The Chinese designed and manufactured bullet train CRH380AL races along the tracks on Friday morning en route to breaking the world record for the fastest passenger train. [Photo/China Daily]
XUZHOU, Jiangsu - Imagine how it feels to sit in a passenger jet as it hurtles down the runway just prior to take-off. That is the feeling a lucky group of passengers got to experience on Friday when China's newest fast train set a world record during a trial run as it hit 486.1 km/h on the Beijing-Shanghai line.
The new record replaced one of 416.6 km/h set almost three months earlier, also in China, on the high-speed line between Shanghai and Hangzhou.
"This is a major contribution that China has made to the world's high-speed railway technologies," Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun said after the trail run.
The new passenger train record was hit along a 220-km section of the line between Zaozhuang, Shandong province, and Bengbu, Anhui province, which has led other sections of the new line in finishing its signal, communications and power supply systems.
At 11:06 am, the Chinese designed and manufactured bullet train CRH380AL set off from Zaozhuang.
With a longer, streamlined nose designed to reduce air resistance, the train began to pick up speed. After only a few minutes, it had broken the previous record of 416.6 km/h. The train maintained a speed that hovered around 420 km/h for a while before cranking it up again and hitting 480 km/h at 11:24 am.
After slowing down briefly, it started to accelerate again and set the new world record of 486.1 km/h at 11:28 am.
The experience of being on board felt very much like "flying on land", which is how the ministry has described its future high-speed rail service.
And the noise inside was similar to that inside a jet, but somewhat quieter.
Unlike passenger aircraft, travelers were not required to buckle-up.
Passengers aboard the train for the record-breaking trial run said the ride was smooth and the feeling was similar to being on a regular train traveling at 250 km/h.
"We have done a lot of experiments on making the train airtight and streamlined on the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed rail line and used our research findings on this train," said Zhang Shuguang, deputy chief engineer with the Ministry of Railways.
And he said there were also no concerns about the safety of the train. He said it operated well within its safe parameters and "performed excellently" even while it was at the new record speed.
"This operational experiment shows China's leading position in the sector," Zhang said.
"It is the world's most advanced but cheapest high-speed train. It is also reliable and comfortable to ride."
The train that broke the record was a 16-car bullet train that was designed and built by CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co Ltd. It was designed for daily work on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line.
The 403-meter train can seat 1,027 passengers and will ordinarily travel at 350 km/h and hit a maximum speed of 380 km/h while in normal service.
Previously, in April 2007, France's TGV (train a grande vitesse, or high-speed train), set a record of 574.8 km/h. However, that record was set under test conditions by a shortened train with two power cars and only three passenger cars, not by a passenger train on a regular line.
Zhang said an experimental train that China is developing will look to set a new high-speed record next year on the Beijing-Shanghai line that will exceed 500 km/h.
The 1,318-km Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway cost 220.94 billion yuan ($33.29 billion) to build. The railway travels through seven provinces and municipalities along China's eastern coast, where one-fourth of the country's population lives.
When it begins operation next year, the travel time between China's two largest cities will be slashed to less than four hours from the current 10 hours.