Wednesday, June 15, 2011

China Post #32 Trains

In the past 10-15 years China has invested heavily in high speed rail which is pretty cool. Many of the stations are closer in to towns and so the travel time is less as well as not needing as much time to check in and get through security. All in all, for trips up to about 1000 miles taking the train can actually be faster and certainly more comfortable as long as the train has assigned seating. The seats are bigger, recline further and you can always get up and walk around. The train we took from Xi'an to HuaShan had just opened a month or so ago and on the way out I had no concept of how fast we were moving, just that it was difficult to take pictures out the window. On the return trip I noticed the speedometer when it read 301 km/hr... about 187 mph and you could hardly tell, the ride was super smooth.

The next major line to open will be a Shanghai to Beijing train that will take 4 or 5 hours and is over 1000 km's, the flight time is about 2 hours plus the hour and a half you have to get to the airport, then collecting bags, so even if the drive time is the same you are still looking at about 4 hours for the flight.

Most of the high speed rail in China is with trains rated to 350 kph, but the typically only run at 310 kpm for passenger comfort. Then there is the Maglev from the Shanghai International airport to the edge of the city. The train runs off of magnetic levitation and while not as smooth it is freaking fast. They claim that the track is manufactured within 1mm over its entire length, but when you get jerked to the side 1mm at that kind of speed it is a bit harsh. While the track is built to within 1mm I'm willing to guess that the expansion joints that are quite regular might be off by a bit more. Anyway it was for me the high light of Shanghai and here is what it does.

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