What is the first thing I did as soon as I landed in Shanghai? Ate Dumplings? No! After picking up a much needed coffee (doesn’t count), I went ahead and took a ride on the world’s FASTEST train – The Maglev!
What is the Maglev you ask?
It is a magnetic levitation train which means it never really touches the ground. It is kind of flying in the air, or well hovering at one third the speed of sound *jaw drop*!
Woah! Tell me more!
It connects Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road Station. The maximum operating speed is written as 430 km/h. However, it momentarily reaches the top speed of 431 km/h which is 268 mph. It is faster than the TGV in France and also faster than the top speed of any Formula One and Motogp prototype.
However, do keep in mind that it also operates at a maximum speed of about 300 km/h, depending upon the time. So, do check the timetable beforehand if you really want to experience the record breaking speed. The train completes the 30 km journey in only 7 minutes!
There are only two things that can travel faster than the Maglev train – Airplanes and Spaceships
How can I make it happen?
You can experience the intriguing Maglev train straight after landing in Shanghai’s Pudong airport like I did or when you have to get to the airport. The line runs from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Road Station and vice versa.
Before I landed in Shanghai, I was worried about finding my way through the airport, but clear English signage made it a breeze to reach the Maglev station. There is a ticketing booth right outside the entry.
The line is not a part of the Shanghai Metro network. So, you will have to purchase a separate ticket even if you have a metro pass. A one-way ticket costs ¥50 (US$8), or ¥40 ($6.40) for passengers having a boarding pass or air ticket of the same day. A round-trip ticket costs ¥80 ($12.80) but you need to present proof of a return air ticket. Also, the return journey can be taken within 7 days of purchase only. There are also VIP tickets available which cost double the standard fare.
The prices might seem a little pricey for a 7 minute journey, but, it is the world’s FASTEST train, so totally worth it!
Once, you’ve bought your ticket, plod into the gold- pillared room with a digital clock counting the seconds to the next departure. As you wait for the gates to open, you can study the vast network of the Shanghai Metro or pick up a map of Shanghai (which might come in handy if you forgot to install a VPN app before arriving).
I expected to see the train “floating” in, but as I descended the escalator, the Maglev was already there, “levitating” in all its glory!
The doors were already open. So, I stepped into a clean, spacious, modern looking carriage with blue seats that had NO seatbelts! Like seriously? I expected something to hold me in place as we rocket 30 km at an unbelievable speed! There was also a digital clock and speedometer at each end of the carriage so that you know when to interrupt into a happy dance.
So, after I lugged my heavy suitcase into the luggage rack, I sank in one of the comfortable seats as I waited for the beast to start. Soon, the doors shut and we slipped out of the station. There was no time to waste. The train immediately accelerated towards its goal, the sound of speed making my heart beat in rhythm.
The speedometer reached 100 km/h, then 200 and it just kept going as the landscape smeared by. I kept switching from looking out the window to the speedometer. It made me want to have an extra pair of eyes just so that I could absorb it all! So, in one of those moments, I missed another Maglev going in the opposite direction. It was only when I felt a rumble, I looked and it was already gone. Luckily, my camera captured it (shown in the video)!
The Moment of Glory
Transrapid claims that the train is quiet and smooth. But, as you approach the top speed, you can hear the floor growl and the carriage waggle a little. But I didn’t care! I was at top speed! There was a light cheer. People stood up to record videos and click pictures. With my clumsy sense of balance, I didn’t risk it. The speed fluctuates between 430 km/h and 431 for a while but obviously not long enough. The train soon slows down and everything outside the window comes back into focus. The world is slow again. We crawl our way back from the future as we slide into Longyang Road Station.
If you want to know more about the Maglev, there is a Museum for it under the Longyang Road Station. Then, you can either transfer to the regular metro network or catch a cab or bus to get to your destination.
I wanted to catch the Maglev back to the airport just to experience it again. It’s not fair that it doesn’t go on forever. The speed is exhilarating. I guess there will come a time when regular trains will operate at that speed. But, for now, I know I tasted the future!
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