Elon Musk is a crazy guy. Imagine being so powerfully entrepreneurial that you could actively change the nature of the whole world around you. He’s been getting a steady stream of pats on the back as he’s been moving forward with the Hyperloop – a weird vacuum-tube based inter-city transportation solution, test footage of which he recently released on Instagram.
But the situation could be souring for Musk, with the state-owned Chinese Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) having just announced plans for a supersonic “flying train.” The train, which, contrary to the name, will be a mode of ground transportation, is nonetheless expected to achieve speeds of up to 2,485 miles per hour. By comparison, Musk’s puny, insignificant Hyperloop would only be able to reach speeds closer to 760 miles per hour.
The concept is essentially putting a maglev train, which uses electromagnets to reduce friction, inside a Hyperloop-style vacuum tube. Suck on that one for a while, Musk. CASIC chief engineer Mao Kai is optimistic about the project. He elaborated on it in a statement, explaining that there are three proposed tiers of the train: a 600-ish mph train for cities, a 1200-ish mph train for between China’s megacity clusters, and a 2,500-ish mph train for long-distance travel along the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the oceangoing Maritime Silk Road. That last one is about five times faster than conventional passenger airplanes.
The train, if realized, could be an enormous step in elevating the country’s second and third tier cities, by connecting them to the economic wellsprings of first tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Mao mentioned that the train will have an acceleration speed slower than an airplane taking off (so you’re not going to have to gear up for a goddamn roller coaster every time you want to go into the city). It will also be unaffected by weather, not consume fossil fuels, and link seamlessly with subways.
People here are excited.
“I hope to ride in a train like this in my lifetime!” reads one top-rated comment.
“If this thing takes off, China will suddenly be too small – we’ll have to expand our domain,” reads another distressingly high-rated comment.
At this stage though, it’s too early to tell much about the future of the non-flying, supersonic flying train. So far it’s just big talk from the aerospace arm of China’s central government. As Musk moves forward with the Hyperloop, and China reaches ever higher in its effort to support its freshly economically-empowered population, all we can do is wait and see.