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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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75 Years Later
By docinct on 8/5/2010 4:51:31 PM , Rating: 2
So good to see that we are making progress in high speed rail line.
In 1934 the Burlington Pioneer Zephyr made the run from Denver to Chicago run (1,064 miles)in 13 hours (that's averaging 79 MPH); that was on only 418 gal of diesel fuel for 60+ passengers (or about $20 per passenger in today's costs). Regular runs were 90 passengers in 16 hours. Some of the later versions hit 122 MPH for short distances. The trains ran on regular track with some added work on ballast and spikes. In today's terms, the train would cost about $4 million.
By way of comparison , a single MetroNorth passenger car in CT is about $2.8 million. The Acela Express trains average about 80 MPH with peaks of 150 MPH (depends on location); they can go faster.

RE: 75 Years Later
By wookie1 on 8/6/2010 3:39:20 PM , Rating: 2
There's not much return on investment to make rail faster, when airplanes are already available. That leaves it up to the government (and our tax money), and it really isn't a big priority for enough voters to increase our debt even more just so we can get railroad speeds to approach airplane speeds. What real benefit would the "progress" provide? A big money sucking sound for generations?

RE: 75 Years Later
By docinct on 8/6/2010 5:40:14 PM , Rating: 2
737s start at $50 million, plus they need vast amounts of land for airports, infrastructure for airports, ground transportation to and from airports, fuel (1-2,000 gallons per hour), and lot's of time spent getting to and from an airport and then flying. My point was that we had a quick, economical way to use the rails for moving people long distances, and then piddled it away with a "love affair" with cars and planes. The Zephyr was 1930's technology and yet we really haven't improved on it by more than 100% in those 70 odd years.

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