High-speed test train capable of reaching 500km/h
An experimental train capable of travelling at 500km/h was unveiled in Qingdao at the weekend despite widespread concern over the safety of the nation's existing high-speed rail network.
Qingdao Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock, a subsidiary of train manufacturing giant China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock (CSR), revealed the six-car train on Sunday, calling it a breakthrough in the mainland's development of high-speed trains, Xinhua reported.
CSR president Zhao Xiaogang said earlier the train, with a lead car featuring an elongated, Concorde-style nose, was made for tests running at 500km/h but would not be put into commercial operation, the company's website said.
The report said the Ministry of Railways planned to take the train up to 600km/h in future tests. In April 2007, a modified French TGV high-speed train reached a record speed of 574.8km/h.
The central government lowered the maximum speed for high-speed trains on the mainland from 350km/h to 300km/h in August, after a crash between two trains killed 40 people in Wenzhou, Zhejiang .
The crash sparked public debate on the wisdom of the mainland's 'great leap forward' in high-speed rail travel.
The launch of Qingdao Sifang's experimental train would 'give our country more say in the international community in the area of high-speed railways', Xinhua said.
It was part of a national plan to study the mechanical behaviour of trains running at 500km/h, it said.
When the silver-grey train, emblazoned with the CRH (China Railway High-speed) logo, made its debut, Qingdao Sifang staff said it would be used to conduct 11 major types of experiments, with scientists studying factors that affected safety, energy use and ride comfort at extreme speeds, Xinhua reported.
Wang Mengshu, a key drafter of the nation's high-speed rail development plan, said the train had no practical application for the time being. 'There are no rail tracks that could let trains run so fast. It's not realistic in terms of air resistance either,' he said.
Even if technology did mature, it was not necessary to have such fast trains. 'When you need to take a plane, take a plane. Trains can't replace planes,' Wang said.