Maglev – A Failure?

Although the Maglev connecting Pudong Airport and Long Yang Road Station attracted much attention, more and more factors show that it is a failed project.

Very Little Traffic

According to this article: Shanghai cuts maglev train ticket prices, “the 440-seat trains carried an average of just 73 passengers per day last month.”

Are you kidding? 73 passengers per day last month? The $1.2 billion train just carry 73 persons per day. That means, there is, the Maglev get 5475 RMB or 670 USD per day as revenue. Even if there is no maintenance cost, the electricity is free and all the staff don’t ask for salary, the whole project is expected to withdraw all the investment in 5,000 years. :-D

Maglev website

It seems I still have to help promote the service via this website better than before. There is no official website for Maglev yet. If you search for “Maglev Shanghai” in Google, my article returns as the first entry in the result. I hope there is an official website that by pass mine and become the first, so they may double the passenger numbers so there is only 2500 years to break-even day for Maglev.

Updated: According to Alexandre, it was a mistake in news. It should be 73 persons/trip.

21 thoughts on “Maglev – A Failure?

  1. I’ve heard that the Meglev in Shanghai is a pilot project for the rapid transit system between Beijing ang Shanghai. But now the Chinese government has announced that conventional rail will be used in the huge project between Beijing and Shanghai, and I think the Maglev in Shanghai has finally lost its point. It IS fast, but do we need that fast? It’s much cheaper to build a light rail transit to the airport, and there can be more stations along the way to pick up passangers, which is much more “user friendly.”

  2. I read somewhere the Maglev line in Shanghai is really inconvenient, with passengers having to haul their luggage down flights of stairs, no luggage space on the trains, and the train terminal being quite a bit outside of the city’s main area so that people have to transfer to some other type of transportation to get to their destination. If this is true, then no wonder no one is riding the Maglev.

  3. I don’t care if it’s a failure, I’m still gonna ride it when I’m in Shanghai over the summer just for the heck of it. Now Beijing -> Shanghai Maglev would be VERY cool.

  4. That was a mistake repeated by all the newspapers. The figure is 73/trip, which, with a capacity of 440, gives a 15%-20% capacity factor. Not gorgeous, but the ramp-up period for any transportation project is usually quite long.

    Well, this error shows the excessive reliance on Xinhua for China news, since they basically all repeat its reports, mistakes included. And Xinhua has not adopted the habit of Reuters and other more reliable sources to issue a correction once the mistake is spotted.

    For more follow-up on the train projects in China (more the long-distance ones), see

  5. I’ve just returned from a 3-days’ trip in Shanghai. As I had heard so much about the Maglev when I was living in this city one year ago, I decided to hop onto one for my transfer from Pudong to town. Following is a brief summary of my encounter:

    1330 Hr: Pudong Airport Arrival Hall (1st Floor)

    1335 Hr: Found the Maglev schedule on the 3rd Floor – next train @ 1350 Hr

    1340 Hr: Bought ticket for the ride (¥50/way on economy class or ¥40 for passenger with air ticket of the same day) and board the train

    1345 Hr: Maglev took off from Pudong, 5 minutes before scheduled time

    1351 Hr: Arrived at Longyang Station

    1400 Hr: Got into a taxi at the fourth attempt. (The previous three drivers claimed that they didn’t know where Tomorrow Square is. One of them even claimed ignorant of People’s Square when I told him that the destination is close to it!)

    1430 Hr: Arrived at JW Marriott at Tomorrow Square

    This new mode of traveling (Maglev + taxi) reduces the amount of time on the road and costs for transfer from Pudong airport to the hotel in Puxi. My total transfer costs came up to ¥80 (¥40 for Maglev + ¥40 for taxi). However, it will cost more than taxi fare (¥120-150) if there are three or more passengers traveling together. There won’t be much time saving if the passenger misses the connecting Maglev and has to wait about 15-20 minutes for the next one.

    I must say that this mode of traveling is also not suitable for passengers with more than a carry-on luggage. This is because there are about five flights of escalators and some walking involved (no trolley available at the tunnel connecting airport to Maglev station and Longyang station).

