When it comes to transportation, China likes to do things bigger and better than anyone else—the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the Hangzhou Bay Bridge, the Shanghai Maglev,the largest high- speed rail network in the world with trains on conventional lines that hit 350km per hour—and now, they're stepping it up yet another notch with plans for a new maglev train reputedly capable of speeds of up to 1000km per hour (that's about 621mph for you Yanks, and though such top speeds may be theoretically possible, actual speeds may be a few hundred kmph slower than advertised).
Inhabitat, a weblog focusing on innovation in sustainable design and technology (we love their tagline: "design will save the world"), reports that Chinese researchers are working on something called a vacuum mag. Combining maglev technology with underground vacuum tunnels that suck away the surrounding air to reduce "airdrag," the technology is staggering... and so is the budget—$2.96 million more per kilometer of track than the regular high speed rail. If it works, you're looking at a train that travels nearly the speed of the average jetliner.
Another example of the PRC's big and bold approach to the movement of the people comes in the form of the somewhat slower, but still incredibly forward-thinking "3D Express Coach" that we just read about in the Hospitality Times:
In an effort to go green and relieve congestion without widening roads, the Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment company is developing a “3D Express Coach” (also known as a “three-dimensional fast bus”).
The innovation will allow cars less than 2 meters high to travel underneath the upper level of the vehicle, which will be carrying passengers.
According to China Hush, the 6-meter-wide 3D Express Coach will be powered by a combination of electricity and solar energy, and will be able to travel up to 60 kilometers per hour carrying some 1200 to 1400 passengers.
The first 115 miles of track is set for construction in Beijing’s Mentougou district starting in late 2010. The Chairman of the Huashi Future Parking Equipment company boasts it will take only a year and 500 million yuan (around $73 million) to build the futuristic transportation system.
As with much in China, big plans are sometimes followed by fizzles, but then again... they do have knack for making things happen, and it's not that hard to envision a not-too-distant future in which you can hop off the Shanghai-Shenzhen vacuum mag and board the 3D Express Coach, completing a Shanghai-Shenzhen door-to-door journey in about as much time as it currently takes to get from one side of downtown Beijing to the other in a taxi.