SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has brought out a state-of-the-art prototype for its high-speed train service, making it possible to travel at speeds up to 268 kph in a country renowned for its stunning landscapes but lacking reliable mass transport.
Footage of the new test train, which the railways ministry released on Sunday, showed the rail cars skidding and swaying as it made its way along an elevated section of track.
The prototype was unveiled as China prepares to ramp up high-speed rail service from Beijing to its western city of Kunming, where it will link up with four existing high-speed lines in the country’s west.
Shanghai-based Nanfang Research Institute, which led the research, said in a statement it was a “breakthrough” for the rail service industry, using magnetic levitation – a technology previously only used on passenger aircraft.
China’s rapid building of high-speed lines in recent years has underscored the country’s role as a global innovation leader, with its cargo trains achieving 99.3 percent on-time performance in the first half of 2018.
But high-speed rail service has been marred by accident and noise complaints by local communities, with 20 people killed in a crash in 2011, while those in urban areas have also been targeted.
The Ministry of Railways said in January that “intensive measures” were being taken to meet safety standards, pointing to enhancements in infra-structure, infrastructure technologies and train operations.
China’s current passenger fleet has the capacity to travel 5,850 kph but that figure is currently far exceeded by market leader Japan, which puts its top trains at 2954 kph.
China has been working to update its transportation infrastructure for decades, with an emphasis on aviation and new-energy vehicle technology, but has struggled to improve inland transport networks, even as a greater number of rural Chinese move to cities in search of jobs.