    After the plane lands, it taxis to the gate. This can add another 5-15 minutes, depending on traffic. Then we are released into the terminal, which usually involves another wait while people block the corridor to take down the 74 bags they just couldn't check and had to bring on board. The one time I saw a flight attendant enforce the limit on the number of bags a couple could carry on, I literally applauded, and did I ever get dirty looks from the couple.
    Next we all go to baggage claim, which can take anywhere from seconds to forever. After that, either I meet my ride or go to car rental to get a car.
    In the end, I don't really save any time taking a plane instead of a bus, even though the flight part of the journey by plane takes 40-60 minutes and a bus trip takes 5-6 hours. Taking the bus has the added advantage that I can arrive at the bus station without a reservation, buy a ticket for the next bus, go down and wait a few minutes (not 45 like in the airport, plus buses are rarely late, while airplanes always seem to be) before getting on the bus. I can than either sleep (not possible in the airplane due to comfort and time constraints) or actually do some work or just relaxing reading. If I had a laptop, I could do work too. Also, buses have much more flexible hours. In the Rio-São Paulo example, the last plane (and you've gotta reserve that several days in advance) leaves around 10:00 PM. There are buses leaving with relatively high frequency until about 1:30 AM, and there are others that leave at even later hours, though not as frequently.
    Now imagine a train, which can offer all the advantages of buses, plus it doesn't get affected by traffic and can travel at 400 kph (about 250 mph). Add in that it can be much more energy-efficient than a plane, has an even lower risk of accidents, and (Steven Seagal movies aside) an even lower risk of hijacking than a bus, since it has very limited possibilities in terms of alternate routes (i.e., it can only go where there are tracks) and basically cannot be used as a weapon (except possibly against a vehicle on a road at a train crossing or another train). Basically, there's no comparison. A maglev train would blow away an airplane for everything except trans-oceanic travel. And best of all, it would probably be much cheaper than an airplane flight. I started taking buses because my girlfriend and I couldn't really afford to be flying back and forth every weekend, and the bus is a much, much cheaper option. I expect a maglev train ticket would be more expensive than a bus ticket, but less expensive than a plane ticket. I traveled extensively in Europe by train, and the prices were quite reasonable, even for the TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse (or sumfin' like that), which just means "high-speed train" in French) between some Swiss city (Geneva?) and Paris. And if you think about it from a business point of view, the marginal cost of adding space for more passengers (by adding more cars, not by cramming the passengers in like sardines like the frickin' airlines insist on doing) is very low. So if there is less demand, you send less cars. If there is more, you add some. So the "full flight" problem is reduced without large additional costs... wow.
    If I were a stockholder in a major airline, I would be even more worried now than before thinking about high-speed maglev trains... as a consumer of mass transport, I am definitely more happy than before thinking about these things because of the /. article.
  • by decarelbitter (559973) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:15AM (#4793351)
    The test site (which can be seen on the Transrapid [transrapid.de] site is quite close to the Dutch borders. As my dad works as a journalist in that area, he had to do a story on it once. Which included a few rounds in the train on the 8-shaped test track in Lathen, Germany. Due to some luck I normally never encounter I had the oppurtunity to go with him and thus also do a few rounds on the track. And I must say, it is nothing less than impressive. We didn't go faster than about 340 km/h, but doing that a few meters above the ground in a very silent train was an unforgetable experience. For short-long-distance (100-500 km.) this is an ideal solution. Clean, fast and just ultra-slick. I hope this system will now finally get some more attention, because it deserves it and is a very good replacement for short-distance flying and long-distance car driving. Hurray for Transrapid!
  • by r_j_prahad (309298) <r_j_prahad@hot[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:22AM (#4793423)
    In the post-9/11 world, any country considering any kind of mass transport must ask what kind of target opportunity it represents? I think, unfortunately, that this will be much easier to attack than an airplane at 35,000 feet. Every foot of rail will have to be alarmed, patrolled, and inspected. With more passenger capacity than an Airbus A380, how long will the security checkpoints take? A full day?

    While it may now be technologically practical, it remains impractical for political reasons.
    • this will be much easier to attack than an airplane at 35,000 feet

      But a little more difficult to fly into towers

    • Well if you are going to take every target opportunity modern means of transportation represent, then I would highly recomend to go build a castle and get everything back to the middle ages.

      Frankly, I don't know where you are from. But I think that the middle of the XIXth century had lots of these examples all around the world:

      Wide-road bandits in post-Napoleon Europe - they were so terribly popular that there are several folk stories about these people. Some of them were no less monstruous and blood thirsty than some modern terrorists.

      North American Wild-West - Well, we all heard about this...

