High Speed Train, China
CRRC is building maglev trains for worldwide use REUTERS/Aly Song

The China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) has started work on a new magnetic levitation train that will be capable of rocketing passengers along at nearly half the speed of sound at 373mph (600kmh).

CRRC, the largest train manufacturer in the world, has started construction of a 5km track to test its new magnetic levitation – or maglev – locomotive. It will claim the title of the fastest train in the world if it manages to beat Japan's Lo Series train to operation, which hit speeds of 374mph (603kmh) in tests in 2015. However, it is not expected to be seen till 2027 — a similar date touted for CRRC so the race is on.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the firm is also developing maglev trains that can travel at 124mph "with the goal of establishing domestic technology and standard systems for new-generation medium and high-speed maglev transportation that can be applied globally".

Maglev trains use electrically charged magnets to lift and move carriages above the rail, causing the train to hover a few millimetres above the track and thereby eliminating friction.

Maglev vs Hyperloop

At 268mph, China's Shanghai Maglev Train is currently the world's fastest passenger service in operation, although this is still 105mph slower that the proposed speeds of CRRC's new locomotive. Meanwhile the Hyperloop, the conceptual transportation system proposed by Tesla / Space X's Elon Musk, will theoretically be capable of moving trains through its low-pressure tubes at approximately 745mph.

In addition to Japan and China, so-called bullet trains – named for their streamlined, aerodynamic shape – are also in operation in Europe, although travel at a more modest 150mph-180mph.

CRRC has also started work on a 249mph cross-border passenger trains that will be capable of operating on different types of tracks. CRRC official Sun Bangcheng told Xinhua that these trains will be 10% more fuel-efficient than the 217mph bullet trains currently being used in the country.