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China Abandons Long-Distance Maglev Effort

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the they-blinked dept.

Technology 291

Ralph Lee writes "China has chosen to abandon its Maglev train effort from Beijing-Shanghai, according to this AP story: 'Besides cost, "the maglev technique was excluded because it does not match the wheel-track technique used by railways in China," the report said, citing Wang Derong, vice-chairman of the China Transport Association.... The scrapping of the 9-year-old maglev project - two weeks after the country's first maglev, a short stretch in Shanghai, began regular operation - represents a setback for the development of the technology in China, which many had seen as one of its key markets.'" The short 18-mile MagLev run mentioned earlier remains in operation, but China is not going to use magnetic levitation for the planned 750-mile Beijing-Shanghai link.

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291 comments

Save the Goatse ! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012744)

Plase, sign this [petitiononline.com] !!!

Re:Save the Goatse ! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012757)

Does this petition affect the usage of ASCII goatse guy? He's been a sight for sore eyes for much too long...

"Shaking like France" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012966)

Serious question for our Canuck millstones to the north: are the Quebecois worthless quaking pussies like their "brethren" in France? Gawd, I hope not.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012746)

NUNSHITTERS!

Leave it to China to come up with a silly reason (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012749)

"the maglev technique was excluded because it does not match the wheel-track technique used by railways in China,"

I guess there was another problem... it involved *PROGRESS* which they seem to admit is difficult for them to deal with...

Re:Leave it to China to come up with a silly reaso (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012754)

Especially if your vision of progress involve mass-bombing civilians because they're not fat, filthy Amerikkkan consumers...

Re:Leave it to China to come up with a silly reaso (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012764)

What's with the They and Them's?

I don't see many Maglev tracks outside my window here in Seattle either (although WE will soon have a Monorail, which is way cooler).

It's Distance (5, Interesting)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012836)

it involved *PROGRESS* which they seem to admit is difficult for them to deal with...

This is a country that whose output has grown at least 7%/year for the past 10 years, a country experiencing massive internal migration and social change. Uh yeah, a country really opposed to progress.

If you don't know, Beijing and Shanghai are not that close (around 1000km) which makes it an ideal short haul air route. Less urgent freight/journeys can go via the existing (or upgraded) rail intrastructure, high speed journeys can be made now by air. The maglev would be great if it were a cheap tried and tested technology, but it is not, and there are alternatives.

How about some 1st world countries try it out, not waiting to live off the backs of 3rd world countries trying something new? I'd like to see this sort of thing between the ~400km route of NY and DC, for example... a much more suitable distance, centre of town to centre of town.

Inevitable? (3, Insightful)

Neppy (673459) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012751)

Normal trains can now be gotten to rather extreme speeds and still be safe. Is there any real point to maglev trains anymore other than "cool its floating"? Other than neatness why are people even persuing this technology? maglev seems to be all but dead in the United States - Is this just an extension where other countries are abandoning an aparently pointless technology?

Re:Inevitable? (2, Interesting)

mirko (198274) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012761)

. Is there any real point to maglev trains anymore other than "cool its floating"?

the noise, for one.
physical wear...
want another ?

Re:Inevitable? (5, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012775)

maglev is cheaper to run and maintain in the long run, but given that rail technology (existing rail technology) is cheap, prevalent, easy on industry, and doesn't require as much beaureaucratic rubbish and nonsense as maglev does (welcome to a world where 'intellectual property' is serious business...), then it stands to reason that the chinese gov't is simply taking the 'cheapest right here right now' option.

the big draw to existing rail systems is that they are -standardized- ... and not just the 'so-easy-grandma-can-use-it' kind of standard, but industrially standardized... i.e. thousands of contractors can make rail, and thousands of contractors can make the foundries to make the rail, etc.

due to patents, maglev is a minefield of dangers in the licensing/sub-licensing realm. either invest in -tons- of research to find work-arounds to other teams' intellectual property, or put all that money back in the tried and true: rail.

Re:Inevitable? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012858)

The thing is - it's in China. Do you think the maglev IP is actually patented in China? Probably not.

Re:Inevitable? (5, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012924)

Ummm... any large-scale engineering effort of these sorts of things are usually a -very- international effort.

This does matter, to China, and any other government with strong business to maintain, on an International level.

Flippantly assuming that just because the Chinese are the 'Bad Guys' they'll ignore all business regulation, well ... thats just a tad ignorant my friend, and extremely blissless.

Re:Inevitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012876)

China? Respecting IP? You're a funny person.

Re:Inevitable? (3, Insightful)

GMontag (42283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012899)

If it were truly cheaper to maintain in the long run it would be in much wider use, ESPECIALLY in command economies like China. Welcome to the world of Economics.

