What did China get for Christmas? A train set that goes 500 km/h. The experimental bullet train, which can reach top speeds over 310 mph, was debuted on December 25th in Qingdao in Shangdong Province. Inspired by the shape of ancient Chinese swords, the aerodynamic CRH series train can deliver 22,800 kW of power to its load, allowing it to set speed records in China (though France still holds the world title). The sword-train, created by CSR Corp. Ltd. is part of a “faster test train project” aimed at advancing the already impressive national railway system with improvements in materials, braking, automated safety awareness, and failure analysis as well as raw power and speed. While still a development platform, the new train portends the next step in Chinese transportation as the country pushes for higher speed routes, better transfer systems, and a global reputation for its railways. With this latest feat of engineering, China is again demonstrating its commitment to creating the infrastructure that will sustain the emerging nation in the 21st Century.
The following video shows the CRH series sword train in greater detail:
China's sword-train truly was a national production. CSR collaborated with both the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Railways, the locomotive was produced after more than two years of research with 21 academics and engineers from the Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Academy of Railway Sciences, Southwest Jiaotong University, Beijing Jiaotong University, and Tongji University. It features materials new to China's railways including advanced carbon fibers, magnesium alloys, and nanometer sized sound insulating particles. While the 22,800 kW power is a marked improvement (the closest model, the CRH380A has less than 10,000 kW), and the speed is excellent, the true potential of this train is actually as a development platform and PR piece.
The testing that the train will provide is pretty straight forward. In addition to the new materials, and the sword shape design, the train will also feature new technologies including Ethernet ring network control and wind resistance braking. As these improvements are tested and incorporated into future designs, China will continue to move towards faster, more efficient railways.
Yet that's only half of the selling point. As mentioned in the video above, China's national rail system has had set backs in the past year, including a high-speed collision between two trains in Wenzhou. CSR's press release was quick to point out the safety improvements in the new train, as well as confirm its history of safe rail travel:
“According to statistics, by November 2011, CSR had put into operation 278 bullet trains, with a total safe operation mileage of 232 million kilometers, an average mileage of more than 830,000 kilometers and an average failure rate of only 0.7 time per 1 million kilometers. CSR has edged into the advanced ranks in the world in terms of the reliability of bullet trains.”
So while the latest CRH series is a marked improvement in train technology it's only a small step towards where China seems to be headed. High speed rails will be the spines connecting the nation's megacities, its wide-ranging forays into advanced science, and its flourishing computer development industry. China isn't simply developing those technologies, it's making sure the whole world knows that it plans on competing (and winning) in every field it can in the 21st Century.
[image credit: CSR Corp LTD]