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The first maglev prototype rolled off the production lines in May. Photo: Getty Images

China set to step up testing on country’s fastest-ever maglev train with top speed of 600km/h

  • The country is planning a network of superfast trains that could slash journey times on major routes
  • Prototypes of the new trains are set for a series of tests with commercial production slated to start next year

China’s Ministry of Transport has given the green light to step up tests on its fastest-ever train with a top speed of 600km/h (373 miles per hour).

The ministry approved further tests on the magnetic levitation, or maglev, train in guidelines issued last week on plans to build a smart transport infrastructure, according to Science and Technology Daily.

“The development of high-speed maglev can help China seize the leading rail transit technology and maintain the country's advantage in the field of high-speed rail,” said Wu Donghua, deputy chief engineer from CRRC Qingdao Sifang, which built the prototypes.

“The maglev train is currently the fastest available ground public transport vehicle … the 600km/h maglev train would fill a gap between high-speed rail and aeroplanes.”

Unlike conventional trains, maglev trains hover above the track and are propelled forward by powerful electromagnets, and the lack of friction makes them capable of travelling at much higher speeds.

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Developing the maglev train was listed as one of China’s key goals in transport infrastructure building last year.

The country’s first maglev line, a German-built link between Shanghai airport and the city centre opened in 2003. China opened its first home-built line in Changsha in 2016, but none of the trains built or tested so far have been capable of reaching the new trains’ top speeds of 600km/h.

In July, China announced that it would build up to nine maglev railways covering over 1,000km.

Testing on the trains began in June. Photo: Xinhua

Once the new maglevs enter service they will take two hours off the present journey time between Beijing and Shanghai, cutting it to 3½ hours, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Other planned links include lines in the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas, and Chendgu and Chongqing, two of the biggest cities in the southwest.

Testing has already started on prototypes of the new trains after the first model rolled off CRRC’s production lines in May.

China starts trial run of first home-designed and built maglev rail line

The model was first tested in June and the ministry has approved further tests on the 600km/h train.

The train is scheduled to go into commercial production next year following extensive tests.

Besides China, Germany and Japan are also researching maglev trains and have so far managed top speeds of 550km/h and 603km/h respectively. By contrast, China’s current high-speed trains have a top speed of between 350 and 380km/h.