Advised that there were only certain hours of the day that the futuristic Shanghai Maglev Train operated at its fastest speed — round trip from the east side of the Pudong district to the Shanghai International Airport (9:00 – 10:45 a.m. and 3:00 to 4:45 p.m.) – we decided to venture out to the Pudong train station after a late lunch at the IFC Mall [see our previous blog post: “Pudong district, Shanghai, China”]. Our round trip to the Shanghai Airport and back was on a pretty empty train (overall ridership in the past has been estimated at only 20% “occupancy”) – visible in my photographs of sections of the train with no passengers at all. The ride is extremely comfortable with virtually no vibration, low noise, and hardly any sense of traveling at airplane speeds while hovering (levitating) above the guideway (which functions like the train track for traditional wheel-on-rail trains) that guides the direction of the train’s movement and bears the load of the train. The advertised maximum speed – achieved mid-way on each run – of 430 kilometers per hour (267.2 miles per hour) was slightly exceeded; on our trips the train maxed out at 431 kph (267.8 mph). Interestingly, there were curved sections of track that were expertly banked and hardly noticeable in terms of motion. Overall, an excellent, but short — 30.5 km (18.95 mi) – ride in each direction on an amazing piece of “technology”; it’s about a 7 minute ride in one direction.
The cost of the train is pretty reasonable by Western standards — about US$10 round trip (good for one week) in “economy”; for the locals, however, this is quite considerably higher than the ticket prices for the regular subway trains from either the central business district or the Pudong station.
If it weren’t for the high construction and operating costs, more maglev trains would be operating around the world. Note that that technology for the Shanghai Maglev Train was developed in Germany (not China); see some technical notes at the bottom of this blog post from the Shanghai Maglev Train web site. Even China decided a few years ago (after the Shanghai Maglev was in operation) to replace the originally planned maglev train to connect Shanghai to Beijing with a conventional, high-speed wheel-on-rail train.
“The Shanghai Maglev Train or Shanghai Transrapid (Chinese: 上海磁浮示范运营线) is a magnetic levitation train, or maglev line that operates in Shanghai, China. The line was the third commercially operated magnetic levitation line to open in history. It is the fastest commercial high-speed electric train in the world. The train line was designed to connect Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the outskirts of central Pudong where passengers could interchange to the Shanghai Metro to continue their trip to the city center. It cost $1.2 billion to build. The line’s balance of payments has been in huge deficit since its opening. From 2004 to 2006, Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co., Ltd, the company runs the line, had more than 1 billion RMB in losses. The line is not a part of the Shanghai Metro network, which operates its own service to Pudong Airport from central Shanghai and from Longyang Road Station.” — Wikipedia
Here are some technical and historic notes from the Shanghai Maglev Train company’s website:
“Development of German Maglev Transportation
“In 1922, Hermann Kemper put forward the principle of magnetic levitation levitation and received a patent for magnetic levitation technology-the first patent of the kind in the world in 1934.
“The Germans’ researches of maglev transportation in the real sense began in 1968. Before then, no systematic research had been carried out because the level of technical and technological conditions remained rather low which limited its development to a large extent.
“In April, 1997, Germany decided to build 292km-long Transrapid route Berlin Hamburg. It had been planned to start the construction in the second half of the year 1998 and to be put into commercial operation in 2005. TR 08 vehicle had been developed specially for use in that line. The vehicle was tested at TVE in October 1999. However, the construction plan had to be cancelled in February 2000 because new forecast indicated that the construction of the new route might encounter the risk of suffering lossesl
“Sino German Construction of Maglev line in Cooperation
“In June, 2000, the city of Shanghai and Transrapid International agreed to jointly carry out a feasibility study on high speed Transrapid demonstration line in China. In December, China decided to build a high-speed transrapid demonstration line in Shanghai from Metro Longyang Road station to Pudong International Airport. The construction began in March 2001.
“On December 31, 2002, the Shanghai Maglev Line, after more than two years of designing, construction and commissioning by the experts of China and Germany, eventually came into view in the world. The Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were among the first guests in her maiden trip. On board the world’s sole commercially-operated maglev train and looking through the windows at the road vehicles lagging far behind, they enjoyed the pleasure to them by the speed of 430km/h and nodded with smile.” – www.smtdc.com [the website of the Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co., Ltd.]