China trains break speed record for subsonic travel

Written by Staff Writer

(CNN) — What do you get when you combine the world’s fastest train — the first one ever to top 600 kph (373 mph) — with the world’s highest passenger train?

A prototype, of course.

China’s state-run Central China Railway and Chinese system designer Westly Transport Corporation said Thursday that the PRCS 880 — which already runs in China at up to 510 kph (335 mph) — has successfully passed the brand new subsonic PRCS-X target of 620 kph (360 mph).

The China National Travel Corporation describes the experimental train as “China’s highest and most comfortable high-speed train, which takes passengers from major Chinese cities to the country’s third fastest train station.”

The PRCS 880, which was tested for 30 seconds on Thursday, was set to run to a top speed of 1,000 kph (620 mph) this week.

However, the PRCS rail operator announced that the trip would not go ahead.

“The target speed of the PRCS 880 is 620 kph and passing at this speed is scientifically impossible without an extraordinary storm,” China National Railways said in a post on social media.

“Therefore, the planned test of the PRCS 880 is canceled,” the company said.

Why is China aiming to run an 800 kph (620 mph) high-speed train?

In a recent interview with CNN, Joseph Connelly, CEO of Westly Transport, cited Chinese President Xi Jinping’s declaration of a goal of having 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles) of high-speed rail in service by 2030 as a motivation.

China started out with just 5,000 kilometers (3,400 miles) of high-speed rail in service as early as 1994. It currently has over 13,000 kilometers (8,900 miles) and is aiming to have 15,000 kilometers (9,100 miles) by 2020.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Puchang-Kiama double-track magnetic levitation train to be running on Japan’s Shinkansen super high-speed line that will operate at more than 750 kph (466 mph).

In all, China aims to have 15,000 kilometers (9,100 miles) of high-speed rail running by 2020. iStock

Chinese first, global first

Worldwide, Japan and the US — both countries have had some ground-breaking trains.

But it’s China’s Tianjin Express line that’s taken passengers to the highest speed of 504 kph (313 mph).

While the PRCS 880 wasn’t out to be the first train to run at or above 600 kph, it’s putting itself in the record books.

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It’s a pretty remarkable achievement that was put in place thanks to continuous development and investment.

The PRCS 880 features ten metallic glass panes that extend from the side to the top of each train to maximize aerodynamic performance and reduce drag.

If the successful test run gets repeated, the train will be capable of operating at 883 kph (614 mph) when it enters operation, raising the question of how long it will be before a tourist-friendly train reaches a ticket price of $10,000.

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