Off the rails … China’s “trackless train” symbolises a future of rail travel that is borderless and convenient

July 30, 2018

Chinese company CRRC Corporation has just launched a self-driving train that runs on virtual tracks – and it just officially hit the streets of Zhuzhou in China‘s Hunan Province. The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) could ease emissions and traffic for a fraction of the cost of building a subway or streetcar system. The 100 percent electric train can transport as many as 300 passengers in three carriages through cities at speeds of 43 miles per hour.

No traditional train tracks are necessary for the ART, which runs on dotted lines painted on streets, aided by sensors. The trackless train has been described as a hybrid between a bus and tram, and it’s 100 percent powered by electricity. Channel NewsAsia reported the ART could help speed up public transportation in Zhuzhou before spreading to other cities in China.

The train can reportedly run for over 15 miles after charging for 10 minutes. A few outlets say the ART has lithium titanate batteries and charges via a flash charging facility. The ART is more than 103 feet long, and instead of steel wheels it has rubber tires. A twin-head system allows the train to travel without ever making a U-turn. The trackless train’s lifespan is reportedly around 25 years.

People’s Daily Online reports that the ART is less expensive than the typical subway, which in China costs between 400 million to 700 million yuan, or around $60.1 million to $105.3 million, per kilometer. Compared against electric streetcars, which run around 150 million to 200 million yuan, or around $22.5 million to $30 million, per kilometer, the ART “is only about one-fifth the investment.”

Arup’s Future of Rail 2050

In a future where 75% of people live in cities, the world’s population stands at 9.5 billion and there are advances in technology that can only be dreamed about today, the Future of Rail 2050 takes a user’s perspective and explores how rail travel might change for passengers and freight.

  • What are the megatrends that will influence the way people live, work, travel and consume information in the future?
  • How will infrastructure and rail systems cope with the rising demand for passenger and freight capacity?
  • How will rail fare in a world experiencing an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events?

In the past, we have witnessed rail’s power to stimulate and drive economic growth. In some parts of the world it’s seen as essential for economic diversification and supporting policy, and can be a catalyst for regeneration.

More on the future of rail … travel, mobility


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