Monday, January 22, 2007

Useless advanced technology #1

I dropped Katie off at the airport today to go back to the US. The new international airport, Shanghai PuDong, is about 45 km from downtown Shanghai. A cab ride can cost about 100 RMB. We took a somewhat different route.

A few years ago, China decided to build something no other company, city, country, or Simpson’s fan had ever been dumb enough to do. They built the world’s first commercial magnetic levitation train. These trains have been pioneered by the Germans and the Japanese, but it took the ego of the Chinese to think you could make money on a $1.2 billion train that runs 30 km from the airport to the outskirts of Shanghai suburbia.

In any case, it was a lot of fun to ride. We took the metro almost to the end of the line and then bought one-way tickets (40 RMB/~$5 each). We got on board and it took off. It accelerated gently but constantly to 431 km/h (267 miles per hour) and then started to decelerate. In all, we covered the 30 miles in about 12 minutes. The experience was very much like flying on land. I wish we could all get around by maglev. If only it didn’t cost $13,000 per foot of track and require an additional 30 minutes to get to the station. It’s a good exhibition for China; it shows the world that they can utilize advanced technology (and also eases the trade imbalance).

However, it is a little bit inappropriate for its current limited use and just goes to show the lengths to which the country will go just to look good.By the way, my return trip from the airport was via bus. It dropped me off in front of my apartment building, took 75 minutes and cost 20 RMB.


Katie said...

The maglev was really cool. Ridiculous, but cool.

John Chen said...

This is the typical Red Chinese's BIG EGO Problems!!! I 100% agree w/ Katie!!You waite and see when the 2008 Game in Beijin !!