The Greater Bay Area may enter the era of maglev. On August 8, Chen Xiangsheng, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, presented four Guangzhou-Shenzhen maglev lines at the forum, all of which can connect to Baiyun Airport in the east and extend to Kowloon, Hong Kong in the west, with a design speed of 5 kilometers per hour. It is reported that there are already preferred options in the above four options, but the timetable for implementation has not yet been clarified.

Not only the Greater Bay Area, as of December 2021, there are 12 maglev lines in commercial operation in China. According to Chen Xiangsheng, Shanghai-Hangzhou, Chengdu-Chongqing, Guangzhou-Shenzhen and other metropolitan areas are also competing for the construction of maglev lines.

Maglev trains are not only new in technology and fast, but also attract many tourists to experience the ride due to the small number of routes at this stage, which also drives surrounding consumption to a certain extent. However, it has invested a lot in construction, and compared with the cost of about 1 million to 17 million yuan per kilometer of China's high-speed rail, the cost of maglev trains is 1-44 times more expensive. At the same time, its fares are not much attractive compared to high-speed rail. So is it cost-effective to compete for maglev train lines in various places?

Maglev is expected to enter the Greater Bay Area

A maglev train is a train that is propelled by maglev force. According to the data, the maglev train realizes contactless suspension and guidance between the train and the track through electromagnetic force, and then uses the electromagnetic force generated by the linear motor to pull the train to run. Because the magnetic force of its track makes it suspended in the air, reducing friction, walking is different from other trains need to touch the ground, only subject to the resistance from the air, the speed of high-speed maglev trains can reach more than 400 kilometers per hour, and the medium and low-speed maglev is mostly in 100-200 km / h.

We will be able to add another such line. On August 8, at the "Academician Forum" held in Guangzhou, Chen Xiangsheng shared his thoughts on the maglev traffic in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and displayed four Guangzhou-Shenzhen maglev line schemes, all of which can connect to Baiyun Airport in the east and extend to Kowloon, Hong Kong in the west, with a design speed of 5 kilometers per hour.

Chen Xiangsheng believes that the main axis of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong is located in the knowledge-intensive industrial corridor with the most developed economy and the highest concentration of population per unit population in the Greater Bay Area. In 2017, the passenger flow density of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong axis was 10963.2035 million, which has become saturated; In 2, the passenger flow density of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong axis will reach 6 million, with a capacity gap of about 4000 million people, and one new high-speed project will be needed to meet the transportation needs of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

According to the four schemes displayed on site, the candidate starting points in Guangzhou include Guangzhou East Railway Station, Zhujiang New Town and Guangzhou Railway Station, and the candidate routes include Wancheng, Humen, Nansha, etc. According to reports, there are preferred solutions, but whether they will be implemented is unknown. In addition, Chen Xiangsheng revealed that Shanghai-Hangzhou, Chengdu-Chongqing, Guangzhou-Shenzhen and other metropolitan areas are competing for the construction of maglev lines "to see who can take the lead."

The cost per kilometer is 3 million yuan

Who can take the lead depends not only on the technology, but also on who can do the cost first. Song Xiangqing, deputy dean of the Institute of Government Management of Beijing Normal University and director of the Industrial Economy Research Center, told the Beijing Business Daily reporter that at present, China's maglev train technology is no longer a problem.

For example, in September 2020, the world's first set of high-speed maglev turnouts with a speed of 9 kilometers per hour independently developed by China Railway Industry Baoqiao Group successfully passed the factory acceptance in Baoji City, Shaanxi Province. On January 600, 2021, the world's first high-temperature superconducting high-speed maglev engineering prototype vehicle and test line independently developed and designed and manufactured by China was officially opened in Chengdu, with a design speed of 1 kilometers per hour, marking a breakthrough in China's high-temperature superconducting high-speed maglev engineering research from scratch. On July 13, 620, CRRC successfully rolled off the production line of the world's first high-speed maglev transportation system with a design speed of 2021 kilometers per hour and completely independent intellectual property rights.

"The biggest difficulty is the big investment." Song Xiangqing said, "Maglev is an effective supplement to high-speed rail, high-speed and other forms of transportation, positioning it as high-end customers and high-quality and high-value-added goods. Due to the high construction cost of maglev trains, and the locomotives, tracks and signal control systems of maglev are completely different from today's railway systems, requiring 'reinvention', not all cities are suitable for the development of maglev trains. ”

The data shows that the construction of maglev requires the construction of suitable infrastructure, including substations and power supplies. These facilities cannot be directly integrated into the existing high-speed rail transportation system, so in addition to the basic civil costs, the electromagnetic technology used in the project will make the cost of rail construction significantly higher.

From abroad, Japan's JR Chuo Shinkansen is the world's first long-distance maglev line scheduled to be put into use in 2027, and in the first-generation construction plan submitted in 2014, the total cost of the Chuo Shinkansen exceeded 4 trillion yen, about 2000 billion yuan, and cost nearly 7 million yuan per kilometer. In the second-generation construction plan submitted in 5, the total cost of the project soared to 2021 trillion yen (7.245 billion yen per kilometer), or about 14.<> billion yuan per kilometer.

