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Is there such a thing as a levitating train?

iStockphoto/ Gettyimages, Londen

A magnetic levitation train doesn’t run on wheels. Instead, it levitates – or floats – above the rails. The train levitates due to magnetic attraction or repulsion. Electromagnets are used for this purpose. The train levitates above the rails, so it doesn’t actually come into contact with them. This means there is almost no friction. This allows the train to reach high speeds of around 500 kilometres per hour.

Do they already exist?
Three passenger-carrying magnetic levitation trains are already in operation, in China (Shanghai), in Japan and in South Korea. When they are empty, these trains can reach speeds of up to 500 km/hr. They are not quite so fast when carrying passengers, however. The magnetic levitation trains in Japan and South Korea float along at just a little over 100 km/hr. By comparison, the French high-speed train (TGV) – which runs on wheels – reaches speeds of up to 320 km/hr on the fastest parts of its route. Shanghai’s magnetic levitation train floats along much faster – at about 430 km/hr, on the fastest part of its route.