Unmanned magnetic levitation train
By Lee Hyo-sik
Korea will operate unmanned magnetic levitation trains in Incheon International Airport from 2013, becoming the latest country after Japan to commercialize the next generation transportation system.
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said Monday that it will finish constructing a 6.1 kilometer railway by 2012 within the country's main airport and begin running unmanned magnetic levitation trains that will travel at 110 kilometers per hour. The ministry also unveiled a prototype of the train.
As one of Korea's state-funded research and development (R&D) projects, the government decided in 2006 to invest 450 billion won ($400 million) into developing the magnetic trains and railway tracks by 2012. Countries like Japan and Germany have been active in maglev research as an alternative to today's wheeled mass transit systems.
All the technologies have been developed by local entities, including the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials and Rotem. The institute and Rotem, a local subway train producer, have been jointly developing Korea's next generation mass transport system.
Maglev trains, which are suspended in the air above specially designed tracks, are propelled by a linear motor that uses the repulsive and attractive forces of magnetism.
Because there is no physical contact between the vehicle and the track, the maglev system has many advantages ― it can travel at very high speeds with reasonable energy consumption and at low noise levels.
The futuristic transportation system had its debut in the early 1980s, but economic limitations have pose stumbling blocks to its full-fledged commercialization.
``We will continue to work hard to successfully introduce the maglev system over the next two years and launch a trial service in 2013 at Incheon International Airport. If the operation proves to be successful, many municipal administrations will rush to bring in this transport system to improve their mass transit,'' a ministry official said.
He also said the ministry will seek to cut the costs of building the maglev train tracks to as low as 40 billion won per kilometer. ``If so, the transport scheme will be economically feasible. We will then try to export our maglev trains and related technologies to other countries.''