Chinese and German engineers are rushing to prepare the world's first commercial magnetic levitation train, capable of speeds of around 250 mph, for a debut run some time around New Year's Day.
The futuristic German-made "maglev" train has begun trial runs on its 19-mile-long track in Shanghai, Shi Qiong, a spokeswoman for the Shanghai Maglev Transportation Corp, said Tuesday.
The US$1 billion train connects the three-year-old Pudong International Airport with the city's new Pudong financial district. It would be able to cover the distance to the airport in seven minutes, compared to a half hour by taxi.
Maglev can attain speeds far faster than any conventional passenger train because it floats in the air, held inches above its rails by powerful magnets.
Shi and other officials refused to disclose details of the trial runs. But the Xinhua News Agency said the train had reached a speed of 250 mph in a test run last week, nearing its design speed of 260 mph.
By contrast, bullet trains such as France's TGV, Germany's ICE and Japan's Shinkansen top speeds of about 160 mph.
Shi said last-minute adjustments are still being made to the track, built by Chinese contractors in just a year and a half. The exact date of the unveiling will depend on the tests now underway.
"Time is not the most important thing. We have to guarantee 100 percent safety and quality," Shi said.
The trial runs are being made with three trains delivered in August from Germany, where the technology was developed.
State planners will also be watching the train in considering whether to use the new technology in larger projects, such as a planned high-speed rail link between Shanghai and Beijing.
(People's Daily December 6, 2002)