Shanghai Maglev Train

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Shanghai Maglev Train

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Review of "Shanghai Maglev Train"

published 19/04/2014 | BNibbles
Member since : 08/10/2000
Reviews : 611
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"Sorry but our editorial and strategic line may lead us to refuse products for which no single merchant sends us offers" . How about "We don't have a link to it, so we don't want your product suggestion?
Pro Fast, smooth, pollution-free at source, cheap for what it is.
Cons Terminus at Shanghai end not very useful
very helpful
Value for Money
Ease of getting around

"Shanghai Maglev - Train or Flying Low With The Wheels Up?"

Shanghai Maglev Train

Shanghai Maglev Train

OK, I admit it - I’m a bit of a train buff; anything from museum pieces to the latest and fastest.

On a recent holiday to China, I stayed in Shanghai for a few days, and although we were scheduled to come home from there, it wasn’t as a means of getting to the Pu Dong International Airport that I rode on the Airport ‘Maglev’ Shuttle.

I just did it for the hell of it, a brash act tempered by the fact that it only costs about 8 quid return given a 10/1 exchange rate between the Yuan and the £.

So what do you get for your £8.00?

You get to say that you’ve ridden on the world’s fastest service train. I stress the word ‘service’ because the French TGVs have been tested at higher speeds still (over 500kph IIRC!), but currently are scheduled to reach up to 320kph when carrying passengers.

The Shanghai Shuttle runs at two top speeds, one, a highly exciting 431kph (about 270mph) and one a slightly more lack-lustre 300 kph, which is the current cruising speed for lesser kit like Eurostars and first-generation French TGVs, which is what the Eurostar is based on.

I’ve yet to figure out why the two different cruising speeds are scheduled.

It could well be that at peak times, when fully loaded, exponentially-more electricity has to be used to ‘hover’ the train (it’s magnetic repulsion really), leaving less to move it forwards, or it may be just the opposite, that because it takes such a fearful amount of electricity, they like to save a bit of juice when it’s lightly loaded by running more sedately otherwise it’ll be operating at even more of a loss than normal.

You’ll note that I’m assuming an operating loss – from what I know of ‘maglev’, its set-up costs would take a century to recoup, by which time, its structure will be well within need of a rebuild!

Anyway, back to the subject Chris. The shuttle isn’t quite the panacea of rapid transit from city centre to the airport as many air travellers would wish, is it starts at what you might say was somewhere out in the (chop)sticks, at a metro station called Longyang on Line 2, the green one on the map. This line does itself also go to Pu Dong Airport, only with an extra ten stops in-between, and obviously at something rather less that 270mph! Thus, you’re faced with dragging your luggage on the Metro, which like in any other big city (and Shanghai is very big!) would be a complete pain in the rush hour, or face Shanghai’s God-awful traffic and take a taxi to the Longyiang terminus.

However, we were travelling light so didn’t have to avail ourselves of the generous luggage racks in the shuttle’s coach vestibules. From what I could see, the ‘trains’ (if you can call them that, and the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned on whether anything without wheels is a train) run as three- and five-car units, both configurations being very smoothed-sided and sporting streamlined ends. Platform edges are fenced off until the train comes to a stand, and no, you don’t have to mind the gap. The floor is flush to the platform, and the ‘gap’ can only be an inch or so. Access to platforms is via escalators. Coach interiors are generous in width, being unconstrained by anything like existing train dimensions. The aisle was wide, and blocks of three seats faced each other on either side. From what I saw, everyone sits near a window bay, although I did feel that looking out at 270mph was a little fatiguing and may account for why, as trains get progressively faster, so the constructors make the window sill height higher to stop you trying to focus on nearby ground flashing past.

The run of about 30 kms or 19 miles is achieved in less than 8 minutes, which allowing for acceleration and slowing down again, means that it doesn’t cruise for long at even 300kph and for even less time at 431kph. I took a photo of the ‘kph’ display in the train as it read 431kph, and by the time I turned my attention to my smart phone which was indicating the ‘mph’ reading it had already dropped from a peak of 270mph to 264mph.

Overall, that’s an average of about 160mph which on such a short run is highly creditable.

Was it smooth? Yes, but not silky-smooth, just adequate for the speeds achieved - I felt the same after my first hovercraft ride. How could something suspended on air be so bumpy? OK, the maglev was nowhere near a disappointment as that, but I guess over the years since it was built, minor amounts of ground subsidence have led to it not being the billiard table it used to be when installed and tested up to 500kph.


Maglev is a wheel-less means of land transportation using the familiar principle of ‘like magnetic poles repel’ for its levitation and linear induction for its propulsion. Basically, take an existing electric motor apart and ‘iron it’ so that the rotating bit in the centre is spread flat along the floor of the vehicle, and the outer non-rotating part is flattened and spread the length of the track, thus instead of trying to chase its own tail in a conventional manner, it chases an end of line that seemingly never comes until you want it to, that is!

I get the feeling that this ‘the whole thing is one damned great motor, train, track and all’, is why maglev seems doomed to single point-to-point applications like this. There’s only room for one train at a time on the same track, as in effect it’s the track passing the train along like invisible fingers shifting someone who’s fainted in the crowd at Glastonbury over their heads to the St John’s Ambulance crew. It’s the track that generates the train’s speed, and therefore can only handle one at a time. Fortunately there are two tracks, which is what you need to maintain a maximum frequency of one train every 8.5 minutes.

When arriving back at Longyiang metro station there’s an excellent museum centred on magnetic levitation traction with many full-sized parts from the trains themselves. If you persevere with the ‘Chinglish’ you can come away rather better clued-up than you were before you went in!


Well clearly, junctions are out in the accepted sense as to switch tracks, you effectively have to 'shift a bridge sideways’ although they do have some kind of point-work to shunt trains into a service depot. It was proposed to run the tracks straight through Shanghai and out the other side to serve its other airport, which also has a high-speed ‘bullet train’ interchange and would therefore have made a ton of sense, but local concerns over costs, noise and magnetic radiation (that’s rich coming from a population with a smart phone surgically attached to its ear!) have seen this consigned to the bin which is a pity as it would have been so much more useful if it started somewhere more central, the current system being the equivalent of starting Heathrow Expresses at Ealing Broadway!

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Comments on this review

  • Kukana published 29/04/2014
    Interesting- though not something that particularly appeals to me.
  • bwanamdevu published 27/04/2014
    I have to ride this train some day! Thanks for the preview of what I can expect!
  • RICHADA published 22/04/2014
    So cool! Haven't I been on one of the NRM in York!? R.
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Product Information : Shanghai Maglev Train

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Listed on Ciao since: 26/09/2009