As if China building 16,000 kilometers of high-speed track from scratch by 2020 isn't ambitious enough, according to the Shanghai Daily, a laboratory at Southwest Jiaotong University is working on a prototype Maglev train that will average 500kph to 600kph. A much smaller model train traveling at 600 to 1,000kph in a vacuum tube will be introduced in two or three years.
Maglev trains floating electromagnetically eliminate track friction, but their top speed is still limited by air resistance. To eliminate aero friction the Chinese propose having the trains travel through tunnels, and then suck all the air out of them.
Known as Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) technology, it was originally patented by Daryl Oster in the United States. The US proposal was for a highly evacuated tunnel. The Chinese version only reduces air pressure, making the tunnel easier and cheaper to build.
The tunnel would cost US$3 million more than the current high speed railway for each kilometer. Considering China currently needs $118 Billion to complete the construction of 6,000 kilometers of high-speed lines by 2012, the vactrain track would cost approx $23 Million per kilometer to build, or approx 15% more than a standard high speed line.