Why shouldn’t we build high-speed rail?

Why shouldn’t we build high-speed rail?

Auto, Aviation & Transportation

Let’s take a look at high-speed rail!

We live in a world where non-renewable energy is becoming increasingly scarce. The ever-increasing  demography around the world makes travel a new challenge. In a world where technology is improving  day by day and where knowledge in physics and robotics is progressing, it seems logical to wonder  about the future of high speed trains. Indeed, the race is in how to create an ever faster and ever  longer train. 

Asia and Europe are two territories with great technological means and both have a great margin of  progression as for their means of travel.  

Trains as we know them today, logically run on rails and reach speeds of 250 to 300 km per hour, which  allows to connect distant cities in a minimum of time without using polluting means of transport such as planes or cars. 

Nevertheless, the system becomes limited in terms of speed.

According to an article published in 2020, a  Chinese company, CRRC, managed to reach a speed of 400 km per hour on rails, which is a technical  feat. 

This is why European and Asian companies are devoting a large part of their funding to the  development of trains using magnetic fields and especially superconductors. 

Today, superconductivity is an extremely active field of research, whether it is a question of elucidating  the mechanisms that are at the origin of superconductivity, designing new superconducting materials  or extending the field of applications. 

At very low temperatures, the electrical and magnetic properties of certain materials such as lead,  mercury or certain oxides change radically.

These materials become superconductors: they no longer offer any resistance to the passage of electric current and expel magnetic fields.

In a superconductor, two different effects allow a magnet to levitate: the Meissner effect, and the enclosure of vortexes. The latter will push the magnet away from the superconductor. While the vortex confinement will keep the magnet where it was when the superconductor becomes cooled. In other words,  one repels, and the other holds. One or the other effect becomes observed depending on the nature of the material and the strength of the magnet.  

These innovative techniques have already been tested, in fact it is in Japan that a line using this technology has been created. The train was able to reach in 2011 the speed of 581 km per hour. Nevertheless, we are at the beginning of this type of technology. 600km per hour is a speed that can become reached. And it is necessary to take into consideration that in the coming years, higher speeds can become reached. 

In Europe as well as in Asia, many railway companies are using this technology. They have become the  mark of a modern country. 

A maglev train is coming out of the Pudong International Airport.

Asia has nevertheless a certain advance with the implementation of certain lines. Such as the Shanghai Transrapid, a 30 km long link between the city center and the airport in China, inaugurated in January 2004; with a maximum speed of 431 km/h, the trip is completed in 7 min 20 s. I.e. at an average speed of 251 km/h, it is the first and only high speed magnetic levitation train in commercial use. Other  projects are expected to be completed by 2025. Such as a high-speed train linking Hanoi to the former  Saigon, on a route of 1,570 km. 

The current diesel-powered trains run partly on a single track, connecting the two cities. Travel time would be reduced to 5.5 hours instead of the current 29 hours. 

In Europe, recent projects are becoming developed to connect Berlin to Prague and Vienna in about 2  hours. These agreements become initiated by public companies. Because of the enormous cost of these  trains, it is necessary to obtain public subsidies. In Europe, many universities and companies such as Alstom or Nexans are working on superconductors and their potential application in the development  of commercial tools and the reinforcement of existing railroad lines. 

Finally, it is certain that this technological race will have an economic, social and environmental impact. The development of high-speed trains will facilitate social and commercial exchanges throughout the world. The new technologies are a real sign of modernity of the countries. Lastly, that’s why the impact of these transports is a real springboard in the eyes of the whole world.

Why shouldn’t we build high-speed rail?

Written by Francois Dubreu