A ride on Shanghai's Maglev (magnetic levitation) Train is a journey into the future of transport. The Maglev rail system might be only 30.5 km (19 mi) long, but that's enough to demonstrate its potential to transform national and international economies by bringing the most remote areas within reach of trade and tourism. Although Maglev was created and developed in Gennany, Shanghai is the first place in the world to use it successfully in a scheduled service, or indeed in any commercial venture at all, and the statistics are amazing. The train can reach 350 kph (220 mph) in two minutes, and is designed for normal operation with a maximum speed of 431 kph (268 mph).
But during tests, the train reached a top speed of 501 kph (311 mph), an indication of what it holds in reserve. With no conventional engine, and on a (necessarily) dedicated track of electromagnetic power and guidance coils, the impetus of acceleration is spread throughout the train. The ride is as smooth as an airborne aircraft, without even the spine-pinning surge of 'take-off'. Looking ahead from the Maglev, you see how the swooping concrete curves of the track are banked; inside, you barely feel it. Once on board, a flickering display charts even the slightest variation in speed, and you can't help sharing the thrill of streaking past the fastest cars on the adjacent expressway.
So far, the Shanghai Maglev only connects Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road, a suburb of the business district, and a long way from downtown. Despite some legitimate misgivings yet to be resolved, plans to extend the line to 160 km (99 mi) between downtown Shanghai and Hangzhou are going ahead. Then you will be able to transfer the 55 km (34 mi) between Shanghai's two airports in 15 minutes -like flying at zero altitude.
WHEN TO GO
Year-round. Initially, you could only travel on the Maglev as part of an organized tour. Now that it is integrated into the regular transport system, you can ride it at any time.
TIME IT TAKES
Usually 7 minutes 20 seconds (the taxi ride over the same route takes at least 1 hour).
No fossil fuel! (The Maglev may not be environmentally perfect. but it's in the right direction.)
Seeing the driver of a Ferrari on the expressway shaking his fist at the Maglev speeding past.
Floating on a magnetic cushion - a thought worthy of both Confucius and China's most imaginative poets.
The exhilaration of pure speed intensified the first time by just a twinge of apprehension, and on subsequent occasions by excited anticipation.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
This technology is going to happen all over the world, and you don't need to know anything about science to share the thrill of it.