    The Maglev currently runs between Longyang and Pudong from 8.30 am through 5.30 pm at every 20 minutes interval. There are racks above the seats and between cabins for luggage. I do not think it’s necessary to pay twice as much to travel on first class as it is a very short ride and there are few users now (more Maglev tourists than transfer passengers).

    I agree that an official website should be set up fast to create more awareness among travelers and encourage higher usage. Some advertisements at the airport will certainly attract arriving passengers to use the service. The overall experience was good and I will still ride on Maglev the next time I go to Shanghai.

  6. Sorry to hear that ridership is not higher. I agree with Alexander that it usually takes a while for the ridership to ramp up to the levels that they hope for. I think people need to get used to the new form of transportation. I think most business commuters would embrace the Maglev quicker, while tourists to Shanghai may not embrace it as quickly because they are unsure of the destination and connections to their Hotel.

  7. How much is the Maglev train ticket now? That article from Singapore’s Straits Times is not available anymore. Thanks.

  8. It really doesn’t matter how many people the train carries in the first few months, even if there were 73 per day. It takes some time for people to switch from buses and cabs to something new and expensive.

  9. Why do they not extend the service time past 5:30PM? This is inconvenient for all of the flights who get in past 5:30 but want to take the maglev into the city? There are many flights from Japan/US/Hong Kong that get in after 5:30PM, and in those cases the passengers cannot take the maglev at all!

  10. The Maglev is an unfortunate plan. It cost a lot of money; they don’t have such a train in Germany where it was developed because it is too expensive. However, the main problem is that there is nothing reasonably convenient about it. It doesn’t go any where that makes sense! If you have luggage, which most people have, then you must drag it onto the subway or a taxi when you get to the end of the Maglev and still pay more money to go somewhere, anywhere. For the same money you can go twice(2X) into the city to your hotel via the airport shuttles. Or for around 100rmb, you can just take a taxi directly to your destination. In the end, the Maglev is both more expensive and less convenient than any other means of getting into the city.

  11. Rode Maglev two days ago.

    Service appears to be operating normally, lots of locals taking photos of themselves under the in carriage speedometers, when it hits the 430kmph mark.

    Train wasn’t full, perhaps 20%.

    Does seem to have novelty value only really, 7 min trip is great and all that but if you just miss one then it becomes a 27min trip. So lets say on average it takes 17mins from airport. Unfortunately this only gets you to Long Yard, which is a few long yards from town, so if you add a 5 min schlep across the road to the subway and a 5min wait (average) for metro we’re looking at 27mins to get on a running train at Long Yard. I seem to recall the sign saying it was 30km so a subway train running at 60 kmph will get you there faster……….

    The other big drama is that it stops at 5:30pm, so a retun ticket may not be what you really need (I got caught) I can only presume that the train must dim the surrounding lights too much in the evening, or perhaps the cab drivers union has paid someone.

    On a more positive note 430kmph is pretty cool, and I’d take it every time, you need to be very quick to see the one going the other way go past….

    Ride is very, but not totally smooth, and there is a nice Citroen style moment as the thing powers up then rises up before leaving the station.

  12. Garh and Larry, I fully agree your concerns !

    The Transrapid Maglev Train project is just a showoff made by “someone” who wanted to profile themselves, that’s all. It has never meant to be an investment. NO western countries would have paid for this.

    In fact, many western countries wants to do the same, but awaits the “superconducting” magnetic technology to be fully developed, as this could be far more economic.

    I was riding my bicycle in the south Pudong outskirts along the Project in 2002, before it began service. The peasants under the concrete pylons never understand what was going on, they shook their heads.

    The bad thing about the economy of this is, that it consists of 2 tracks.

    1 had been sufficient. The money for making it all the way to Central Shanghai Railway Station would possibly have made it profitable, as the travelling time would only have been a few minutes more, and the schedule could easily have been every half hour with only 1 set of wagons.

    Maybe Mr. Bin Laden can have had an influence on the decision of limiting the scheduled time of service… ? I don’t know the reason.