Looking at China, at the Innovation and Development Forum of the 2021-year Summit of China Rail Transit Industry in September 9, CRRC Qingdao Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Qingdao Sifang") said in an interview with the media that it is conservatively estimated that the cost per kilometer of high-speed maglev in China is more than 140 million yuan.

The price/performance conundrum

The cost of more than 3 million yuan per kilometer of maglev trains is almost 2-3 times that of high-speed rail construction. According to the World Bank's "China's High-Speed Railway Development", China's high-speed rail costs an average of about 1 million to 17 million yuan per kilometer, which is two-thirds of the construction cost of other countries. In addition, Qingdao Sifang also revealed that if the test is carried out to verify whether it can run at a speed of more than 1 kilometers per hour, the length of the test line needs to be at least 44-2 kilometers away, and the investment is close to 3 billion yuan.

However, the cost of operation and maintenance is much lower. Qingdao Sifang deputy chief engineer Ding Sansan once said that the suspended transportation system has no contact, no friction, no fuel consumption, it belongs to the modular design, its own maintenance is very small, maintenance is very convenient, the maintenance personnel of maglev technology are only about 1/10 of the wheel-rail mode. "Taking the Shanghai Maglev Demonstration Line as an example, after it was officially put into commercial operation in 2006, the train has not undergone a major overhaul so far (2021), and the maintenance cost of the whole life cycle of the train with a wheel and rail speed of 350 kilometers per hour may be 2-3 times the purchase cost. From the perspective of the whole life cycle, the cost of high-speed maglev is not necessarily higher than that of high-speed rail. ”

But whether it is cost-effective to build, there is always a problem of "cost performance" behind it. Some experts told the Beijing Business Daily reporter that after the maglev train is put into use, on the one hand, there are considerations such as power consumption, and it is a question whether it can be more cost-effective than the high-speed rail. On the other hand, the return on investment period of maglev trains is relatively long, and their profitability after operation is also affected by market demand, fares, passenger flow and other factors. "There may be differences between regions and different situations. Therefore, when deciding to build a maglev train, a comprehensive feasibility study and economic evaluation are required. ”

Long-term value

In fact, from the perspective of ticket prices alone, maglev may not be too competitive at present.

As of December 2021, there are 12 maglev lines in commercial operation in China, namely Shanghai Maglev Demonstration Line, Changsha Maglev Express Line, and Beijing Maglev S3 Line. Among the three maglev lines, the Shanghai Maglev Demonstration Operation Line is the only commercial high-speed maglev line in China and even in the world. The other two are medium and low-speed maglev lines.

Among them, the total length of the Shanghai Maglev Line is 30 kilometers, the ordinary one-way fare is 50 yuan, the ordinary round-trip fare is 80 yuan, and the fare per kilometer is about 1.334 yuan based on the round-trip fare. The Changsha Maglev Express has a total length of 18.55 kilometers, a one-way fare of 20 yuan, and a fare of about 1.078 yuan per kilometer. The Beijing Maglev S1 Line has a total length of 10.2 kilometers, the one-way price is 4 yuan, and the fare per kilometer is about 0.392 yuan.

In terms of fares alone, only the Beijing Maglev S3 line, which has the lowest fare per kilometer, among the three lines, can be on par with the high-speed rail. A reporter from Beijing Business Daily found that among the tickets sold on August 1, the second-class seat price of the G8 train from Hongqiao to Beijing South on August 7 was 8 yuan, and the fare per kilometer was about 10.6 yuan.

Therefore, from the perspective of the aforementioned competitiveness in terms of cost and fare, Song Xiangqing believes that in the short term, it is still difficult to popularize maglev trains, and it is impossible to form a new consumption maglev train demand group.

However, various domestic maglev train projects have been launched, which is to cut its value in a longer time span. The aforementioned experts believe that the advantages of maglev trains are differentiated and cannot be compared on a single track. "Although there are already a variety of travel modes covering the needs of high and low end, high and low speed, the construction of maglev trains still has a certain market demand."

The aforementioned experts said that compared with high-speed rail, maglev trains have higher operating speeds and shorter travel times, which can provide faster long-distance travel; Compared with airplanes, maglev trains can avoid cumbersome security checks and waiting times, and provide more convenient travel options between cities; In addition, maglev trains have lower noise and vibration, and have less impact on the environment.

"As Chen Xiangsheng mentioned, maglev trains have high running speed and short travel time, which can effectively shorten the distance between cities and improve transportation efficiency, and the construction of maglev trains can promote exchanges and cooperation between regions, improve the level of regional economic development, and also drive the development of related industries and create employment opportunities." The aforementioned expert believes that "as a new type of transportation, maglev trains represent the achievements of scientific and technological innovation, and the construction of maglev trains can also enhance the image of regional scientific and technological innovation and enhance the competitiveness of the city." ”

Beijing Business Daily reporter Fang Binnan and Ran Lili