Review: Riding the Shanghai Maglev at 430 km/h

There is nothing like a high speed train to spice up travel, especially one that doesn’t actually touch the track and is elevated by magnetic levitation. Our trip through Shanghai allowed us to experience the speed of the Shanghai Maglev.

This post is one chapter in our Around the World in Star Alliance First Class via China, Thailand and Spain. This trip was booked using Air Canada Aeroplan miles. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Riding the Shanghai Maglev at 430 km/h

“The Shanghai Maglev is a neat attraction when visiting Shanghai and an opportunity to ride the smoothest and fastest magnetic levitation train in the world”

We deplaned off of Air China and walked the long trip back over the 6 travellators to the baggage claim. No golf cart was waiting for us like on our departure, but it was a good opportunity to stretch the legs. 

Arriving to Shanghai Pu Dong

We checked our baggage into “left luggage” which is on the arrivals level of PuDong Airport. We were self connecting to a Thai Airways flight this evening to Bangkok. We had 7 hours to kill so we thought we would take advantage of this down time in Shanghai and try out the train.

Booking the Shanghai Maglev:

Being a fan of transportation technology, I had always wanted to try the Shanghai MagLev Train. The Maglev train uses electromagnetic technology to elevate the train from the track so that the train floats on a cushion of air. In doing so, it is able to reach higher speeds (allegedly) and reduce friction. There are only a few in public operation in the world, the Shanghai MagLev, the Linimo (Tobu Kyuryo Line, Japan), and the Daejeon, South Korea line. 

The Shanghai train costs are 50 RMB for a one way ticket or 80 RMB ($12 USD) for a same day round trip. The line passes 30 km in 7 minutes. The line ends at a connecting station to the Shanghai metro at the city end. It is a separate ticket to ride the Shanghai Metro. Credit cards were accepted for payment at the cashier. 

There is a computer monitor sign posted outside the entrance that indicates the speed of the train. Interestingly enough, the train goes faster during the mid morning and mid afternoon. If you want to experience the train at it’s fastest, make sure your connection through PuDong is during these times!!! 

Shanghai Maglev Schedule
Shanghai Maglev Station

On Board the Shanghai Maglev:

After we paid for our tickets, we completed a bag x-ray and entered into a holding area that wasn’t too exciting. Upon arrival of the train, we were let into the platform area. I managed to take a few photos before getting on board. There are no posted departure times so you have to be a little quick without waiting around on the train platform. 

Shanghai Maglev Station
Shanghai Maglev Train
Shanghai Maglev Track
Getting Ready to Go

Once on board, there is no assigned seating and seats are in a 2-2 formation. There are two classes of service – normal and VIP. I did not check out the VIP car. 

On Board the Shanghai Maglev

I checked out the cockpit and noticed a very simple control board with the driver looking at a Chinese version of an Excel spreadsheet. I later learned that the entire system is remote and that the trains are controlled from a command center. The person in the driver’s seat is merely a conductor designed to confirm any situation that may be received through the command center. It looks like there is a database of information that runs on the cockpit screen (lists of journey’s perhaps?)

The Experience: Riding a Train at 400+ Km/h

On departure, the train acceleration itself is very smooth and gradual. It’s not sudden like the acceleration of a plane taking off on a run way. Being a magnetically elevated train, there was no clickety clack from the trains and story books of our childhood. Despite the smooth start, there are a few bumps and jolts along the way. As this was happening, I had an image of the nineties era TV Commercial of the Lexus accelerating to 100 km/h with a stack of champagne glasses on the hood of the car. In this situation however, these glasses on the Maglev train were cascading down around us as we hurtled toward 300 km/h, gently being bumped and jostled around. Even the usually unflappable Ms WT73 announced quietly “I’m freaking out.” As she looked around and out the window as the country side passed by at such a rapid rate.  

Our return trip offered the delight of speeds up to 431 km/h. 

Speed Sign
Bliss at 430 km/h

I couldn’t help but wonder, there is something strange about seeing the ground fly by at that velocity. I recalled past high speed train experiences of the Train de Grande Vitesse (TGV – France) or the Shinkansen (Japan), but all of those experiences were on ground tracks that were fenced off from the population – this version was on an elevated track that ran closely over freeways and other minor roads. Like on the final descent into PuDong, your mind tells you that it is not right that the ground should be passing by the window so quickly. Add a few banked turns and as you bob around, and your mind can’t help wondering what is happening. 

Before we knew it, our terminal velocity came to an end as the train started slowing down. Our 8 minute ride finished at the terminus in Shanghai. For train enthusiasts, there is a museum at the city end of the tour that offers explanations on how the track was built and designed. It is free with your ticket stub. It was worth a 10 minute visit for train enthusiasts. 

We changed to the regular subway and hung out in the PuDong area (new area) of Shanghai, prior to heading back to the airport on the Maglev Train.

The Bottom Line: 

This is a must do if you find yourself transiting through Shanghai, especially if you are train buff! It is a unique experience in the world and was by far the fastest I have ever traveled on ground. The train floats over rural areas, which is different than the French SNCF or the Japanese JR Rains high speed trains that seem to skirt rural towns. Within about 45 minutes, you can Maglev and subway into the PuDong area of Shanghai, making for a pleasant diversion when transiting through Shanghai.

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