Also, word to the fellow bringing up friction as a reason for maglev, welcome to the world of grease.

The giant advantage that wheeled trains have over maglev trains is that none of their energy is used to keep them standing.

Another overlooked item is that a diesel-electric wheeled train loses much electricity in transmission than a maglev train.

Re:Inevitable? (5, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012936)

If it were truly cheaper to maintain in the long run it would be in much wider use, ESPECIALLY in command economies like China. Welcome to the world of Economics.

Uh, whatever. Just because the current administration has budgets and targets to meet, does not mean that they're going to be ambivalent when choosing the 'best option'.

Maglev is unproven on grand-order scales. Rail is seriously proven technology, and more to the point: standard. If the Chinese gov't want to outsource the mfr/design/engineering of super-fast rail-based carriage systems, they can: because these systems exist in an International market, and will be developed. As has already been noted, existing rail systems can be developed to support high-speed/efficiency carriage platforms.

Were there actually maglev implementations committed and standardized in such areas as Europe, the US, perhaps even Australia, then China may have invested a little more in the long-run into grand-order scale (i.e. not just going from here across town) engineering required to do maglev across their vast distances.

They had the potential to do maglev, and do it well, but they also had the potential to end up with a lame duck system which nobody else was using, and therefore which became expensive in the reality of the New World Economy.

Welcome to that, by the way...

Re:Inevitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8013020)

So much for that "maglev is cheaper to run and maintain in the long run" nonsense.

Re:Inevitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012925)

Thanx for demonstrating that not everyone on /. is an opinionated fool.

I'd like to add that 'intellectual property' holding back progress is one of the big proofs that capitalism has long out-lived the usefulness it once had (i.e.: overcoming feudal backwardness).

It's time for socialism. WAY past time, actually.

Re:Inevitable? (4, Informative)

jabberjaw (683624) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012778)

If I recall correctly, maglev trains are extremely difficult to derail due to the high walls surrounding them. They can also go really, really fast, as in some have proposed 650 km/h fast (This is just a number I recall hearing, if anyone has any more info. please post). In addition to this they could revolutionize travel due to the fact that, let's face it, airports suck. If I could show up at a train-station spend a few minutes there and then be on my way to where-ever, I think that would be wonderful.

Re:Inevitable? (4, Insightful)

Ancil (622971) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012941)

Why would train stations "suck" any less than airports, anyway?

We're not talking about the subway station on the corner. Maglevs would only be used for very long-haul routes, meaning you would be going to a central train station serving an entire metropolitan area. There would be a lot of people and luggage there, trying to get processed. And given the extreme speed, you would have to search everyone for bombs, weapons, etc. Sound familiar?

Re:Inevitable? (1)

dot-magnon (730521) | more than 10 years ago | (#8013013)

They're not running only on top of the rails, but there are (like on rollercoasters) things on the sides as well :)

Re:Inevitable? (1)

dot-magnon (730521) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012791)

Well, Maglev trains are potentially reaching the speed of an airplane. I'll take that as progress. And, it's quiet, and doesn't shake. Ever tried ordering coffee from a train kiosk? Yes, you get a full cup.

Re:Inevitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012927)

Nothing as fast a plane will be quiet.

Re:Inevitable? (5, Interesting)

Fafnir_b (558392) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012990)

And, it's quiet, and doesn't shake. Ever tried ordering coffee from a train kiosk?

Actually, modern trains do offer very comfortable travelling. All you need is modern, well laied rails and good trains. The ICE 3 (the latest German high speed trains) have all axes of all carts powered. Thus you get very smooth acceleration. In a train station, you don't notice the train setting off.

As for standards and international compatibility, there are a few drawbacks in today's railway system, at least in Europe: As far as I know, the width of the rails is standardized by now, but it hasn't always been that way. In most European countries, the US, Canada, China and most of Australia the width is the British standard of 1435mm. But countries such as Spain, Portugal, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, SA, Japan (apart from their high speed train), Malaisia, Pakistan have different rail systems.

Most, if not all, far distance tracks are electrically powered, but different countries use different systems, mainly 15kV 16 2/3 Hz AC (eg Germany) and 25kV 50Hz AC (eg France). That makes cross border train operation difficult, but there are trains that can operate on both systems, such as the French Thalys, a TGV that commutes between Paris and Cologne.

If you are interested, you might look here [bueker.net]

Re:Inevitable? (-1, Offtopic)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012814)

Maglev seems to be all but dead in the United States - Is this just an extension where other countries are abandoning an aparently pointless technology?

Abandoning apparently pointless technologies? Like the US DoD's "Star Wars" programme?

What use is spending tens if not hundreds of billions researching pie-in-the-sky orbital missile defences in an era where the greatest threats come from "rogue" states that don't possess the capability to strike at the continental US?

