It’s been a year of firsts for the railway system — from going solar to launching its fastest model. Pushing its limits even further, China is test-driving its Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system, which is fully electric and trackless.
ART bears the physical appearance of a train but it doesn’t rely on following a track. Instead, it follows a virtual route using an electric powertrain and tires. It’s expected to function much like an urban train or a tram, but since there’s no investment cost in laying down rails, it should be much cheaper to implement.
The train can only travel 15 kilometers at a time, but can fully recharge in just 10 minutes. Environmentalists will likely tip their hats off to the new system — it’s entirely emissions free! Smoggy China could surely use more sustainable public transport alternatives. Thankfully, its government has been taking other measures to ensure that its locals don’t further experience pollution-caused health issues.
40 percent of China’s factories have been shut down, and authorities are reportedly working on a timetable to end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars.
A round of applause for China — sounds fresh!
In times of emergency, who comes to our rescue is the last thing on our minds. Whether it be a herd of elephants or an 8-year-old kid, safety is all that matters. But sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised. What started out as a nightmare for this Scottish family turned into an adventure on the Hogwarts Express.
The family of six was spending a vacation camping in the Scottish Highlands. But on Friday, Jon Cluett woke up and walked out of his hut on Loch Eilt to find that their 16-foot red canoe had disappeared, probably washed away by the river.
Miles away from their car and with no other option, Cluett phoned the police. What the officer would reply was nothing short of astounding.
“The policeman said, ‘We’ve arranged for the next train passing to stop for you, and you’re not going to believe this but it’s the Hogwarts Express steam train. Your kids are going to love it,’”
Expectedly, the Cluett children did what any Potterhead would — flip out. If the Hogwarts Express is a go-to rescue vehicle along Fort William and Mallaig, GPS may no longer be a priority to casual hikers.
When it comes to cutting-edge technology, leave it to Japan to be ahead of the game. China may hold the record for the world’s fastest railway, but Japan is priding itself on a far more unique type of train. To prevent deer accidents, the Railway Technical Research Institute is installing an unusual barking system.
A three-second blast of the sound of a deer snorting attracts the animals’ attention, and 20 seconds of dog barking is enough to make them take flight.
So far, late-night tests have proved to reduce flockings by half. In 2016 alone, the transport ministry has seen 613 collisions. Hits can delay the punctual Japanese liners by up to 30 minutes. Still, engineers have put forward other possible solutions.
Another plan, which earned a railway employee Japan’s Good Design Award in December, is for deer crossings policed by ultrasonic waves, which allow animals access to the tracks at times when trains aren’t running.
Strangely enough, deer often approach railways due to their dietary needs for iron. Perhaps now they are realizing that licking tracks isn’t the safest way to snack.
China may hold the record for housing the world’s fastest high-speed railway, but Florida is making headlines for launching its first. The private rail service will run from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s the first time that it’s happening, being built by a private company,” [says John Renne of the Urban Solutions committee). “And that’s kind of a game changer for this type of model.”
Along with carbon emissions, the $3 million train project will cut 3 million cars from traffic-laden roads. All Abroad Florida hopes to target the state’s densest area of nearly 6 million people.
“The federal highway system expanded … and everyone got off trains and into cars,” [says] John Guitar of All Aboard Florida… “And we’ve done a full circle now that the traffic and congestion and gas prices are so bad, people are looking for alternatives to get out of their cars and find other ways to get around the state.”
For what’ll likely be just $16, passengers can zip from West Palm to Miami in merely an hour. Road trips may be fun, but if I can shave 4 hours off a drive, why not?
As a solar-powered train, it may not be the first, but Byron Bay’s eco-railway is completely emissions-free. Carrying up to 100 passengers, the refurbished antique-on-wheels is a breakthrough in clean commuting.
“Of course the major difference is it’s got solar panels on the roof so it can recharge itself. For those cloudy days we’ve also got 30 kilowatts of solar panels in this [station’s] roof here so we can also plug it in.” [says mastermind and businessman Brian Flannery.]
The resort-owner-slash-techie hopes the train will also draw in tourists. Still, the project itself is a giant leap towards greener transport systems. The “red rattler” is also bringing disused tracks back into business, drawing old and new together.
“I think everyone knows that Byron’s very conscious about anything to do with the environment,” [Byron Bay Railroad Company’s Jeremy Holmes] said. It’s really nice to be able to run a train that’s zero emissions and powered by the sun.”
Running on a three-kilometer track, the solar train has (literally) a long way to go. But I can’t say I’m not impressed with where it stands.
Trains are getting much-needed makeovers and it’s about time we all hop on board. In July, India launched the world’s first solar-powered train, running for up to 27 hours on a single charge. Not to be outdone, China unveiled Fuxing, the world’s swiftest high-speed railway traveling at speeds of 350 km per hour.
“The purpose of raising the speed is mainly symbolic,” [said] Zhao Jian, economics professor and commentator. “The train is the fastest in the world, which implies the strength of Chinese train technology and science,”
So it may be an ego thing, but if passengers can get from Beijing to Shanghai in 30 minutes less, why not? In 2011, for safety reasons, engineers limited bullet train speeds to 300 km per hour. However, it seems China is willing to up the ante for economic benefits.
“Nobody predicted that the high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai would be profitable when it was built… But after a seven to eight-year development, it gains, so it can work in other regions as well after eight to 10 years,”
While it is a giant leap for eager travelers, I sure do hope it’s a secure one as well.
After its record-breaking tree-planting stint, it seems India is going full-steam ahead on the sustainability train. And I mean literally. India just launched a 12.5-mile routed solar-powered train that runs for up to 72 hours on a single charge.
The diesel-electric hybrid train has six coach cars with solar panels embedded in their roofs. Roughly 50 solar-harvesting coaches are set to be launched in the next several days, running primarily along commuter routes.
The new design is not only an attempt at convenience for commuters, it’s also aiming towards producing renewable energy.
The new trains are a part of Indian Railways’s plan to establish an energy-generation capacity of 1 gigawatt of solar and 130 megawatts of wind power in the next five years. The state-owned company has been using train-mounted solar panels since 2015 to power interior lights and air conditioning, but their newest train is the first in the world to use solar power.
India’s efforts towards becoming a more energy-conscious country are not going unnoticed. The U.K. also plans to start manufacturing solar-powered trains in the near future. Congratulations, India!