Bei­jing’s First Ma­glev Train, A New Cityscape

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Xia Edited by Justin Davis Photos by Dim­i­tar Pet­roski (Mace­do­nia), Zhang Xin

The S1 Line, which was put into op­er­a­tion on the last day of 2017, con­nects Men­tougou District with Bei­jing’s ur­ban area and bears spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for residents in western Bei­jing.

Amid a cool breeze, an S1 ma­glev train en­ters the sta­tion. Step­ping aboard and tak­ing a seat, one will em­bark on an amaz­ing jour­ney. The 10-kilo­me­tre (km)-jour­ney takes only 16 min­utes, en­abling pas­sen­gers to en­joy fast- chang­ing scenery at a quick pace.

On De­cem­ber 30, 2017, the S1 Line was put into op­er­a­tion. Ten medi­um­low speed ma­glev trains, pro­duced by CRRC Tang­shan Com­pany Lim­ited, be­gan op­er­a­tion along the seven sta­tions from Shichang to Jin’an­qiao, at a cost of 4 yuan per person per ride. As the first ma­glev line in Bei­jing, the S1 Line has ap­pealed greatly to residents of the cap­i­tal city as a new land­mark of its sub­way. In the fu­ture, the S1 Line will con­nect with Line 1 and Line 6 when the Ping­guoyuan and Jin’an­qiao trans­fer sta­tions are ready. Now that the S1 Line, Yan­fang Line and Tram Xi­jiao Line have come on­line, 22 ur­ban tran­sit lines are avail­able in Bei­jing, with a to­tal length of 608 km. The S1 Line, which con­nects Men­tougou District and Bei­jing’s ur­ban area, bears spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for residents in western Bei­jing.

Scenery along the Way

A pas­sen­ger men­tions: “It was the site of the for­mer Shougang Group and is now the of­fice of the Bei­jing Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee for the 2022 Win­ter Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games.” Peo­ple raise their phones to take pic­tures. The S1 Line passes through Yongding River, Xis­han Na­tional For­est Park and other scenic ar­eas and the Shougang Group In­dus­trial Zone.

Jin’an­qiao is the tem­po­rary de­par­ture sta­tion of S1 Line when head­ing west un­til the Ping­guoyuan Traf­fic Hub is com­pleted. As the train leaves the sta­tion, pas­sen­gers can see the Shougang Group’s In­dus­trial Her­itage Park. The tow­er­ing fur­naces, con­nected steel bridges and lakes in the area evoke mem­o­ries of the past. The Xishi­tong­cang area in the park now serves as the of­fice area for the Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee for the Bei­jing 2022 Win­ter Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games. The huge park looks like a “steel cas­tle,” yet re­flects the “Green Olympics” and “Tech­nol­ogy- geared Olympics” con­cepts in its de­tails. Six large of­fice build­ings con­verted from si­los stand side by side, with the exterior walls re­tain­ing con­crete- dom­i­nated in­dus­trial style and con­struc­tion waste be­ing re­cy­cled into new ma­te­ri­als. Xishi Win­ter Olympics Square and park­ing lot are nearby, demon­strat­ing the suc­cess­ful trans­for­ma­tion of in­dus­trial build­ings into green, pub­lic struc­tures. The Na­tional Speed Skat­ing Oval is un­der con­struc­tion in the dis­tance.

Pas­sen­gers may mar­vel at these won­ders. The train con­tin­ues west­ward and passes through a tun­nel. As leg­end has it, Tang Monk and his dis­ci­ples dried freshly writ­ten Bud­dhist scrip­tures in the sun on Shi­jing Mountain above the tun­nel ac­cord­ing to Jour­ney to the West (one of the Four Great Clas­si­cal Nov­els of Chi­nese literature, pub­lished in the 16th cen­tury dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty). Both the eco­log­i­cal and cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment were taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when the S1 Line was con­structed. The project team used spe­cial tech­niques to min­imise dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment when they made the tun­nel, in or­der to pro­tect the mountain and the an­cient build­ings on it.

In the blink of an eye, the train passes through the tun­nel with no noise at all. As light once again takes the place of dark­ness, one will catch sight of the shim­mer­ing Yongding River below the over­pass, as well as an ex­pan­sive wet­land park. South­ward, Yongding Tower stands alone at the Bei­jing Gar­den Expo Park. The West 6th Ring Road and west ex­ten­sion line of Chang’an Street then come into view, along with the par­tially con­structed Yongdinghe Bridge.