      Pirates sacking ships crews and passengers in Indian and Pacific Ocean.

      Armed groups in Afghanistan, India, North Africa - Several novels and historical records, remind us how dangerous was travelling through the parts of the world.

      Latin-America and its colonial/civil wars - While the Banana Republic is more a thing of the XXth century, its main travelcard, the lawless of officers and locals, was a product of long years of political chaos and colonial dumbness.

      Now pick up these facts and tell me how many people died during these times? Thousands and thousands. Well, in Europe we could reduce it to a few hundreds but in North Africa we are forced to rise things up to the thousands. British "tried" a solution for Afghanistan but the result was tens of thousands deads for both sides and a complete chaos in the region that we can see even now... In the US we had even some nations that were wiped out from the face of the Earth...

      So, is travelling more risky than those days?
  • Maglev is just plain stupid. Given that conventional rail can do well over 500 km/h (new French fast trains are ROUTINELY tested at over 400 km/h - most of the journalists invited for the ride don't bother to show up anymore), there is no compelling reason to build a maglev.

    What would you trust more, a well developped and well researched almost 200 year old technology (the first steam train ran in 1804 [schoolnet.co.uk]), or a new, extremely complex technology that has yet to carry it's first passenger???

    • that would be the old "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" or "why change something that works?" argument.

      It's called progress ...
    • You really need to learn more about the MagLev train and what advantages it would offer over "200 year old technology" before you post (and someone mods you as Insightful???). Here's a very brief primer on MagLev [mit.edu] that will hopefully help you realize the importance of MagLev. You should do a google search and find out more.

      What would you trust more, a well developped and well researched almost 200 year old technology (the first steam train ran in 1804 [schoolnet.co.uk]), or a new, extremely complex technology that has yet to carry it's first passenger???

      Who the hell modded this as Insightful? Sheesh!

      GMD

  • Worthwhile (Score:2, Insightful)

    by magarity (164372)
    I'm glad the Chinese are working on this valuable project instead of frittering away funds on something frivolous. This and their moon shot, which is an even better use of that country's current resources.
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Monday December 02, 2002 @11:30AM (#4793502)
    The Transrapid was ready to market in 1980. Nine-teen-eighty, I say. Endless debates and 22 years later it finally gets implemented. Of course not in germany. At least this time it's the chinese and not the americans that get it on with german tech. :-)
    That been said, it shure is an engineers wet dream and a beaty in means of transportation. I'd love to see this baby ready for use throughout central europe. Cars are outdated. Germans, for instance, spend 4.5 billion man-hours in traffic-jams per year! It's really time we got puplic transport to be the way to travel.
  • As everyone starts worrying about portable surface-to-air (MANPAD) terrorist attacks, here we have another transportation system that is *much* easier to sabotage. It doesn't take a sophisticated weapon system here to cause a tragedy, just a well placed obstacle or a small amount of explosive.

    The Chinese may be able to afford a guard every 3 eters of track (although making the guard unbribable is a problem), but much of the rest of the world cannot.
  • by toybuilder (161045) on Monday December 02, 2002 @12:58PM (#4794167)
    I rode a Japanese maglev demo track in Japan, around 1985. The system worked very well, and I've been a believer ever since. It glides with an unspeakable smoothness. If you didn't look out the window, you wouldn't even know that you're in motion. (Well, except during speed changes -- during departure "takeoff", you're pinned to your seat like a jetline taking off, but without the jet's vibrations.)

    To declare the maglev dead on the basis of the costs and untested-ness of the first designs is ridiculous. The first commercial jet airplanes were expensive and guzzled fuel -- and the industrial infrastructure wasn't yet there. Many years later, with successive refinements in technology, and gearing up of supporting industries, modern jetliners have pushed down the costs of travel and transport to incredible new lows.

    When the Havilland Comet and the Boeing 707's first came they were immediately popular, but had their share of detractors. It took successive generations of planes, notably the popular 727's and the 747's to really show off the potential of jetliners.

    And then there's the fleets of 737's that let's us now freely move about the country on low-cost airlines.

    Granted, train tracks are fixed and can not be "rerouted" to quickly adapt to changing markets. But where there are markets with enough current air/car traffic (Eastern sea-corridor being the obvious one; So/No. California and Las Vegas being a likely candidate), the maglev is a potential optimization.

    I for one would love to use the Maglev to go from L.A. to S.F. Trains are likely to have higher up-time and lowered cycle time compared to airplanes, and would more likely have last-minute "walk on" convenience (even in today's security-minded environment).

    Let's just be glad the Chinese are willing to take the first-mover disadvantages on new technology problems and costs (they clearly want the first mover advantage on prestige and willing to pay for that). From their experience, only improved systems can result!

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