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  • 60 years ago, Japan invented high-speed rail with iconic Bullet Trains that could operate

  • at more than 200km/hr.

  • The Bullet Train transformed Japan, and kick started a revolution in high-speed rail around the

  • world. Now, the Japanese are setting out to do it again. This time by building a new kind

  • of train that will operate at an incredible 500km per hour.

  • The world's fastest train will connect Japan's two largest cities and it will be faster than

  • flying. Covering the 400km distance in just 67 minutes.

  • But this is also one of the most expensive transport projects in history. And an enormous

  • bet on a technology that has yet to prove itself. And some question whether building

  • the world's fastest train really makes sense.

  • Even as the first Bullet Trains began operating 1964, Japanese engineers were already working

  • on a radical new kind of train. With cutting edge rail technologies, Bullet Trains could

  • operate at speeds once thought impossible. And while there was still plenty of room to

  • get them to go even faster, engineers realized that at some point, trains would hit a speed limit.

  • The friction, vibration and noise from conventional steel wheels would simply become too great.

  • To go much faster, they would need a new kind of train. So to eliminate rail friction, engineers

  • would get rid of wheels altogether, and instead use magnetic force to levitate the train inside

  • a guideway

  • Although the solution seemed radical, the idea of magnetically levitating a train had

  • been around since the early 1900's. With the first patents appearing in 1912. But the technologies

  • needed to make such a train actually work, were only beginning to come together in the 1960s.

  • Among early experiments with maglevs, Japan and Germany emerged as leaders. Each investing

  • heavily in unique versions of the technology. By the 1980's, prototype maglevs were making

  • headlines, breaking speed records, and promising to revolutionize railways. But it would be

  • another two decades before the first high-speed maglev would see commercial operation.

  • It wasn't until 2004, with the opening of the Shanghai Transrapid, that maglevs had finally

  • overtaken conventional rail as the fastest trains in the world. On the line connecting

  • Shanghai with it s airport, maglevs based on Germany's technology routinely reach 430 km per hour.

  • But since opening almost 20 years ago, it's still the only high-speed maglev in operation.

  • Because much of the world has since given up on the technology.

  • There were once ambitious plans to build high-speed maglevs around the world with some even

  • predicting that North America alone would see thousands of kilometres constructed by

  • the 2020's. But plans never materialized.

  • The problem is, Maglevs are expensive. Compared to conventional high-speed rail lines, they

  • cost anywhere from 2 to 3 times more to build.

  • And they don't work with existing infrastructure. Unlike high-speed trains, which can make use

  • of the more than a million kilometres of conventional rail lines already in existence, along with

  • stations built out in almost every city.

  • Since 1964, over 50 thousand kilometres of high-speed rail line have been constructed.

  • A number expected to double in the coming decades. That compares to less than 100 km

  • of maglev lines built in the same time period.

  • The world seems to have moved on. But Japan is still forging ahead

  • Japan's massive bet on Maglev technology starts with geography.

  • The world's first intercity maglev line, being built by the Central Japan Railway Company,

  • will connect the country's two largest cities. Just like the first Bullet Trains did in 1964.

  • But today, where it takes two and a half hours for the fastest Bullet Trains to travel between

  • Tokyo and Osaka, the new maglev line will cut that down to just 67 minutes.

  • And it means that three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million people

  • will be brought within commuting distance. Effectively transforming them into a single

  • giant city. A degree of mobility that promises to boost Japan's entire economy.

  • But there are also more pressing reasons to build the new line. The existing Shinkansen

  • line already carries nearly half a million passengers every single day. But with Bullet

  • Trains often spaced just three minutes apart, its reaching its limit. And so is the infrastructure,

  • which is now almost 60 years old.

  • And the existing line also runs through the most earthquake prone regions of Japan. One

  • major earthquake could sever the country's most critical rail link. Causing enormous financial damage.

  • The maglev line will instead take a more direct route between the major cities through a much

  • less seismically active mountain range. And it means over 80 percent of the line will

  • run through tunnels, Some of which will be 25 km long and a kilometer and a half below the surface.

  • The first section is expected to open in 2027 with the remaining connection to Osaka completed

  • a decade later.