The S1 Line passes through sev­eral neigh­bour­hoods but makes lit­tle noise pollution for the lo­cal residents. As the train ap­proaches Shang’an Sta­tion, it has to turn a cor­ner with a curve ra­dius of 238 me­tres (m), leav­ing an im­pres­sion that it is mak­ing a 180-de­gree turn. Such a ma­noeu­vre is be­yond the reach of a reg­u­lar train. Pas­sen­gers are of­ten im­pressed by the su­perb tech­nol­ogy

that has been im­ple­mented.

After turn­ing the cor­ner, the train gal­lops south­ward, pass­ing by the mod­ern Zhong­guan­cun Men­tougou Science Park build­ings. The abil­ity to turn sharp corners and climb rel­a­tively steep gra­di­ents are two key fea­tures of the S1 Line. Be­fore ar­riv­ing at Xiaoyuan Sta­tion, the train has to turn an­other cor­ner with a ra­dius of 244 m and slants markedly. Be­tween Shichang Sta­tion and Xiaoyuan Sta­tion, the train has to climb a ram­p­way with the largest gra­di­ent of the line, a ra­tio of 53 per thou­sand. Pas­sen­gers can feel the ev­i­dent rise and fall, slant and ac­cel­er­a­tion of the train. Look­ing out of the win­dow, one can see the steep slope and feel that the train is swerv­ing. A large gold Bud­dha, stand­ing on the mist-shrouded Qian­ling Mountain, ap­pears in one’s view near the train’s ter­mi­nus at Shichang Sta­tion.

The S1 Line has driven the con­struc­tion of the “Yongding River Green and Eco-de­vel­op­ment Zone.” The once “re­mote western Bei­jing” is be­com­ing more mod­ern and dy­namic in the eyes of residents. Plat­forms along the line also re­flect the flavour of the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

For ex­am­ple, the “red leaf-shaped” Jin’an­qiao Sta­tion hall echoes with Xis­han Na­tional For­est Park, and the “lo­tus-shaped” Shichang Sta­tion hall mir­rors the Bud­dhist cul­ture of the Tanzhe Tem­ple.

As the train ap­proaches its ter­mi­nus, many pas­sen­gers are still think­ing about the scenery they have en­joyed. The train then switches to the other track, within five min­utes and be­gins its re­turn.

“As a fine ex­am­ple of ma­glev trains, the S1 Line demon­strates the su­perb ca­pa­bil­i­ties of be­ing able to turn sharp corners and climb rel­a­tively steep gra­di­ents over traf­fic.” Party Branch Sec­re­tary of S1 Line Sta­tion Area Li Ming­guang ex­plained that S1 Line trains are sus­pended above the tracks. They run smoothly while reg­u­lar trains vi­brate and shake. The S1 Line has to tackle many sharp turns, which are im­pos­si­ble for reg­u­lar trains. They re­quire a min­i­mum turn­ing ra­dius of 200 m. Ma­glev trains re­quire a min­i­mum turn­ing ra­dius of just 50 m. Reg­u­lar trains can only climb slopes with a max­i­mum ra­tio of 35 per thou­sand, while ma­glev trains can han­dle dou­ble this ra­tio at 70 per thou­sand.

Con­nect­ing the East and the West

As the first medium-low speed ma­glev line in Bei­jing, the S1 Line is also the sec­ond of its kind in China. The first is the Chang­sha Ma­glev Ex­press. S1 is man­aged and op­er­ated by the sec­ond branch of Bei­jing Sub­way Op­er­a­tion Com­pany Lim­ited and is part of the “Bei­jing Sub­way.” Phase I has a to­tal

length of 10.236 km, in­clud­ing 9.953 km of reg­u­lar, el­e­vated line and 0.283 km of tun­nel. The in­verse Z-shaped line starts at Men­tougou District’s Shichang Sta­tion in the west and ends at Shi­jing­shan District’s Ping­guoyuan Sta­tion in the east and fea­tures eight sta­tions.

A Bei­jing res­i­dent came a long way from Chaoyang District to ex­pe­ri­ence the S1 Line and men­tioned, “It is fast and smooth and more pas­sen­ger­friendly than buses and reg­u­lar sub­way lines.”

