Thinking Tech

China's new bullet train is world's fastest, smashes record

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An innovative sword-shaped test train reached a world record-breaking speed of 311 mph.

"Bigger, better faster" is a perhaps the most apt way to describe China's ambitious approach to revamping its infrastructure. For instance, the world's second largest economy boasts the two longest bridges in the world, including the world's longest seabridge unveiled back in July.

And while the country is already home to the world's fastest passenger trains, they're recently shown that they're still working hard to outdo even themselves. Over the weekend, local train manufacturer CSR Corp successfully completed a trial run of their fastest train yet. China Daily reported that the test train reached a world record-breaking speed of 311 mph. Previously, the title of fastest passenger train was held by the Beijing Shanghai High Speed Railway, which operated at a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour.

The shape of the train is designed to aerodynamically cut through drag like a knife -- literally. Stretching six carriages long, the front end is tapered to a fine point, similar to sharp edge of an ancient Chinese sword. It's powered by a system capable of 22,800 kilowatts and is comprised of lightweight plastic material, magnesium alloy and reinforced with carbon fiber. In comparison, China Railways High-Speed (CRH) trains run at 9,600 kilowatts.

The test run also shows that Chinese officials have remained undaunted by a series of setbacks that bring into question the safety of moving passengers at such high velocity. In July, two bullet trains ran into each other in the Zhejiang province, a tragic accident that left 40 people dead. And an investigation by the New York times revealed that engineers were cutting corners by using low-quality hardening agents to fill in the concrete bases that stabilize the tracks.

So will China put in operation trains that push commuters beyond what is considered safe travel? I'd say very unlikely, considering that the government has begun to backtrack by requiring that bullet trains operate at rate a few notches below what they're capable of. For instance, trains with a top speed of 350 kh will be lowered to 300 kilometers per hour.

And as for this latest feat, locomotive expert Shen Zhiyun told China Daily that the test run will merely serve as "useful reference for current high-speed railway operations."

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure