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December 31, 2012

Maglev

Distance covered: 12,490 km, distance to go: 0 km – the finish!
Shanghai Longyang Road Station to Pudong International Airport
3 C, sunny, GMT +8.

Distance: 30 km, journey time 7 minutes, max speed 431km/h (268 mph)

Well here we go for the last train of this trip – but one seemingly without rails!
It’s a 20 minute taxi ride from the Bund to Longyang Road, where the downtown Maglev station is to be found. A short hike up an escalator, then you buy a ticket (mine was a first class or “VIP” ticket, one way, discounted if you show your flight ticket, RMB 80 or £8). Cheaper seats further back are maybe RMB 40…

The trains depart every 15 minutes and take just 7 minutes to reach Pudong International Airport.
Once I had stowed my baggage, I wandered forward to the cockpit door, which you can look through to see “the driver”. I must say it was a bit of a “Wizzard of Oz” moment, as the pilot of this train was a wearing a hoody and looked like he was working hard to improve his score on Mortal Kombat rather than preparing to take responsibility for my life on an ultra high speed rail line.

After about five minutes he finished his game, sat bolt upright, adjusted his seat and hit some buttons – the doors closed, the train levitated, and we shot off towards the airport at warp speed.

I watched the speed indicator as we accelerated up to my previous speed record from the high speed “G train” I took from Beijing last week – 300 km/h. Things start really flashing past, and this train has banked corners, so you feel a little bit more G force. But it kept on accelerating. I watched it cross 400 km/h and within a couple of minutes we had topped out at 430 km/h – briefly I was the fastest 1st class train passenger (an otherwise empty VIP class) on Planet Earth!

At this speed the outside world really is a bit of a whirl. Anyway, it didn’t last too long before we edged back to 300 km/h, and quickly we arrived at the airport. I learned from my concierge at the hotel that between 9.00 and 11.00 in the morning the train reaches its top speed, but later in the day it’s about 50 seconds slower on the run, to save power apparently..

I found Pudong Airport a bit like Heathrow – not very friendly to a transferring passenger carrying baggage, but was pleased I had done this trip rather than take a taxi the whole way. As many say, it’s a bit of a shame this line does not go all the way into the city, but its still well worth using.

So there we go, a 12,490 km journey over three weeks which I would definitely commend to you. I hope you have enjoyed my posts and found them informative, especially if you are considering doing this trip yourself. I also hope you have found them amusing if you are not planning to do this trip, but know me, and were perhaps hoping I might get detained in a gulag!

I have tried hard to present my experiences in an honest and straightforward way – it’s a journey that needs a fair amount of planning to work through the red tape, but once on the rails, a real adventure. It’s not hard, but does need one to remain open minded and live in the moment of the biggest train trip out there.

I will not be posting further on my continuing travels in Asia, as they don’t employ the train, the subject of this blog. I will however post more on kit reviews and image galleries whilst its all fresh in my mind.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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