Who is the Star Wars programme going to defend against? Russia, which is now an ally? China, which exports more goods to the US than anywhere else?

The only purpose the Star Wars research serves is providing jobs to defence contractors. If it's fruitless then it's wasted money. If it's fruitful then its a white elephant. So why carry on funding it?

Wouldn't that money be better spent elsewhere? Like, say, airport security in Washington DC to stop people carrying live ammunition onto intercontinental flights [bbc.co.uk] ?

Re:Inevitable? (1)

lewp (95638) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012889)

The only purpose the Star Wars research serves is providing jobs to defence contractors. If it's fruitless then it's wasted money. If it's fruitful then its a white elephant. So why carry on funding it?

Because I want my own R2-D2, beotch.

China is big on scientific discoveries (0, Troll)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012752)

"the maglev technique was excluded because it does not match the wheel-track technique used by railways in China,"

NEWSFLASH: Chinese researchers have discovered magnetic trains could not use a standard rail track.

Re:China is big on scientific discoveries (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012799)

2010: China Abandons Red Flag Linux Effort

"The Linux operating system was excluded because it did not match the Windows Update patches used by computers in China"

Re:China is big on scientific discoveries (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012828)

Well, I seem to recall some (somewhat successful) attempts to run maglev trains on (slightly modified) current rail infrastructure, but that was years ago and I can't say much more. I think it included laying some sort of third rail in the middle of the track and that was quite a huge safety problem.

Price per _half_ mile? (4, Interesting)

achurch (201270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012756)

From the article: "The maglev cost can be as high as $36 million to $48 million per half mile, twice that of wheel-track lines, the China Daily said."

Why in the world are they quoting price per half mile? Or is it really "price per kilometer" and they think the American public is too stupid to understand what a kilometer is?

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012768)

they think the American public is too stupid to understand what a kilometer is?

The metric system is the tool of the devil!

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012770)

If you're american, you just proved them right. There is 1.6 kilometers in a mile, not 2.

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012772)

Why in the world are they quoting price per half mile? Or is it really "price per kilometer" and they think the American public is too stupid to understand what a kilometer is?

A half mile is 800m, or 0.8Km.

Ooops, should've used the preview button. Insert foot in mouth now ...

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (0)

achurch (201270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012777)

A half mile is 800m, or 0.8Km.

I'm well aware of that. Perhaps you've heard of this thing called "rounding"? (If they're going to use miles, they're not going to say "price per 0.6215 miles" because that will make people go "huh?" even more than kilometers would.)

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (1, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012793)

Perhaps you've heard of this thing called "rounding"

The school teacher taught me about rounding, yes. She also warned the class to use rounding sensibly, that is, you can round somebody's weight to the next kilo up or down because more precision doesn't mean anything, whereas you don't want to round the exposure time of a film camera to the next second up, for example.

In your case, your mile-to-kilometer rounding just cost China $9.6M ...

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (1)

JohnDoe.Slashed (717301) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012803)

In your case, your mile-to-kilometer rounding just cost China $9.6M ...
Just divide that to 1,000,000,000 (rounded) and you'll see that ain't such a big deal...

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (0)

achurch (201270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012842)

In your case, [the AP's] mile-to-kilometer rounding just cost China $9.6M ...

Thank you for making my point for me. (No, I don't know for certain that that's what the AP was doing, but I'm unable to come up with any other explanation for using half-miles instead of miles.)

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (1, Interesting)

JohnDoe.Slashed (717301) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012781)


Why in the world are they quoting price per half mile? Or is it really "price per kilometer" and they think the American public is too stupid to understand what a kilometer is?


Look at the bright side: they still have a 36 _half_ miles operational maglev railway.

It's just like AMD with processor rating. They are using the equivalent standard rails to rate their maglev rails...

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012955)

Why in the world are they quoting price per half mile? Or is it really "price per kilometer" and they think the American public is too stupid to understand what a kilometer is?

Starting with 'michael' right off the top here, most north americans are pretty insular and parochial -- and it sure shows with their attitude to everything metric.

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (5, Funny)

JohnDoe.Slashed (717301) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012831)

Why in the world are they quoting price per half mile? Or is it really "price per kilometer" and they think the American public is too stupid to understand what a kilometer is?
Funny that a lot of mail I receive from that part of the world doesn't measure my penis estimated growth in 1/2 inches...

Re:Price per _half_ mile? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8013018)

Why in the world are they quoting price per half mile? Or is it really "price per kilometer" and they think the American public is too stupid to understand what a kilometer is?

In fact, why can't they use the standard "Library of Congress" unti so that everyone understands? How much does it cose for this train to operate per Library of Congress travelled?

