China’s Very Clever New Train

China’s new bullet train won’t stop for passengers, but nobody in China’s wheelchair-bound community is complaining. Take that, Japan.

No time is wasted. The bullet train is moving all the time. If there are 30 stations between Beijing and Guangzhou, just stopping and accelerating again at each station will waste both energy and time. A mere 5 min stop per station (elderly passengers cannot be hurried) will result in a total loss of 5 min x 30 stations or 2.5 hours of train journey time!

Source: Kottke

Kai here. For those of you in China without a proxy or VPN, I found the video on Youku which includes an introduction by the designer Chen Jianjun dating back to April 2007. You can skip to 0:28 to view the animation of the concept. At 2:56, there’s a recorded “Win In China” show segment featuring the designer demonstrating the concept with a physical model. Here it is:

Not really part of our regular china/divide programming but I agree with DeNoble that its nifty enough to share. — Kai


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  1. Jones

    I can’t wait to see the disaster videos. The train slamming to a halt and that little carriage flying off the front at bullet-train speeds, severing the man halfway down the stairs in two. Sweet.

  2. B-real

    Dammit that is an awesome idea. That is very cool. If they can conceive it, it will be a hit all over china. They just need to redesign the entrance way to ensure complete safety. Don’t want people falling off before they get in or out. I hope plenty of R&D goes into this and maybe they can just sell the idea. Please tell me this is an original from Chinese engineers in China, educated by Chinese Universities (not sent to some other land for mental development). I would love to see some real good innovations born from their balls for a change.

  3. King Tubby

    I just know it. China has moved into the creative economy. Physical transmigration of bodies and wheelchairs from platform to bullet train without the annoying jostling of cues.

    Elbowing strangers and that tactical rush for seating really brought out everybody’s Darwinian DNA and produced a sharp, competitive workforce.

    Retrograde. Retrograde. China’s economic accendency has now plateaud.

  4. The idea is good, but it is only a concept. It doesn’t describe the implementation, in particular the critical system to decelerate and accelerate the 2 modules without risking the life of the passengers. I think it is very difficult to implement safely, doubt it will happen.

  5. Bin Wang

    Ah, I love Chinese cleverness, but this time, probably not to be. See U.S. Patent No. 4,425,851 for what seems to be an identical concept from the 80’s. Probably never implemented for the safety issues raised by Jones, as well as the issue of overhead clearances. Trains run under bridges all the time with just enough clearance. To alter train grades such that a top-carried compartment is possible would be very expensive and require an additional, say, 8-12feet at every place the track goes under a bridge.

    • Just throwing around ideas, but could this be avoided if they tried to select for certain routes?

      More importantly, is money for infrastructure projects have a cap in China? Perhaps infrastructure is to China like major league athletes are to America — yet considerably more efficient in the dollar-for-dollar investment.

      • Bin Wang

        Not sure, I just know that in the U.S., they’ve proposed an idea to double-stack containers on the key rail route between port (Norfolk, VA) and the Heartland (major rail hub at Columbus, OH). This would cut the time of goods from port to central U.S. markets in half (from about a week to 3/4 days). A key obstacle was the overhead clearance, as I recall, they’d have to make track grade changes (lower the track) to at over a dozen places.

        Here’s further reading for those interested:

        • Chris

          Just because it wasn’t or couldn’t be implemented in the U.S. doesn’t mean it can’t be implemented in China. If certain clearances are too low or whatever they’ll knock sh!t down and rebuild them to make it work.

    • B-real

      Dammit go figure i couldn’t be an original.

  6. That is indeed a very clever train.

  7. B-real

    It would still be cool if the could buy the idea and develop it and get it to actually work for them.

  8. jim

    I think the safety problems are easy to solve. The problem with height can be solved by building stations solely for unloading empty transfer carriages, before the train gets to the tunnel.

    A more difficult problem seems to be how to load/unload enough passengers using the carriages. For example, a TGV holds 300-500 passengers, and it seems hard to fit so many people into the carriage, even if you had more than one per station.

    Anyhow, I hope they can work through the problems, because it’s a major timesaver and and a very useful concept.

  9. lolz

    Wow a good concept indeed. Given the current economic situtation if there is one country which can seriously spend $$$ in this sort of research and knock down existing bridges to cover the train heights it would be China.

  10. Zuo Ai

    no way in hell I’d go for that, that damn train needs to stop!

  11. Ruud

    Amazing what can be patented. Let me also try:

    No need for this “top loading”, just fill a carriage for departing passengers, they set off before the train arrives, train drops a carriage with arriving passengers WOW ALSO WITHOUT SLOWING DOWN! and picks up the departing carriage along the way. Redesign carriages so they are aerodynamic (on a vertical axis so it “cuts through” the air like a knife).

    Of course you end up in the exact same problem as the above Nobel prize winning idea when half the train wants to get off / on at the same station.

    And if you cannot get out at your station, you just wait another round as you made a 2.5 hour timesaving on a 24 hour round trip journey anyway.

  12. Phil

    This was done for alighting passengers for maybe the first hundred years of the British railway network. As trains’ acceleration improved, and especially with electrification, the practice died out. See:

    Getting passengers on to the train is more difficult.

Continuing the Discussion