Dennis Wright's Blog

23 April 2007: The Millimetre High Club

Posted in China, Far East Cruise 2007, Video by Dennis Wright on May 10, 2007

Maybe most visitors to Shanghai don’t put the Magnetic Levitation train (or Maglev for short) at the top of their must-see list, but we were determined to go on it and decided to head there first.

The shuttle bus from the ship dropped us off at the Silk Exhibition building on Dagu Lu (“Lu” meaning street), close to Renmin Square (“People’s Square”) and Renmin Park (work it out for yourself).




We found the underground and set about making our way to Longyang Lu station from where you can take the Maglev to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport. My pronunciation of Longyang Lu was just good enough to secure a couple of tickets. We found the right line and platform. Thankfully, the lines are colour coded and Western numerals are also used. Station names are shown in both Chinese characters and roman letters.

The trains are comparable to, say, the London underground but they have internal LCD video screens broadcasting adverts. Announcements of upcoming stations are in Chinese and English.

Once at Longyang Lu you exit the station to access the futuristic Maglev terminal immediately outside it.

Maglev train coming into Longyang Lu terminal.



The Maglev train takes a little over 7 minutes to cover the 30km to the airport, briefly attaining a top speed of 431kph (269 mph). There is an electronic display in each carriage showing speed and elapsed time. The view out the window leaves you in no doubt about how fast you are going. Cars on the nearby elevated motorway look stopped. It takes about a second to pass the sister Maglev on the parallel track, travelling in the opposite direction.

Technically, to my mind at least, the Maglev is a form of very low flying aircraft. There are no wheels in contact with rails, at least when not in station. The entire train is suspended above the track by a magnetic field, probably by only a few millimetres and moves by linear induction motor. The lack of physical contact between train and track means no friction, hence the amazing speed. I expected the train to glide silently but it does make a noise. A fairly steady one, rather than the ker-chunk ker-chunk of a normal train, and probably caused by the induction motor.

I speculated whether there may be a Millimetre High Club by analogy with the Mile High Club as applicable to conventional air travel. If so, participants would have to be quick given the short journey time. No, we did not attempt to enrol.

Once at Pudong airport we decided to take a look around. We had a “Palin moment” at an airport restaurant where we stopped for a drink. We devised the term in honour of Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame, who has had a successful post-Python career making popular TV travel documentaries such as “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Pole to Pole”. The success of the programmes I think flowed from Michael being game to sample customs or culinary delights peculiar to foreign cultures in a very affable, cheerful, slightly clownish and thoroughly British way. It was in that same spirit that Naomi responded to what actually turned up when she ordered tea with milk. Well it wasn’t PG tips. The waitress brought a teacup and a lidded glass jug containing what turned out to be tea already mixed with milk and flavoured with orange and probably other things. There were some large leafy floaty bits as well. It was odd but nice. Naomi took it in a charmingly Palinesque sort of way.

The airport is modern and has unusual but attractive roof architecture.


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