High speed railroad still on the track (4, Insightful)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012763)

Even if the long distance Maglev is scrapped, the development of high-speed railway links is still a good thing.
Trains like the TGV or ICE have proven that it was feasible to run such a service at up to 320km/h, please passengers (most of the time), have no major impact on the environment AND be profitable.
Maybe it's still too early for the Maglev, or maybe the technology isn't that attractive for its associated costs...

I smell political shenanigans (1, Insightful)

haggar (72771) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012766)

This looks to me like a typical government-level game. Somebody, high up there in the Chinese Communist Party, had a vested interest for this project to fail. And as soon as a proof of concept was put into operation (and proved that the concept works, duh!) proceeded to axe it.

Clearly, this person (or group of people) was hoping that the attempt will miserably fail, but it didn't, leaving the only possible option of brute-force project termination.

Why yes, I was born in a communist country.

Re:I smell political shenanigans (1)

MrRTFM (740877) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012795)

There is certainly something fishy about the cancellation at this late stage in the project.

What, didnt they have tape measures to check the widths of the tracks they were going to join onto?

Or maybe it was because it floated they thought it would
'just, you know... fly over the tracks'.

Re:I smell political shenanigans (1)

RebelWithoutAClue (578771) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012800)

Very good perspective. The article even says that Premier Wen Jiabao was "involved"

I guess thats how things work anywhere, but generally with a bit more subtlety.

Which one, if I may ask ?

Re:I smell political shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012808)

Premier Wen Jiabao? The same premier that has Falun Gong followers arrested and tortured for no reason?

But we're /., we don't care if your human rights record is atrocious, as long as you use open-source and build cool choo-choo trains. That's also why we love Israel so much, despite their awful human rights record.

Re:I smell political shenanigans (2, Interesting)

jwdb (526327) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012865)

Everyone's got a bad human rights record!

To use a frequently-appearing example: "Oh, the Spanish were so evil, they killed off all the Aztec" - Well, guess who the Aztec sacrificed to their gods.

No one is free from the guilt, so don't go trying to lay a guilt trip on me, buddy. Just like every government and most societies do, we'll continue to ignore those violations while it's to our advantage.

Need I get into the US's human rights record?

Jw

Re:I smell political shenanigans (0)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012875)

And:

The US committed in Guantanamo bay and Afghanistan in the 80s, and Vietnam/Laos in the 60s/70s, which is has not stopped/appologised for, and those who committed these acts sit at the highest places in governments.

Japan committed in China and SE Asia in WWII and its brutal occupation of Korea for >100 years, none of whhich it has cppologised for.

France's record in Algeria, and Africa in general, which it has never even recognised, and the continued deep rooted rasicm in French society.

I could go on, I won't bother.

Re:I smell political shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012897)

Premier Wen Jiabao? The same premier that has Falun Gong followers arrested and tortured for no reason?

I think that was Jiang Zemin.

Re:I smell political shenanigans (4, Interesting)

Florian Weimer (88405) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012906)

This looks to me like a typical government-level game. Somebody, high up there in the Chinese Communist Party, had a vested interest for this project to fail. And as soon as a proof of concept was put into operation (and proved that the concept works, duh!) proceeded to axe it.

Similar projects have failed in other countries or have not even been begun for the sheer economic madness of it. Maybe the Chinese promised to build it to get better terms from the Germans on other projects, so it's not necessary just the pet project of some party leader. Actually, it's pretty clever. Some of German's economic and political leaders would have done almost anything to acquire a maglev contract for Siemens and it partners.

When German chancellor Gerhard Schroder visitied China last year, he and his delegation deliberately excluded topics such as human rights violations from the agenda, in order not to endanger the maglev train project. Apparently, this strategy has failed once again.

Re:I smell political shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012946)

Why yes, I was born in a communist country.

Uh, no -- you were born in a stalinist country.

Try not acting on your urge to gain cheap brownie points playing on the ignorance of north americans -- it lessens the impact of your quite possibly being right (so to speak) here.

Re:I smell political shenanigans (3, Interesting)

register_ax (695577) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012975)

Disclaimer: IANA railway engineer, I am also not one of those freaky-deeky, paranoid, everyones-out-to-get-me types [rense.com] .

I wouldn't say as strongly. The system has its faults in extremely high initial investment cost. Particularly, the infrastructure has to be built ground up based on not having tracks. At a distance of 750 miles, that is quite a large sum of faith. The 9 year project has already cost an arm and a leg. I'm not so sure I would be willing to fork over such large sums of money like that when other technologies exist that have proven themselves, are cheaper, and almost as fast (~300km/h).

