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Maglev trains herald a new future for China's transport sector

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-09-20 09:24

China's first self-developed 160 kilometer-an-hour magnetic levitation train, made by CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co Ltd, undergoes a test in Hunan province.[Photo by Liang Chao/For China Daily]

CHANGSHA - Technicians are busy examining a new magnetic levitation (maglev) train prototype in a factory in Zhuzhou, in Central China's Hunan province.

Zhuzhou, a city known as a forerunner of China's rail transit manufacturing industry, is fostering innovation and the production of maglev trains.

"We have been pursuing independent research of maglev technology and manufacturing maglev trains with our own intellectual property rights," said Zhou Qinghe, president of CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co Ltd (ZLCL), a rail transit equipment maker and a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp (CRRC).

Shanghai saw China's first commercial maglev system, a 30-km line between the downtown area and the city's Pudong airport. It was put into operation in 2003. The system was based on German maglev technology.

Fully supported by its own technology, China's first medium-and-low speed maglev line with a design speed of 100 kilometers per hour began operation in May 2016 in Changsha, Hunan province.

At the end of August, the Changsha maglev line had an operational mileage of 3.07 million kms and has transported more than 10 million passengers.

Tong Laisheng, head of the maglev research institute of CRRC ZLCL, said that it has been aiming for new breakthroughs and to develop more advanced versions of commercial maglev trains.

The 2.0 version of the maglev, with a design speed of 160 kph, is being tested and an advanced driverless maglev train with a top speed of 200 kph is being developed, Tong said.

"The driverless version can climb to the height of a four-storey building in 100 meters, just like a roller coaster. It will be equipped with a communication-based train control system that combines big-data analysis, realizing real-time diagnosis of trains, maglev tracks and a power supply," Tong said.

Liu Youmei, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said China has mastered the core technology for commercial maglev trains and established a system with intellectual property rights, ranging from research, manufacturing, test verification to commercial operation.

China has seen the rapid development of rail transit in recent years.

Statistics from the China Association of Metros showed that a total of 37 cities on the Chinese mainland had rail transit systems in operation as of June 30, with a total length of 6,126 kms.

Some Chinese cities such as Qingyuan in Guangdong province have started maglev line projects, and more cities such as Chengdu in Sichuan province and Jinan in Shandong province are adding maglev lines into their transportation planning to connect city clusters and boost regional integration.

Zhou said the fast development of maglev trains is expected to foster a strong industrial chain.

"More than 90 percent of the 10,000 types of components used in the medium-and-low maglev trains are now purchased in China, which will bring new opportunities for many relevant industries including machinery, electronics and new materials," Zhou said.

Apart from commercial operation of medium-and-low speed maglev lines, China is fostering research on variants of maglev trains. A prototype of a high-speed maglev train with a design speed of 600 kph was unveiled in Qingdao, Shandong province, in May. The engineering prototype is scheduled for 2020 and is expected to finish integrated verification in 2021.

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