THE MAGLEV EXPERIENCE
This is not a movie review; neither is it a comment on a musical experience.
This is also not about a levitational experience associated with deep meditation or some Yogic practice.
The Maglev experience is all about the world’s first and the only commercial operation of a high speed train operating on the principle of magnetic levitation. This, in simple terms, means a train which “floats” on rails, instead of having wheels to propel it forward.
Although the use of this principle for propulsion of a train was first researched in Germany, the first continuously operated commercial operation of a high-speed train was initiated in China in 2004. The operation of the Maglev train on the 30 kilometres stretch between Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road Station still remains the world’s fastest and only commercially operating maglev example in the world. Covering a distance of 30 kilometres in just under 8 minutes, this maglev wonder has a design speed of over 400 kilometres per hour, but operates at 301 kilometres per hour. It reaches its peak speed in just under two minutes and as it zips past Pudong’s countryside, one is held in awe and before you realise what it is all about, the journey is over.
There were two occasions during the eight minute ride which caused me to hold onto my breath for brief periods of time. One was at the mid-point of the journey, when another maglev train on an adjacent track in the opposite direction passed by the train in which I was travelling and there was a sort of sonic thud which shook me out of my awe struck reverie; that experience lasted for just a few seconds. The second was when we were approaching Pudong International Airport and the track curves and the “tilting” experience could easily give the weak-hearted ones a feeling that the train was going to topple over! This too, lasts only for a few seconds.
The seats in the train are very comfortable and the trains ply between half past six in the morning and half past nine in the night at regular intervals. The economy class one way ticket costs 40 RMB (about 6 US Dollars) if one has a flight ticket and 50 RMB if one is just riding the train for the experience. Each compartment has an electronic display panel which shows the speed of the train and with the exception of the seasoned Maglev traveller, it is easy to understand why the eyes of everyone else focus on the rapidly changing speed display.
There is also an interesting Maglev museum on the ground floor of the station at Longyang Road for the academically oriented; despite my fascination for physics as a subject when I was in school, I did not really understand the principle of magnetic levitation. All that I know is that it is based on the principles of magnetic attraction and repulsion. Of course, I also know that, till the train reaches a speed of 150 kilometres per hour, the train runs on rubber wheels, levitation happens after that speed and the transition is seamless.
So next time if you happen to be bidding good-bye to Shanghai, it may be worth your while to get dropped at the Maglev station and take the maglev to Pudong International Airport: I assure you that it is truly a levitating and an elevating experience!!