  • But when it s all said and done, Japan's high speed intercity maglevs will be the fastest

  • way to travel between japan s major cities. Even faster than flying.

  • Making such eye-watering speeds possible is a technology that's been in development for over 50 years.

  • It s called SCMaglev. The SC stands for Superconducting.

  • To leveltate trains off their guideway, electromagnets are cooled to extreme temperatures in order

  • to take advantage of a phenomenon called superconductivity, which significantly increases magnetic force.

  • The train's electromagnets interact with coils embedded inside a guideway. One set of coils

  • is used to propel the train while the other is for levitation and guidance. The second

  • set of coils is unpowered. It means SCMaglevs must first accelerate on wheels to 150 km/h

  • before they can induce a magnetic field to levitate. But once up to speed, the trains

  • are dynamically stable. Requiring no active systems to keep them stable and centered.

  • The trains are also fully autonomous, controlled not by a driver, but by the track. Meaning

  • collisions are almost impossible. And with 3 separate braking systems, they can also

  • stop faster than conventional trains.

  • This is a train straight out of the future. And it will be the most ambitious implementation

  • of maglev technology. But does it actually make sense to build?

  • For nearly 60 years, Japan has continued to develop their iconic Bullet Trains. Today

  • they're recognized as some of the most advanced, reliable and efficient high trains in the world.

  • Leading some to question whether the switch to maglev, is less a leap forward, and more a misstep.

  • To start, SCMaglevs are smaller than Bullet Trains in almost every dimension. And it means they'll carry fewer passengers

  • Nor will they run as frequently as Bullet Trains. Maglev switches, the mechanism that

  • allows maglevs to switch tracks, are much slower than conventional rail switches.

  • It means maglevs must operate at least ten minutes apart. Compared to just three minutes for Bullet Trains.

  • Smaller trains, running less frequently, means Japan's Maglev will never match the capacity

  • of a conventional Bullet Trains. All the while consuming a lot more energy.

  • Below 300 km/h, the energy consumption of a Bullet Train and maglev aren't that different.

  • But operating at 500 km/h introduces much more air resistance. Made worse by running

  • mostly through tunnels. It means to operate at twice the speed of Bullet Trains, SCMaglevs

  • will consume four times more energy.

  • And the project is already the most expensive in Japan s history, estimated to cost at least

  • 5 and half times more than the original 1964 Bullet Train line.

  • Much of it owing to the amount of tunneling required, but also the cost of building entirely

  • new stations next to or below existing ones

  • Proponents argue that SCMaglev technology can be exported to the rest of the world.

  • The question is, where? The rest of world has already passed up on Germany s Transrapid in favor

  • of conventional high-speed rail. China is the only other country still researching ultra-

  • high speed maglevs, showing off it's own prototype in 2021. But the country also recently renewed

  • its commitment to expand its conventional high-speed rail network by tens of thousands

  • of kilometers by the end of the decade.

  • While there are proposals to implement SCMaglev technology elsewhere, the reality is few places

  • in the world have Japan's combination of wealth, population destiny and appetite for enormously

  • expensive infrastructure projects.

  • Leaving many to question whether Japan's enormously expensive investment into maglev can ever really pay off.

  • When the Japanese were pouring billions into constructing the first Bullet Trains, many

  • ridiculed it as a misguided effort. Railways were viewed as a dead technology, too slow

  • to survive the modern age.

  • But the world's first high speed railway was an enormous success. And other countries soon

  • followed with their own massive investments in high-speed rail.

  • The SCMaglev is Japan s next quantum leap, operating at speeds well beyond the reach

  • of conventional rail. It ll be cleaner, quieter, safer and more comfortable than any train

  • before it. But these benefits will be weighed against enormous development and infrastructure costs.

  • The SCMaglev's story is yet to be written. And it remains to be seen whether the project

  • can herald in a new era in high-speed ground transport, or whether it s destined to join

  • other failed attempts at reinventing railways.

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B1 中級 美國腔

有史以来最快的火车:SCMaglev(The Fastest Train Ever Built: The SCMaglev)

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    joey joey 發佈於 2021 年 05 月 28 日
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