With a de­sign speed of 100 km per hour, the ac­tual op­er­at­ing speed of the S1 Line is around 80 km per hour. Each train has six car­riages and a rated pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity of 1,032 per­sons. It can run with less car­riages dur­ing less busy pe­ri­ods. Pas­sen­gers will be able to trans­fer to mul­ti­ple sub­way lines also. In­clud­ing board­ing and alight­ing time, the to­tal op­er­a­tion time of the train is less than 20 min­utes, mak­ing it more con­ve­nient for residents of Men­tougou, Shi­jing­shan and other dis­tricts in the west to get to Cen­tral Bei­jing. Many residents of Men­tougou are ex­cited that the line passes by their neigh­bor­hoods. “Pre­vi­ously it took more than an hour to go to Cen­tral Bei­jing. The S1 Line saves both time and money,” a res­i­dent in the area men­tioned.

Li Ming­guang ex­plained: “In the first three days of op­er­a­tion, the daily pas­sen­ger flow reached 12,000 peo­ple. They were mostly residents who wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence the new train. We now have a sta­ble pas­sen­ger flow of 2,000–3,000 peo­ple each day. The ma­jor­ity are com­muters dur­ing the morn­ing and evening rush hour pe­ri­ods. The S1 Line has greatly al­le­vi­ated trans­port prob­lems in south­west­ern Bei­jing. The re­gion around Feng­cun in Men­tougou is pop­u­lous. The peo­ple there have to travel around the Shuangyu Round­about to get to Shi­jing­shan, which con­trib­utes to con­ges­tion. When the new part of Ping­guoyuan Sta­tion is com­pleted, pas­sen­gers can trans­fer from the S1 Line to Sub­way Line 1 and Line 6. The east­ern and western parts of Bei­jing will fi­nally be con­nected in a more pas­sen­ger-friendly man­ner. Es­ca­la­tors for pas­sen­gers to trans­fer to Line 6 have been in­stalled within Jin’an­qiao Sta­tion.”

An­other ma­glev train came on­line in Shang­hai 14 years ago. In 2003, Shang­hai built the first high-speed ma­glev line with the as­sis­tance of Ger­man tech­nolo­gies. The train has a max­i­mum speed of 400 km per hour. Fif­teen years later, it is still the one and only com­mer­cial high-speed ma­glev line in op­er­a­tion glob­ally.

The S1 Line is dif­fer­ent from the high-speed line in Shang­hai. High­speed ma­glev trains are used on long, large trunk lines. High-speed rail­ways are their coun­ter­parts. Medi­um­low speed ma­glev trains are used in ur­ban rail tran­sit, scenic ar­eas and for other short- dis­tance trans­port. It cor­re­sponds with sub­ways and light rail­way. China is the third coun­try in the world to own medium-low speed ma­glev tech­nolo­gies. With a speed equal to that of a sub­way, medium-low speed ma­glev trains can find a niche in cities with a well-built sub­way net­work. They are su­pe­rior to sub­way sys­tems in that they have su­pe­rior slope- climb­ing abil­ity, can make tight turns, are not noisy and also have rel­a­tively low cost. Ma­glev trains can be most fully utilised in mountain cities like Chongqing. In Luoyang, Ji­nan and other cities where un­der­ground excavation is not ad­vis­able, medi­um­low speed ma­glev trains run­ning on el­e­vated lines are far less noisy than light rail­way.

Com­fort Brought by Ma­glev Tech­nol­ogy

As an ex­em­plary line, the S1 Line em­ploys an ad­vanced man­age­ment model and tech­nolo­gies, which make travel more com­fort­able.

As many pas­sen­gers have no­ticed, the S1 Line is op­er­ated by only one driver. Li ex­plained that op­er­a­tion sta­bil­ity and the han­dling of prob­lems have been en­hanced. This is part of the call of the 13th FiveYear Plan (2016–2020), which in­cludes in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency. Driv­ers should be very skilled and be able to han­dle emer­gen­cies calmly. Li stated: “Both the Sta­tion De­part­ment and the Traf­fic De­part­ment have em­ployed pro­fes­sional main­te­nance peo­ple to

of­fer train­ing and sim­u­late var­i­ous emer­gen­cies. Staff mem­bers can now han­dle mal­func­tions and en­sure punc­tual de­par­tures.”

The S1 Line uses the Nor­mal Medium-low Speed Ma­glev Sys­tem and elec­tro­mag­netic force to sus­pend the trains by 8–10 mil­lime­tres. The train glides on air over the track, and there is no wheel-track fric­tion. Dur­ing op­er­a­tion, the lower part of the train is at­tached to the track as well, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for the train to de­rail or over­turn. The train can also land on the track safe and sound in case of emer­gen­cies, in ad­di­tion to its reg­u­lar, mag­netic and me­chan­i­cal brak­ing sys­tems.