A study done by a railway consultancy group in Germany has postulated through computer simulation models the efficiency of a Transrapid system is about equal if not less of a "standard" (not maglev) railway. In fact, their conjectures show two to three times more energy required [216.239.37.104] over the marketed ramblings of Transrapid. However I can't speak for the validity of this company, and this study was done more than four years ago from which there have been about 50 patents [uspto.gov] issued since the published article, and there have been 29 patents [uspto.gov] filed (but not issued), I'm guessing the situation is more like the situation featured by MegaRail Transportation Systems Inc [216.239.37.104] which is still a year and a half lagging.

I know for certain though that maglev has not become drastically cheaper in initial construction. It is only in the chance of longer term fuel and cost efficiencies it may pay off to invest in it. This is why I think 750 miles is a bit far at this point and would be much better suited for changing over the city subway system network in the richer parts.

As of this moment, in rural areas, the Chinese people live in squandor. It really is a depressing sight and the awareness of such situations will spread with the ease of transportation to such areas. When people have more and more free time to devote to issues that they may otherwise glance over in effect to pay a bill, priorities may not always be akin to someone who lives in a more relaxed state. Given a Transrapid system would cost quite a bit, one trip costing roughly 1/20th of one person's income for a month, there should be more attention focused on that of the 1 billion or so population that does not live in the top 1% of wealth for the country. It is not the United States there, and people are not often exuberantly wealthy as they may be in the good ole' west. It is usually governemnt officials yes, but they also have insight into making their lives filled with more power and that of their family and descendants. As a result, the country must prosper the same and it would not be able to do as much through this system.

Of course I am not making China out to be concerned about their people because they generally are not except in the image they may portray to their trading partners, or at least in any public news stories. Rather, the social implications are only a sidestep to other motivations which I have only briefed upon, namely control and power distributed through their descendants. It should be understood that this method values is prevalent all the way to the lower classes except of those in poverty where they are more indentured servants. The middle-class and greater business people will operate in similar fashion where the family wealth will be passed to those who will treat the family name with respect and uphold that dignity.

To summarize, even though the system may be a good idea in the long run, immediate needs are prevalent and the "poor" people need transportation which would gain higher ROIs.

In other news... (-1, Redundant)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012771)

FuelCell cars were scrapped because they don't match the 'internal combustion technique' of existing cars.

This was to be expected. (5, Interesting)

windi (231689) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012780)

Even China cannot justify the expense of a maglev train from Bejing to Shanghai.

I remember reading somewhere that they've decided to construct a regular high speed rail line instead, similar to France's TGV or Germany's ICE. Economically, it makes a lot more sense, and until the dedicated high speed line is constructed, the trains can use the current railroad infrastructure that is already in place.
Here's [railway-technology.com] a link to the proposal, which has been in planning for a while already. The Chinese have already constructed a prototype high-speed train engine based on the Swedish X2000 train.
Regular high-speed rail as opposed to a maglev line also makes expansion to other regions of the country a lot easier.

Still, a long-distance maglev line would have been really cool, and there's got to be a region where it would make economical sense as well. Maybe we'll see one in Japan first.

Re:This was to be expected. (1)

achurch (201270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012861)

Still, a long-distance maglev line would have been really cool, and there's got to be a region where it would make economical sense as well. Maybe we'll see one in Japan first.

That's debatable, seeing as the current (rail) Shinkansen is partially financed by the government as-is. (Nonetheless, as a resident of Japan I'd be delighted to see it become reality.)

Re:This was to be expected. (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012920)

Even China cannot justify the expense of a maglev train from Bejing to Shanghai.
But they can do it now because no one has done it yet. In ten years that argument may not work. If China does it now, they become the world leaders in Maglev. If they don't do it now, they keep playing catch up as they have with most other things in the past 50 years.

Re:This was to be expected. (1)

windi (231689) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012940)

But they can do it now because no one has done it yet. In ten years that argument may not work. If China does it now, they become the world leaders in Maglev. If they don't do it now, they keep playing catch up as they have with most other things in the past 50 years. But would they really be a world leader? It would be the worlds first long-distance maglev train, but the technology is German, and the trains are manufactured in Germany and shipped to China.

Big news (0, Redundant)

eille-la (600064) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012788)

"the maglev technique was excluded because it does not match the wheel-track technique used by railways in China" Seriously!?!?

ahem, they know that new tracks are expensive,too? (5, Interesting)

2.246.1010.78 (721713) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012807)

I'm from germany. I've always liked the maglev/transrapid and I really like the fast normal trains (ICE/TGV). But I hope the chinese know that in order to let these trains reach their high speeds you have to build modern tracks. If you put a fast train on a 100year old track, you will never be able to reach 300km/h. And if you intend to use the existing tracks, probably along with freight-trains and normal slow trains, you won't reach them either. In france the TGV is so fast, because it has its own sperate track system and because the french don't give a f*ck on the people living along those tracks.