    Anyway, if ANYthing comes in the way of the train, the driver (and you, riding the train) can do NOthing, and will look like the bird on JSW’s photo (the bird hit!).

    The passengers don’t even have seat belts – the reason is that the passengers would be cut in halves, if something happens. Unnecessary, you will die anyway.

    I will classify it as dangerous as :

    1) skydiving (where you hit the ground with just around 200 km/h if the parachute do not work) or

    2) taking a taxi in Shanghai :-)

    Sorry to scare you.

  13. Carsten,

    Sorry, am not against you, but i have to say i don’t really agree with what you ve said.

    Travelling at 430mph is absolutely adorable, and impressive. yeah, i admit it is dangeous if the train hits something huge that can get it out of the rail, but there is very little chance this could happen. if it is a bird, even a ostrich, it will simply die after the hit!! and the passengers would barely notice anything has happened. plus, birds are not like human, they never bump into each other, they can avoid little object like a sparrow, how come they will bump into a Maglev? birds don’t suicide, i haven’t seen any scientific report on this topic yet.

    Shanghai Meglav project certainly has a long way to go, and more connections are yet to built up, once this progress is being made, i don’t see many downsides of this invesment, as long as Meglav will be addressed with its real value, it is a transpotation after all. once it does its job at some real point, it will surely have its great future.

    the claim of Shanghai Taxi is crap is not necessarily true, most drivers have been carefully trained the handle their job excellently, even though, you will still have a chance to be ripped off in some extreme cases. this happens at everywhere in the world. so don’t take it for granted.

    wish this may help to improve your perspective of transportation in Shanghai. and make other readers more confident and comfortable with Shanghai Meglav.


  14. I was in Shanghai in November 2004 and unfortunately did not get a trip on thr Maglev. We were not aware of it’s existance going into Pudong..with no clear signage of the possibilities. We took a mini bus (cab) into Shanghai for 140 rmb. and enjoyed the journey experiencing the sights and sound of Chinese traffic. We stayed in Shanghai with an expat friend who lives there. We travelled in and around urban and CBD Shabghai every day mainly by cab. and some times on the bus.. I was very impressed with the skill and calm demeanour of Shanghai Taxi drivers. All drivers were of mature age and drove exceptionally well. Their skill in merging and threading their way through the chaotic traffic with only minimal use of the horn left me with a feeling of real respect for them. I have used taxi transport in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (my home town) on many occasions. Usually I feel unsafe and anxious as they speed around with a (generally) aggressive manner. The taxi drivers in Australia in the main, are not as proficient compared with taxi drivers in Shangah and Beijing..Full marks to them and the organisation that trains and manages them

  15. I read lots comments about the maglev, from the people who rode it and experienced it. some are good comments and some are not. zacharia moloto is a project manager for the maglev project in South Africa. WE ARE STILL DOING OUR REASERCH AND DEVELOPMENT TO HAVE THE KIND OF TRANSPORT SYSTEM IN OUR COUNTRY. DESPITE THE BAD COMMENDS WE ARE PUSHIHG AHEADS OF THE PROJECT IT WILL TAKE US THREE YEARS TO COMPLETE OUR BUSINESS PLAN. MY APPEAL IS IT MUST BE GIVEN A CHANCE TO SEE HOW WILL IT HELP IN EASING THE TRANPORT PROBLEM IN THIS WORL.

  16. Hi Carsten,

    I think you are just jealous about the huge success in eastern part of the world where your so called “western” couldn’t possibly thought of yet!

    Put it this way Carsten, if this were to run between UK to Paris or Germany or Switzerland, you wouldn’t have said this type of stupid comment would you?

    Success takes times to achieve, especially when you are doing in a fair way but not just by invading to other countries and taking everything that they possibly have. Exactly what USA is doing right now and UK did in past.


    Maglev Fan

  17. Although it was fast and fun, I was surprised at how bumpy it was. It’s not something you want to would ride on for 15 minutes as it’s just too jittery. It feels more of a side show ride than something governments will take seriously.

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