Inspire : Public Works July Aug 2014
41 HOW IT WORKS High-speed rail ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME 1964 > ONGOING HOW IT WORKS KNOWLEDGE CENTRE 1 BACKGROUND While research into high-speed rail dates back to Germany in the late 19th century, the world's rst high-speed rail line for passengers, the iconic Shinkansen or 'bullet train' opened in Japan between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964. The rst trains ran at speeds of up to 200km/h and were an immediate success, reaching the million-passenger mark within three years -- and a billion by 1976. The Tokyo--Osaka line remains the busiest high-speed rail route in the world. Japan's success inspired research and development into high-speed rail across Europe, with Europe's rst dedicated high-speed line opened in Italy between Rome and Florence in 1977 and reaching up to 250km/h. Today, China boasts the longest network of high-speed rail, with around 8500km of track. South Korea and Taiwan also opened high-speed rail lines in 2004 and 2007 respectively. 2 TECHNOLOGY High-speed rail track design usually consists of continuous-welded rail to reduce vibrations and misalignment, while key rolling stock technologies include aerodynamic design, air brakes, regenerative braking and dynamic weight transfer. Almost all high-speed rail lines are electrically driven via overhead cables. Today's fastest conventional high-speed trains reach maximum commercial speeds of 320km/h -- in France, Germany and Japan. Another more recent cutting-edge technology in high-speed rail is magnetic levitation (or 'maglev') which -- as the name suggests -- uses magnetic levitation rather than wheels, axles and bearings to propel vehicles. The Shanghai Maglev Train, which began operation in 2004, is the rst commercially operated train of its kind. It reaches 431km/h during its 30km daily service. In 2013, Japan resumed trials for what would become the world's fastest maglev train line, which will cost a total of 5.1 trillion yen and is due for completion in 2027. 3 THE HOME FRONT The Australian Government commissioned a two-stage, $20-million study into the feasibility of a local high-speed rail network in 2010, culminating with the release of the second report on 11 April 2013. The report found that a high-speed rail network for Australia could comprise 1748km of dedicated route between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne and could carry approximately 84 million passengers a year once fully operational from 2065. The estimated total cost (in 2012 dollars) was put at around $114 billion. High-speed rail in Australia could potentially transport passengers from Melbourne to Sydney, and Sydney to Brisbane, in three hours for each trip. FULL SPEED AHEAD Rail revolutionised industry and society long before the personal car came along. Now, with rising fuel prices and congested roads (and airspace), it's making a comeback as the transport of the future.
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