High-speed trains set the pace on simulator


Procedure to test brake system leads global rivals, experts say

High-speed trains may be running slower on the tracks, but the fast pace of research and development in China's laboratories has continued unabated.

The latest advancement, experts say, is a simulation facility that can test the durability of a brake system on a train traveling 530 kilometers an hour.

"The speed is the fastest in the world, higher than a similar test procedure in Germany that allowed a maximum speed of around 400 km an hour," Li Heping, a researcher with the China Academy of Railway Sciences, said.

Though the top bracket of China's high-speed trains was lowered for safety concerns to 300 kph, research focusing on increasing speed continues in order to gain a technological advance, researchers said.

Li expects that a domestic procedure to test braking systems at high speed could help Chinese and foreign manufacturers with production.

The procedure, or test bench that provides a simulated experience, was put into operation last month. It set a world record by allowing a maximum test speed of up to 530 kph.

Braking is obviously a key technology for high-speed trains. The test bench up to now for a braking system in China could only simulate conditions of 300 kph.

Domestic train manufacturers had to travel to other countries to test braking on their 380-kph trains, he said.

Officials from the International Union of Railways (UIC), an organization that promotes rail travel and looks at the challenges facing it, are expected to see the facility in May, Li said.

"If our test bench gets authentication from the UIC, manufacturers can use it for experiments and the results will be recognized worldwide," he said.

Located at an academy laboratory, the test bench can simulate various conditions, from extremely dry to raging storms.

China's largest train maker, CSR Corp Ltd, was reported in December to have launched a test train that can reach speeds of up to 500 km an hour.

However, Huang Qiang, academy chief researcher, said that this does not imply that China will develop faster models than the current 380 kph trains now.

"A number of factors determine train speed but research can continue so that we are prepared should the need arise," he said.

Though there's no immediate demand for faster trains, engineers are working on new high-speed models, including one that can withstand temperatures of -40 C which is expected to be put into service this year.

The Harbin-Dalian high-speed railway, which links three provinces in Northeast China, will travel in temperatures below -25 C.

Temperatures below this mark can play havoc with train transport.

For the new model, special steel must be used to prevent cracks, doors must be redesigned to avoid being frozen and stuck, and the train's ventilation and air-conditioning system will have to function without draining power.

Researchers are also looking at how to utilize high-speed trains for cargo as they will be able to transport perishable items just as planes do, he said.

China's high-speed railway network is expected to pass 10,000 km by the end of this year, the Ministry of Railways said in February.


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