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China is planning to build a 1,000 kph locomotive, which would nearly double the current record speed.  (Source: China Daily)

The new train design revives a concept bandied about since the 1960s -- a vacuum tube train. To date the concept has never been commercially implemented.  (Source: Capsule Pipelines)
Design would almost double today's record speed

We've discussed a couple of times the U.S.'s growing gap in high speed rail compared to China.  As fossil fuels become more scarce, more expensive, and more dangerous from a political standpoint, mass transit solutions look increasingly appealing.  High speed rail is particularly promising as it promises not only to reduce fossil fuel use, but also to get you to your destination faster.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) reportedly are preparing a record-shattering 1,000 kilometer per hour train, according to the 
Beijing Times.  

The new trains will make use of a vacuum tube to reduce friction losses.  They will first build a prototype vacuum magnetic suspension train capable of traveling between 500 and 600 kph.  That gives it a shot at breaking the record set by Japan's JR-Maglev train, which achieved a speed of 581 km/h (361 mph).  The record for a traditional railed train was set by France's TGV at 574.8 km/h (357.18 mph).

After the prototype, the group plans to implement a smaller train capable of speeds of as much as 1,000 kph.  Shen Zhiyun, a member of the research team, comments, "The speed can be reached by making vacuum pipelines for maglev trains to run through, with no air resistance."

Daryl Oster, who owns the U.S. patent on evacuated tube (vacuum) rail, now works at the CAE.  Along with Zhiyun and another researcher, Zhang Yaoping, he is leading efforts to deploy the technology.  The team hopes to begin laying ETT rail lines within the next ten years.

It would use less steel than current trains, but would be slightly more expensive.  China is targeting a cost of 200 million yuan ($29.54M USD) per kilometer for its traditional rail.  The Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) rail would cost approximately 210 to 220 million yuan ($31.0M USD to $32.49M USD) per kilometer.

Currently the planned trains travel at 350 kph.  A cost increase of 5 to 10 percent seems a fair tradeoff to score nearly twice the speed.  It's just one more example of how ambitious China is when it comes to high speed rail.



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May not happen
By nafhan on 8/5/2010 2:46:29 PM , Rating: 3
This article and espeically the headline make this sound like almost a sure thing. 10 years off is a long way, though.
A big problem with high speed anything is that beyond a certain speed, you start having limited ROI. Essentially, you get the Concorde problem: people aren't going to care a whole lot if they can get from Beijing to Shanghai in one hour or two. Also, to get maximum benefit from high speed rail, you need to minimize the number of stops, which also lowers the number of potential riders.
I would also think there are a lot of safety and maintenance problems unique to running a 1000 km vacuum tunnel. This has been possible for years. Cost vs. benefit is the problem.
Still, this sounds like some very cool tech, and if anyone has the population density to make something like this worth it, it would be China.




RE: May not happen
By finbarqs on 8/5/10, Rating: 0
RE: May not happen
By brokenaxiom on 8/7/2010 11:54:22 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the paradigm shifts based upon the time of transit. For example, if I lived in California, then getting a job in say San Fransisco would prevent me from living in San Diego due to transit time. If I could jump a super train and get there in 35 minutes (for relatively low cost), then I could live in San Diego without incident.

The axiom of commerce is more and faster mobility equals more commerce.


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