Ma­glev trains can op­er­ate in a va­ri­ety of con­di­tions in­clud­ing rain, snow, wind, sand­storms and so on. Ex­per­i­ments have been done to demon­strate their abil­i­ties. Oneyuan coins stand still even dur­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion and wa­ter in min­eral wa­ter bot­tles pro­duces only very slight waves. These kinds of re­sults show­case the smooth trans­port that these trains pro­vide.

The S1 trains look very fu­tur­is­tic with their white bod­ies, black win­dow frames and red chas­sis un­der­neath. Two huge, curved glass win­dows have a strong aes­thetic feel at the front of the con­duc­tor’s cabin. The in­te­rior de­sign is also dif­fer­ent from that of reg­u­lar trains. The dom­i­nant colours are warm and bright, along with grey walls, wood ve­neer cab­i­nets, stain­less steel handrails, large win­dows and blue seats.

Deci­bel me­ters have recorded just 63 deci­bels of noise be­ing emit­ted from run­ning ma­glev trains, which is equiv­a­lent to talk­ing at a nor­mal vol­ume. Pro­fes­sional tests have recorded just 65 deci­bels of noise from 10 m away. As the train is sus­pended, the track and elec­tro­mag­net form a closed cir­cuit as well, pre­vent­ing the leak­age of the elec­tro­mag­netic field. The In­sti­tute of Elec­tri­cal En­gi­neer­ing (IEE) of the Chi­nese Acad­emy of Sciences (CAS), the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bureau and other agen­cies have con­ducted mul­ti­ple, strict tests. Re­sults have shown that its elec­tro­mag­netic ra­di­a­tion is far lower than the in­ter­na­tional stan­dard re­leased by the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion on Non-ion­iz­ing Ra­di­a­tion Pro­tec­tion (ICNIRP) rec­om­mended by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

There are cur­rently two main meth­ods of mag­netic sus­pen­sion. One is elec­tro­mag­netic sus­pen­sion. The other is su­per­con­duct­ing elec­tric re­pul­sion us­ing su­per­con­duc­tor dia­mag­netism. The S1 Line uses the for­mer.

On top of these tan­gi­ble ad­van­tages, the S1 Line also has other “in­vis­i­ble” mer­its, such as low main­te­nance costs and en­ergy con­ser­va­tion. The line is equipped with a re­gen­er­a­tion sys­tem. When the train brakes, the gen­er­ated power flows back into the grid for later use. Since a run­ning ma­glev train is sus­pended, it suf­fers from far less wear and tear than rail trains do also, re­sult­ing in lower main­te­nance costs.

Brave New Fron­tiers

S1 Line pas­sen­gers have been im­pressed by the quiet­ness, smooth­ness and el­e­gance of the train. A ma­glev train waits for a main­te­nance pro­ce­dure in a garage near Sichang Sta­tion.

The garage in­cludes a main­te­nance garage and over­haul garage. Reg­u­lar trains are in­spected with a 20,000-km stan­dard, but ma­glev trains have to meet the re­quire­ments of 10,000 km. A ma­glev train has to un­dergo an an­nual over­haul also. Ac­cord­ing to Li Yangz­i­jie, di­rec­tor of the Traf­fic De­part­ment of the S1 Line, it is nat­u­ral for ma­glev trains to re­ceive main­te­nance more of­ten, as they are a new tech­nol­ogy. As more ex­pe­ri­ence is ac­cu­mu­lated, the pe­riod will be ex­tended.

An over­head, trav­el­ling crane is sus­pended high on the ceil­ing in the spa­cious garage, el­e­vat­ing train car­riages. Reg­u­lar trains have

three trou­bleshoot­ing in­spec­tion gal­leries, but ma­glev trains have five. Three main­te­nance work­ers are work­ing on a train and en­gage in var­i­ous in­spec­tion and re­pair pro­ce­dures. First, they en­sure that the track has no elec­tric cur­rent. They then lock the elec­tric­ity box to pre­vent misop­er­a­tion. Next, the up­per skirt­board be­neath the car­riage is opened, ex­pos­ing the main equip­ment. A small elec­tric rod is used to check whether nuts, bolts and plugs are loose. A lad­der helps when look­ing for de­bris in the gaps be­tween the mo­tor and elec­tro­mag­net and to see if the bolts are tight enough. Ma­glev trains at­tract wire, sheet iron and other metal. Main­te­nance work­ers have to ex­am­ine the gaps ev­ery day.

