I got spam from California High Speed Trains identifying me as a business leader (clearly I’m on a mailing list somewhere). The information on the website is sketchy. It’s really just trying to convince visitors that high-speed rail is a good idea.
But I’m watching a video produced by KQED Quest. From what I can gather, they are not planning to build the awesome maglev train used in Shanghai. It looks like conventional electric rail, with a supply wire hung above the track. The video also shows more conventional trains running on the same tracks. In all, pretty lame.
The Shanghai Maglev technology (developed by Transrapid) is superior in every way. The track is typically slightly elevated, preventing wildlife from having their habitats cut in half. It needs no structure above the track, making it much more attractive. It’s much quieter, because there is no mechanical contact between the train and track. For this reason, the ride is also smoother, and faster (430 km/h vs. 354 km/h for the proposed system; the maximum design speed is 550 km/h).
Japan also has a maglev train, but their approach is different. The trains must roll on wheels until reaching a critical speed, and require more power. It also requires superconducting electromagnets.
The California project is expected to require $42 billion and take 12 years to implement. It’s a pity it won’t be state-of-the-art when complete.