Re:ahem, they know that new tracks are expensive,t (1)

MrsPReDiToR (736605) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012824)

Thats the first thing a consulting engineer would have told them. I work in the rail division of such a firm and I have to ask, If theyre engineers get paid anything like ours (35+per hour), why did it take 9 years of feasibility studies to decide the tracks didnt match when one track inspection could have told them that?

Re:ahem, they know that new tracks are expensive,t (5, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012833)

If you put a fast train on a 100year old track, you will never be able to reach 300km/h.

Yes you will, but only once. The French did speed trials in the 70s with conventional train engines and cars (well, apart the engine that had more power), to test the limits of conventional railways, and they reached about 300Km with that train, but the rail track behind the train was all bent out of shape as a result. I saw a very impressive photo of that bent track once, but I can't seem to find it anymore.

Re:ahem, they know that new tracks are expensive,t (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012970)

why would a faster train warp the rails? was this around the corner, or did this happen along the straightaways also? how did they know that they were warping the rails? can you provide some sort of links/googleable search phrases? this sounds interesting to read up on. Thanks.

Re:ahem, they know that new tracks are expensive,t (4, Informative)

Chep (25806) | more than 10 years ago | (#8013024)

Vibration.

Actually, this bent track was more in the sixties, the '70s tests were around 250-280 km/h in a very straight corridor (Mulhouse-Strasbourg), and didn't actually destroy the tracks (with the amount of traffic on that line, they'd better not to :-P) More modern pendular systems such as the ones build by the Swedish, the Italians or the Canadians, achieve 230-250 in commercial speed on reasonably modern classic tracks.

Another challenge the TGV (and ICE) solved is the power supply: conventional electric feeding systems vibrate too much at 300 km/h, and even if you managed to reach that speed despite the poor contact, you'd rip the cables away. (in fact, the TGV 001 prototype, still displayed on the A35/A36 motorway near Belfort (place of construction) and Brumath (large maintenance facility), as well as its commercial predecessor, the Turbotrain (still in little use on Paris-Normandy and a few even more remote regional lines), used a gas turbine specificially to avoid this problem.

X-2000 or Pendolino would probably make a lot of sense given what I perceive should be the state of China's tracks and maintenance procedures.

Re:ahem, they know that new tracks are expensive (4, Informative)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012863)

When building a new TGV line, the RFF (railtrack infrastructure division of the french railroad company) not only buys the lands needed to build the high-speed line, but also proposes to buy the surrounding lands in a 200m radius.
As they don't want the construction to be delayed furthermore, the prices are usually very interesting.
However, I believe the noise of the TGV goes farther than 200m away...

Swiss Metro (5, Interesting)

dojobi (700658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012817)

It's a shame that this failed as I can see Maglev providing a cheaper, safer, more comfortable and environmentally friendly way of replacing planes for internal (country wise) travel. The Swiss seem to see the benefits of this method and take it one step further. They have the Swiss Metro project (www.swissmetro.com) coming up, and that looks very promising. Imagine a train running down a vacuumed tube (so no air resistance to slow the train down and you've got no wheels with friction) and you only have to use energy to get up to the speed you want plus of course the energy to keep the train afloat. It cruises the rest of the way like you're in space at 100s of km/h - maybe even 1000s. Check the link out - it's a good read.

Re:Swiss Metro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012843)

Larry Niven explored the "train in a vacuum" concept in A World out of Time. He also explored what happens when it leaks.

Re:Swiss Metro (1)

dojobi (700658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012852)

Did you read the link? They discuss what happens if that happens.

I'll copy it here for you:

In addition, in the event of a serious accident, emergency repressurisation of the tunnel will be activated: this will allow, as in civil aviation practice, a viable pressure of approximately 0.6 atm to be reached in 2.5 minutes, corresponding to atmospheric pressure at an altitude of 5,000 m. Passengers will then be able to breathe adequately in both the vehicle and tunnel. Subsequently, for comfort reasons, restoration of pressure will be continued up to approximately one atmosphere.

Re:Swiss Metro (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012926)

But what about a major leak? What would happen when a train going at over 1000km/h meets a blast of air coming from the other direction?

Re:Swiss Metro (1)

dojobi (700658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012930)

I suppose it would hit it like a brick wall. So i guess it's not perfectly safe, but I'd rather take my chances in a vacuumed out tube mag lev train than a plane or high speed train. At least you know you won't crash into anything other than air :)

Re:Swiss Metro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012878)

I imagined trains going down vacuum tubes, then I imagined them going down transistors - smaller and faster!

