Dr. Parshotam S. Manhas
Maglev (short for magnetic levitation) train is a special class of high-speed trains. Bullet trains usually refer to high-speed trains like Japanese Shinkansen trains. The main difference between Maglev Train and Bullet Train is being that maglev trains do not need wheels as they run on elevated guideways whereas bullet trains may or may not have wheels. Maglev is a completely new transport system that uses magnetic levitation to run vehicles without touching the ground and it remains elevated at 1 to 6 inches above the ground through a system of magnets, thereby eliminating friction.
The snub-nosed engines, super shiny outer hull and windows merged with the coach body are some of the features that will cut air resistance. Maglev trains move more smoothly and more quietly than wheeled mass transit systems. They are relatively unaffected by weather, environment friendly, equipped with state-of-art safety systems and hold the speed record for trains but the biggest problem with the Maglev trains are the high cost incurred on the initial set up, offsetting lower maintenance costs.
Japan Railways operates Maglev vehicles at speeds up to 563 kmph on their 20-km guideway in Yamanashi Perfecture. On 15 November 2014, one hundred passengers zipped past a 42.8 km route between the cities of Uenohara and Fuefuki, reaching speeds of up to 500 kmph in one of the trials conducted for the experimental maglev Shinkansen train on its test track in Yamanashi Prefecture by the Central Japan Railway Company.
On 21 April 2015, a superconducting Maglev L0 Series Shinkansen train reached a record speed of 603 kmph in Yamanashi prefecture. These trains use superconducting magnets, which allow for a larger gap, and repulsive or attractive -type electrodynamic suspension. In comparison Transrapid uses conventional electromagnets and attractive-type electro- magnetic suspension. The Shanghai Maglev Train, also known as the Transrapid, is the fastest commercial train currently in operation and has a top speed of 430 kmph. China has already built about 25,000 km network of high speed trains which travels at about 350 kmph and approved a technical plan to build magnetic levitation train run at 600 kmph.
Shanghai Maglev Train
Despite decades of research and development, Maglev transport systems are in operation in just three countries: Japan, South Korea and China and only five commercial maglev transport systems are in operation in the world for public use with others being under construction.
Japan has plans to create a long-distance high-speed maglev system, the Chuo Shinkansen, by 2027 that connects Nagoya to Tokyo, a distance of 286 km, with an extension of 514 km to Osaka from Tokyo planned for 2037. The Chuo Shinkansen is planned to travel at 500 kmph and make the Tokyo-Osaka trip in just 67 minutes.
The Indian Maglev Train futuristic project is in the offing after Raja Ramana Center for Advanced Technology of Indore in Madhya Pradesh succeeded in developing the prototype model of maglev train. At present, such trains are only running in Japan and China at a speed of 600 kmph. Recently, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has collaborated with SwissRapid AG to introduce eco-friendly high-speed Maglev trains to India in the backdrop of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.
Maglev will join the ship, the wheel, and the airplane as a mainstay in moving the people and goods throughout the world. Maglev has unique advantages over these earlier modes of transport and will radically transform the society and the world economy in 21st century. Compared to ships and wheeled vehicles- autos, trucks and trains- it moves passengers and freight at much higher speed and lower cost, using less energy. Compared to airplanes, which travel at similar speed, Maglev moves passengers and freight at much lower cost, and in much greater volume. Maglev vehicles and guideways will have longer lifetimes than autos, trucks, and airplanes.
Maglev has become the fastest growing technology in the fields of railways infrastructure and ground transportation in the modern world. It would not be an exaggeration to call it marvel of engineering and future mode of transportation given its umpteenth advantages like high speed, low maintenance, low noise, safety, weather proof, and environment friendly over the other prevailing means of transport. May be magnetic attractions of maglev will sway more cities in the coming years.
Dr. Parshotam S. Manhas