Image copyright Ronnie O’Sullivan Image caption Champagne train of the future could travel at 40mph
Do you ever wonder what traveling at 160mph could be like?
It might be a reality in the not-too-distant future.
The current world record for conventional trains is 216mph, held by the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train in Japan. But a plan to speed up the trains could see everyone reading this article rise with a knowing chuckle – it could hit 450mph by the end of the decade.
And that’s just the first 24-carriage train which runs at 260kmh – equivalent to 155mph.
“It is not about holding records. That doesn’t mean it can’t be an incredible experience,” says Andy ‘Mr Technical’ Green, director of engineering at Walt Disney Imagineering – whose department has worked on the Aeroflot S7 carrier, one of the first high-speed trains in the world.
Image copyright WALT DISNEY IMAGING Image caption The Aeroflot is now the world’s first airliner in high-speed service
How it works
While we are so busy talking about the trains themselves, it is worth remembering that they are mechanically powered. The rocket-like engines in each car are separated enough to get the system up to 320kmh. On these tracks, you’re looking at a major highway.
The actual supersonic railway is known as a maglev (magnetic levitation) train, and it works by transporting passengers using magnetic induction. It is about as unique as a magnet gun at Comic-Con and has taken about 40 years to reach final design stages.
Image copyright WALT DISNEY IMAGING Image caption The train’s tunnels are carved through mountains to prevent icing up on the rails
The first three are in operation in Japan and two train lines in China, and are operated by transport companies, but a fourth, the one involving Ronnie O’Sullivan, will be breaking the world record this year.
Each maglev train costs about £1.5bn and there are a few ways to make up that bill – with one in south Japan coming with a brewery attached. There have been no reports on whether Ronnie is onboard.
You have to travel on high-speed trains in the European countries to track them down though, and if it sounds a bit like watching your friends lose, you’re on the right track.
The ultimate train ride
Image copyright ASSOCIATED PRESS Image caption Another train being developed in China uses superconducting magnets
Germany’s Siemens is looking at switching to magnetic levitation rather than electric motors for its trains, also for speeds of around 450mph.
On other parts of the continent, the Swiss have done the same. In France, the region of Lorraine has a third line of the fastest trains in the world, the Eurostar trains, which runs from Brussels to Paris in 60 minutes.
In France, the highest peak the train can reach is 2,690m (8,600ft), and the speeds are limited to near 320kmh (200mph). A point where it will run below 280kmh and drop six points on the speedometer.