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China Restarts Fastest Bullet Trains 中国重启最快子弹头列车计划

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China will again lay claim to operating the fastest bullet train service in the world.

According to Chinese media, the Beijing to Shanghai train will once again be allowed to reach speeds up to 350 kilometers an hour. A deadly crash between two bullet trains in 2011 caused China to limit the speeds to 300 kilometers an hour.

The South China Morning Post reported the change will cut travel time by one hour on the 1,300 kilometer trip between Beijing and Shanghai. The faster Beijing-Shanghai trains will begin September 21 and additional lines will also be launched, according to the newspaper.

China already has several of the world’s fastest operating trains. The fastest is a non-bullet train - the Shanghai Maglev - that can reach speeds up to 430 kilometers an hour. The train is limited to carrying passengers from Shanghai’s center to the city's airport.

In this file photo, a maglev train runs in this Sept. 25, 2006 file photo in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
In this file photo, a maglev train runs in this Sept. 25, 2006 file photo in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

The term maglev stands for magnetic levitation. In this system, train vehicles are kept off the ground and powered by magnets. High-speed bullet trains have wheels and run on a track.

The second-fastest train in the world is the one running between Beijing and Shanghai, according to the website Railway Technology.

China also has more high-speed rail lines than anywhere else in the world - covering about 19,000 total kilometers, according to the Associated Press.

How fast are trains in other countries?

The fastest non-operating train in the world - undergoing testing in Japan - has reached a top speed of 603 kilometers per hour. It is a Japan Railway maglev train.

Japan's Magnetic Levitation, or linear motor car MLX01-901A, runs on a rest course of Yamanashi Experiment Center in Tsuru, Japan, Tuesday, May 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Japan's Magnetic Levitation, or linear motor car MLX01-901A, runs on a rest course of Yamanashi Experiment Center in Tsuru, Japan, Tuesday, May 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

In Europe, Germany, Italy and Spain all have trains that can travel more than 320 kilometers an hour.

In the United States, the Amtrak Acela Express – which connects several eastern cities - is the country’s fastest train. It can travel at a top speed of 241 kilometers an hour.

Last year, Amtrak received a $2.45 billion loan from the U.S. government to help develop new high-speed trains expected to launch in 2021. Amtrak says those trains are designed to travel up to 300 kilometers an hour, but will begin service at about 260 kilometers an hour.

Other transport systems

U.S. company Hyperloop One is continuing to test its own high-speed transport system.

Hyperloop is being developed by businessman Elon Musk. He created and owns the aerospace company SpaceX, as well as electric carmaker Tesla.Hyperloop operates in a similar way to maglev trains, but uses vehicles called pods. An electromagnetic force causes the pods to “float” on air inside a series of steel tubes. The system forces air out of the tubes to reduce pressure and lower the resistance for the vehicles.

Musk recently announced a Hyperloop pod had reached a top speed of 355 kilometers an hour during a new test. This beat the previous record of 324 kilometers an hour, reached by a student team from Germany during a Hyperloop competition in California.

Musk has said he plans to keep developing the Hyperloop system, which he hopes will eventually greatly reduce travel times between major U.S. cities. He previously said Hyperloop would be designed to reach a top speed of about 1,200 kilometers an hour.

To most experts, that goal seems out of reach in the near future. However, a Chinese aerospace company just announced plans to build a super high-speed train that it says could reach a speed of 4,000 kilometers an hour.

An official at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation recently spoke about the project during a conference in China, the state-run China News Service reported.

The official said the planned train would use maglev technology, combined with a Hyperloop-style tube system. He said a project team is currently working with dozens of researchers and companies to develop the world’s first “high-speed flying train.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for Learning English, based on reports from Reuters, the Associated Press and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

levitation – n. making something rise into the air

electromagnetic adj. pertaining to a magnetic field that is produced by a current of electricity

style – n. a particular kind of something

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