Re:Swiss Metro (5, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012880)

You don't really need ultra high speed to beat the airlines. A typical airline journey involves up to two hours waiting at the departure terminal, and half an hour in the disembarkation process at the other end.

On the train? Turn up 10 minutes before it leaves to ensure you don't miss it, get on, find a seat, spend under 5 minutes disembarking at the other end. Also, train stations generally are placed more conveniently than airports which by necessity have to be out of town. It's much easier to put a railway station in the middle of a city.

A TGV-style train going 180 mph will beat an airliner door-to-door on some surprisingly long journeys. If China builds a standard high-speed conventional rail link, it'll probably be good enough.

Re:Swiss Metro (3, Insightful)

hanssprudel (323035) | more than 10 years ago | (#8013025)

To make this more concrete, consider the given 750 mile distance between Shanghai and Beijing. Between Hiroshima and Kokura in Japan, the bullet train averages 262 km/h, so with few stops along the way it isn't unplausible that a newly built line could average 220 km/h over the entire distance.

In that case, the trip by train would take about five and half hours. And that time is spent calmly on board a train, where one can read, work, make phonecalls, and possibly even use the Internet. Compare that to a 90 minute flight, plus at least two and half hours of airport travel, embarking, taxying, disembarking, security etc etc.

Except for exceptional cases, conventional high speed rail always beats flying when the distance is less than 1500 km.

Re:Swiss Metro (2, Insightful)

madpierre (690297) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012959)

> you only have to use energy to get up to the speed you want plus of course the energy to keep the train afloat.

And supply the energy to slow down and stop presumably. Er and the energy to evacuate the tunnel in the first place and to keep it evacuated.

Re:Swiss Metro (1)

dojobi (700658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012968)

Very true. Although once the tunnel is evacuated, with a proper airlock system very little energy should be required to keep it that way.

Progress that should be supported by the world? (3, Insightful)

dot-magnon (730521) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012818)

I believe that the world should not sit and watch Maglev train projects in China get scrapped. Personally, I think maglev trains could change the way we travel today. They are quiet, stable, and they run on electricity.

Of course, other things (like... trains) run on electricity, but with the potential speed of an airplane, I don't see why maglev trains shouldn't be a great victory for the environment.

This said, electricity isn't always environmentally safe. But the future holds many other ways of creating electrical energy from recyclable and healthy sources - wind, water, waves - and when they get more publicly accessibly, fuel cells (hydrogen). As of now, these cells are too expensive and pollutive to create in a large scale.

The progress that maglev trains or vacuum tunnel trains (also magnetic, I believe) create for the ways we transport ourselves today, is worth a lot, in my opinion. Therefor, my view is that the world should finance China in creating this. Not as a good deed, but as scientific collaboration in making maglev trains publicly accessible and, in the future, cheaper.

This might sound unreasonable, but what better place to start this is there than China - where they REALLY need to transport their masses quickly and reliably more than anywhere (except, possibly, India). Given time, this will gain us all.

All this is a bit unclear, but feel free to comment with your opinions.

Re:Progress that should be supported by the world? (3, Insightful)

moonbender (547943) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012982)

Well, you've said it yourself, existing trains already run on electricity. And as a poster above has pointed out, existing high speed trains are already fast enough to be more convenient than airplanes on many of the short to medium routes (which are the vast majority).

On a side note, hydrogen fuel cells are batteries, not a way to create electrical energy. You still have to refuel them, either with "mined" hydrogen, or with hydrogen created by the use of electricity. Furthermore, while there are technologies on the horizon that may help us generate electricity without polluting the environment as much as we do now, they're still just that on the horizon. Where they have been, and remained, for years now.

Re:Progress that should be supported by the world? (1)

dot-magnon (730521) | more than 10 years ago | (#8013021)

I might have been unclear, but I know that hydrogen cells are batteries. But they're not very environmentally friendly to create, and that's my point. Well, really, the point was that we might see ways of creating energy in the future that is very friendly to our planet, but, as you say, the're on the horizon.

One More eason For Abandonment (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012819)

Their spies haven't been able to steal the tech to do it correctly.

What's a "mile"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012821)

Distances are measured in kilometers. Is this "mile" thing some multiple of the size of an old dead king's foot? You guys are so funny.

Re:What's a "mile"? (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012846)

The official standard for length measurements in China is Mao's foot, which is somewhat shorter that an imperial foot.

Re:What's a "mile"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012882)

All hail Chairman Mao! He is the leader of the glorious People's Republic which will, in his glory, conquer the planet and free the workers of the world. All hail Chairman Mao!

Mao? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012883)

The official standard for length measurements in China is Mao's foot

the Chicken guy?

