Beijing to Shanghai in just five hours is the target

A Chinese passenger train now holds the World Speed Record for an unmodified conventional commercial train after reaching a speed of 486 kilometres per hour (302 mph) on a section of track between Beijing and Shanghai.

The new section of track is due to open in 2012 and will halve the current travel time between Beijing and Shanghai to a mere five hours.

The project is costing $32.5 billion and is part of a massive government effort to link many of China’s cities by high-speed rail.

China has the world’s longest high-speed rail network and it plans to increase coverage to 13,000 kilometres by 2012 and to 16,000 kilometres by 2020.

Other types of train, however, have gone faster. A modified French TGV train reached a speed of 574.8 kph in 2007 and a magnetically levitated Japanese train notched up 581 kph back in 2003.