Li Yangz­i­jie ex­plained more in­for­ma­tion about the trains as fol­lows: “Sus­pen­sion sen­sors are very im­por­tant to the ma­glev sys­tem. An S1 train has 120 sus­pen­sion sen­sors, with each car­riage hav­ing 20. Lasers are used to en­sure a gap of 8–10 mil­lime­tres be­tween the train and the track. If the sen­sors de­tect a prob­lem, the cur­rent will be ad­justed to fix it. The nu­mer­i­cal cal­i­bra­tion of the sen­sors has to be pre­cise.” Li pointed to var­i­ous parts of the car­riage. “This is the bo­gie. The L-shaped parts are sus­pen­sion sen­sors, above which are laser probes used to mea­sure the gap. This is the elec­tro­mag­net, which pro­duces elec­tro­mag­netic force to sus­pend a train. These are the brakes, which clamp the track with brake pads. This de­vice sup­ports the body. These are the wheels, which al­low move­ment when the train is not sus­pended. This is the sus­pen­sion con­trol box, which is the ‘ brain’ that con­trols sus­pen­sion. The sus­pen­sion con­trol box, sus­pen­sion elec­tro­mag­net and sus­pen­sion sen­sors con­sti­tute the sus­pen­sion sys­tem of a ma­glev train. The mo­tor’s sta­tor and ro­tor are below.”

Li then pointed to the fifth bo­gie of the first car­riage. “This is a trans­formed steer­ing mech­a­nism. A two-way struc­ture is used to re­solve the prob­lem of stress con­cen­tra­tion when a train makes a sharp turn. The stress point was on that bo­gie orig­i­nally. We solved this prob­lem.”

The S1 trains were de­signed to be equipped with two car­riages and test­ing was done with two as well, so the pa­ram­e­ters were set for two car­riages. In re­al­ity, how­ever, the train has six car­riages. Sev­eral days into op­er­a­tion, the staff heard ab­nor­mal sounds as the train made a turn. A se­ries of ex­am­i­na­tions showed that an accessory used for turn­ing broke down. After nu­mer­ous tests, it was found that a spe­cific accessory for turn­ing bore 420 mega­pas­cals ( MPA) of stress when the train turned, far greater than its max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 275 MPA. Ex­per­i­ments also showed that the wear and tear of that part had noth­ing to do with speed or the load of the train. Li spec­u­lated that the com­bi­na­tion of turn­ing ra­dius and slope might have pro­duced a con­cen­tra­tion of stress on that part.

After iden­ti­fy­ing the prob­lem, S1 Line staff com­mis­sioned a third­party agency to help. They in­stalled many stress sheets to gather a great deal of data to lo­cate the stress con­cen­tra­tion point. The train ran to and fro and the point was fi­nally de­ter­mined. Turn­ing struc­tures have been in­stalled at those points on the trains. Stress con­cen­tra­tion is no longer a prob­lem, and smooth turns are en­sured.

“It’s nat­u­ral for new things to bring about new chal­lenges, which en­tails pos­i­tive re­sponses,” Li men­tioned. Be­fore the S1 Line was cre­ated, Bei­jing sub­way staff only had ex­pe­ri­ence with reg­u­lar rail trains and knew noth­ing about ma­glev trains. Li pre­vi­ously worked on the Fang­shan Line and faced some dif­fi­cul­ties learn­ing the new in­for­ma­tion, as well as the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the op­er­a­tor and the new man­u­fac­turer. “We keep learn­ing from and adapt­ing to the new man­u­fac­turer and keep ac­cu­mu­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and en­hanc­ing co­or­di­na­tion.” After get­ting past the ini­tial prob­lems in ear­lier stages, the S1 Line has re­alised smooth op­er­a­tion re­gard­ing both speed and com­fort. In the face of new tech­nolo­gies, new ap­pli­ca­tions and new prob­lems, we find our way for­ward and make con­stant progress.”

The S1 Line, the first medium-low speed ma­glev train in Bei­ji­ing

The in­side of a sta­tion on the S1 Line

The S1 Line re­quires only one driver. Reg­u­lar sub­way trains usu­ally have two.

A tech­ni­cian works on a ma­glev train.

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