As a new slate of recent tests shows, hyperloops, an entirely new mode of high-speed transportation conceived by Elon Musk, are closer and closer to reality. Not to be outdone, China has unveiled its own take on superfast travel. The state-run space contractor China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) made public its plans to start research on a “high-speed flying train” that would reach top speeds of 4,000 km per hour (or 2,485 miles per hour). Yes, that’s three times the speed of sound, four times the speed of commercial flights, and 10 times the speed of the fastest current bullet train (also Chinese).
Liu Shiquan, CASIC manager, explained to the Chinese media that the concept for a train that can “fly on the ground” has a passenger pod propelled by magnetic levitation through a tube in near-vacuum. This idea is quite similar to the Hyperloop system, with its developers aiming to reach a proposed speed of 700mph, but currently getting near 200 mph.
To calm concerns that such an amazingly fast train would be unsafe, the chief engineer of CASIC, Mao Kai, said in an interview that the acceleration phase would be slower than in a plane. He also differentiated between what they are doing and the Hyperloop development in the U.S., saying CASIC is the first company in the world to focus on supersonic ground transport.
Could the Chinese company pull off this feat of engineering? The state-owned site The Paper is bullish on it:
“The corporation has built rich experience and accumulated technological know-how through major projects, and it has the capabilities in simulation, modelling and experimentation for large-scale projects, as well as the world-class design capability for supersonic aircraft, all of which lay the important ground for the super-fast train project,” writes the Paper.
CASIC’s team is getting the cooperation of 20 research institutes and help from an industry alliance that represents over 200 patented technologies. The plan is to have trains that run up to 1,000 km/h between regional cities, 2,000 km/h between megacity clusters, and 4,000 km/h lines that would connect countries in China’s “Belt and Road” initiative.
Other attractive aspects of the high-speed trains - they would not consume fossil fuels, would link seamlessly with subways and be generally uninfluenced by bad weather.