Posts Tagged ‘taxi’

The Maglev

The taxi driver had dyed-blond hair in a Mohican style and longer finger nails than Florence Griffiths-Joyner (one for the kids). He was in his 50s and – if he had been on X-Factor – you would have called him an embarrassment.

But he loved to drive fast in his obviously-souped up taxi. I watched the speedometer as the arrow went frequently beyond the 200km mark and then felt the significant deceleration as he weeved between cars or as he made semi-emergency stops to avoid other cars who had dared to change lanes. His hands gripped the middle of the wheel and his thumbs pressed the horn every half of a second or so.

He knew the location of all of the speed cameras. He slowed down to 70, turned around to me, held one finger up and grinned indicating that there had only been one flash (and hence no fine), while simultaneously flooring his accelerator pedal. I wished I knew the Chinese for “keep your eyes on the road”.

I reached in vain for the seatbelt. Like almost every taxi in China, there was a pristine belt on my right shoulder but unfortunately no attachment to lock it to. There is a greater chance of finding a female at a Telecoms Conference than a female part in a Chinese taxi.

I felt very sick indeed and feared I was going to die. In a thoroughly modern way, I left what I presumed would be my last words on Twitter and Facebook. I envied those from history who had left famous and funny last words because the best I could come up with were that this was probably my last tweet/status update.

Above all, I wished I had taken the Maglev.

The Maglev is a train that levitates slightly above the rail system using magnets. It has no wheels.

These trains really go quickly. The one in Shanghai reaches 431km/hour and is as smooth as Rastafarian DJ. It takes 7 minutes from Pudong airport to near the Shanghai New International Exhibition Centre (SNIEC).

Like Concord(e), the Maglev is a vanity pieces of transport. The technology was patented 100 years ago but hasn’t been widely adopted and hence the price from the German company that makes it haven’t fallen significantly. They say that the maintenance costs are very low (no friction or moving parts) and that it uses relatively low amounts of electricity, but few governments can afford the price tag of installing it. The Maglev in Shanghai was intended to extend to other destinations in the city. However, when even the Chinese can’t afford it, you know it is expensive.

Of course, this one was a slow coach compared to one of the two maglevs in Japan that once reached 581km/hr. The Shanghai Maglev reaches 431km/hr in the afternoon (and dawdles along at a mere 331km/hr in the morning). I think I may have been on all three, and understand that I will have to take trips to Seoul and Beijing when they complete their high speed Maglevs.

One of my favourite parts of the Maglev is the driver’s cabin. As you can see from the picture, it’s a bloke with a couple of computer screens. Let’s just hope that Windows doesn’t crash. There is no steering wheel and no pedals. Incidentally, if you look carefully on the floor, you will see that someone has put in an extension lead presumably to power the fan, toaster and kettle.




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