Four rail innovations that could change our cities

Nic Crowther
Fri 07 Jul

You might be surprised to hear that the world leaders in railway innovation isn’t Japan, Germany or England.

In fact, it is China that is leading the way by exploring some extraordinary new ways to move people in the most efficient and cheapest manner. Some are fanciful, but others look very, very close to solving the transport issues of cities around the world.


The Maglev

Visitors to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport might have caught this train to Longyang Station near the city’s financial district.


Although it costs 120 times more to travel on the Maglev (compared to the city’s metro for the same trip) the rush of travelling at 430km/h makes it worth every cent.


The train that never stops

More of a concept at the moment (watch the video to see why!), this innovation works on the premise that slowing down and speeding up trains is a huge waste of time and energy.



Trains run through limited stations to save time – but what if you could pick up and drop off passengers at every station without once applying the brake? It’s a fascinating idea, but one that carries a few risks!


‘Subway for the Street’

Is it a train? Or is it a bus? This is a clever innovation that provides a light rial/tram solution without needing to lay down a single piece of track.

The system in a simple one: sensors track marking on the road to direct the vehicle through the city streets. The result is an autonomous vehicle that shares the streets as you find in Melbourne, but requires no infrastructure below or above the electric tram.



The developers are quoting around $2.5 million per vehicle. For the around the same price as the first nine kilometres of Canberra’s light rail, we could have 300 of these making their way throughout the entire city.


The elevated solution

Another concept that share the road with cars and trucks, this one takes a more radical approach.

You might have seen concept videos for the elevated train over the last few years. Now, someone has actually gone and built it.



The street-straddling bus that allows regular traffic to pass underneath was given a road test in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province. A Chinese company designed the Transit Elevated Bus in the hope of making better use of road space.

This version has only one carriage, which is 22 meters long, 7.8 meters wide and 4.8 meters high. It could carry up to 300 passengers.