Re:What's a "mile"? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012961)

you're a racist

Cost per mile of track ! (3, Informative)

Beretta Vexe (535187) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012834)

Maglev isn't ready for long distance track, the cost per mile of track of the maglev is 15 million of $ the mile ! When a TGV/ICE line isn't more expecive than twice the cost of a regular line. A this time the TGV/ICE are cheaper, proven technology, safe fast enougth.

Re:Cost per mile of track ! (1)

dot-magnon (730521) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012840)

But, they're not the future! If everyone said "Heck, let's use these old things, it works", we would have no technological progress at all. They WILL be as cheap as regular tracks, when the technology is given a few years to evolve.

Besides, maglev is proven technology. There's no secret that magnetic forces make things float. The same magnetic "push-and-pull" technique is used on many things that are considered safe - for instance rollercoasters.

Given the pollution of an airplane and that maglev trains are potentially as fast, there's no excuse for not considering maglev.

Skipping steps in development (2, Funny)

Chatmag (646500) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012838)

I remember seeing an article last year regarding China's Internet connectivity. Their copper wire phone system is so fractured, that they were moving to wireless access points.

Maybe they scrapped maglev, and are working on a Star Trek styled transporter.

There is nothing to see here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012851)

There is no Maglev project. There never was any Maglev project.

damn good thing too (5, Insightful)

lingqi (577227) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012860)

Funny I am writing from Shanghai at this moment.

The airport maglev is kinda interesting in the way that nobody actually rides it.

Price conscious people takes the bus to major transportation hubs, and convenience / time consicous people takes the taxi (which is only like 15 dollars compared to 10 dollars that the maglev costs - besides the point that the other end station is nowhere near the city and you have to take a cab anyway so it's not that much faster)

so, after a buttload of money, it's not making any of it back except wow points - it might be worth it for an airport shuttle, but you'd bet money has everything to do with it.

that said, I am still taking it in a few days just for the wow factor - but after that it's all taxi since it's so cheap.

did it really take them that long to work out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8012907)

that maglev trains do not use wheels and tracks?

High Speed trains use different track (5, Informative)

thebes (663586) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012960)

I have read that a number of you are arguing that "regular" highspeed trains are better, and one of the arguments is that it can interconnect with the tracks in other country, the infrastructure is already in place, etc.

The true high speed trains (like some in france, and the new one going under the mountain chain in Europe, I don't remember what it's called) have to use specially layed track. Those sorts of high speed trains (due to the speed and the wave in the track that it generates ahead of the train) cannot handle the "flaws" used in regular track. It needs track that is bound much more securely to the ground to limit the wave generated in the rail, requires a sturdier railbed, require very strait track (only very gradual curves due to the speed) and many of them are electric requiring lines to be run anyways.

It's not as simple as everyone thinks to just slap a high speed train on regular track.

Re:High Speed trains use different track (4, Informative)

Wudbaer (48473) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012997)

Yes, but still high-speed trains can use the old tracks if there is no new high-speed enabled track around which happens in Germany all the time with the ICE. Of course then it ceases being high-speed and just becomes an ordinary train going sometimes not faster than 70 km/h. But at least it can bridge gaps in the high-speed track network in that way easily.

Re:High Speed trains use different track (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8013004)

For high speed operation, you need new lines, but high speet trains can run with only a few modifications on clasical electified tracks. Then they run at the normal maximum speed of the track.

In the Shangai - Benjing link The Chinese could build the new line strech by stetch. When a new strech of track is finished, the journey time is faster. Of coure if thenew line is evver finished, the journey time will be the lowest. If financialy somting goes wrong, trhey can just stall the construction of the streches of high speed line that are not yet finshed, or simply they don't start a new construction.

Hero projects (2, Interesting)

CdBee (742846) | more than 10 years ago | (#8012965)

The comment from the Chinese spokesman that the technoogy was not compatible with the rest of China's railways must surely have been a major consideration even before research into the project was started.

Having said that this was always going to be a vaguely improbably blue elephant. Communist countries may love their hero-projects but this kind of trend-setting is expensive and usually causes egg-on-face incidents.

Waaaa! Haaaa! Haaaa! (2, Informative)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 10 years ago | (#8013014)

The hard wake-up call of compatibility, network flexibility, infrastructure simplicity and plain economics has, yet again, taken it's toll on yet another hare-brained surface guided-transportation venture...

The French were right 30 years ago by scrapping the Aerotrain [aernav.free.fr] project (pictures [aernav.free.fr] , films [aernav.free.fr] ) in favour of the TGV [unipi.it] ...

The Simpsons episode comes to mind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8013019)

Where a crooked businessman took $1m from the
residents of Springfield for the construction
of the best maglev in America, then ran off
with the money :)
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