A Tram, a Maglev and Frustration

After checking out of my Shanghai hotel, I headed to the east of the city. My destination was the Zhangjiang district, more specifically, the Zhangjiang Tramway. The Zhangjiang Tramway commenced operations in 2010 and runs along one route through the Zhangjiang High Technology Park, running roughly parallel with the number 2 subway line for about 10 km. After a ride on two subway lines, I arrived at Zhangjiang High Technology Park subway station.

Zhangjiang Terminus

A tram stands at the Zhangjiang High Technology Park terminus.

The tram stop was well signposted and easy to find, situated in a modern outdoor shopping area with western franchises such as Burger King, Subway and Starbucks. The tram track near the stop was reserved track, with bike paths and footpaths either side. At the stop, stood a very plain white, 3 section tram with mirrored windows and no branding or logos. Oddly, the only identifying mark that the tram had, was a number plate; the same as used on private cars.

The Zhangjiang Tramway is a Translohr system, with a single central guide rail. Trams are propelled and supported by rubber tyred wheels which run along the roadway. A Translohr system does not make sense in this area; it has the inflexibility of a tram, with the ride quality and friction of a bus. The only place Translohr systems are beneficial is systems with steep slopes where steel on steel may not have the adhesion required.

Zhangjiang Tram

A Zhangjiang Tram runs along a leafy street in the Zhangjiang High Technology Park.

After watching the tram depart, I walked along the tramway to where the tram entered the roadway. The Zhangjiang district is pleasant and modern, with most streets tree-lined and buildings set back from the road behind well kept gardens. The clean wide street, leafy trees and set back buildings made the street look like it was in a European or North American city, rather than China, and the area had a modern, relaxed feel.

Zhangjiang Tram Interior

Inside a Zhangjiang tram

After wandering along taking photos of trams passing, I boarded a tram at the next stop. As with the Pujiang APM I had travelled on the previous day, the ride quality was poor, and we bumped over each pot-hole in the road as we lurched along the route. Most of the passengers were young and dressed in business attire. I left the tram in a residential district on Danguilu, and took some more photographs on another leafy street, before I headed for the nearby Guanglan Road subway station.

Tram near Guanglan Road

A Zhangjiang Tram near Guanglan Road subway station

I was feeling hungry, and although I had seen quite a few restaurants in the area, none of them were serving anything appetising. On my walk to the station, I saw a group of motorcycle couriers crowded around a small stall, which appeared to be selling food. I went over to investigate, and found that the shop sold fresh steamed buns. I pointed to what I wanted, and handed over a surprisingly small amount of cash (each large bun worked out at ¥1.5 or A$0.30).

After enjoying my lunch, I entered the Guanglan Road subway station and boarded the number 2 line train towards Pudong Airport. I was surprised when the train terminated at the next stop; Tangzhen. Although line 2 is advertised as one long 60km line, stretching from East Xujing in the west to Pudong Airport in the the east, no trains actually traverse the entire line, and a cross-platform change is required at Guanglan Road or Tangzhen (depending on the time of day). The reason for this is that stations east of Tangzhen are only served by 4 car trains, and stations west (through the centre of Shanghai) are served by 8 car trains.

Haitiansan Road

A Line 2 train approaches the windswept Haitiansan Road station

After transferring, I continued east towards Pudong Airport and the train emerged from the subway tunnel near Yuandong Avenue. At Haitiansan Road, I left the train in a hope of getting a running shot of my next train, but the concrete barriers between the subway and the freeway prevented any photographs. I heard it approach and pass at speed, but there was no opportunity for a photo. The platform was barren and windswept, the day was cold and I was very glad to board the next subway train to the final stop. After taking some photos of the subway trains shunting between platforms (and being watched silently by the platform’s security guard), I entered the airport terminal and headed for my next train; the Shanghai Maglev.


Shanghai Maglev at Pudong Airport

The Shanghai Maglev was opened for public use in 2004. It runs between Pudong Airport and Longyang Road subway station (east of Shanghai). Maximum service speed is 431 km/h, however this speed is normally only reached between 09:00 – 10:45 and 15:00 – 16:45; at other times it runs at a maximum speed of 300 km/h. The line is a demonstration line, and does not really run anywhere particularly useful (unless you happen to live near Longyang Road subway station). There are no intermediate stops, and the 30km route roughly parallels part of the number 2 subway line. Services run every 15 to 20 minutes between 06:45 and 21:30 and the 7 to 9 minute journey costs ¥50 (about A$10), or ¥40 (about A$8) if you have an airline ticket for that day.

Standard Class

Inside a standard class car on the Shanghai Maglev

There were only a few people in the ticket queue and I quickly purchased my ticket and made my way to the platform. After a quick photograph of the train, I boarded and found a seat. Seats aren’t allocated, but that’s not a problem because most trains are very lightly loaded (around 20% capacity). Seating in standard class is 3+3 cloth covered seats, and as the train is wider than a normal train they are quite roomy. Seats are fixed direction, with half facing each way. Seats in the VIP car (tickets cost double the standard class) are 2+2 leather seats facing each other.


An internal display shopws the Shanghai Maglev almost at top speed

The train pulled smoothly out of Pudong Airport station and emerged from the terminal building next to the airport freeway. The ride quality is very good, as the train is not actually making contact with the track (it MAGnetically LEVitates above it). We were soon travelling faster than the freeway traffic, then double their speed, then triple. At our maximum speed it looked like the cars on the freeway were going backward! The smooth, rapid journey was over in just over 8 minutes. At Longyang Rd, I remained on the platform until the return journey had departed; taking video until the train was out of sight. After I had finished, a security guard, who had been watching me from a distance, politely and silently followed me off the platform.

Longyang Road

A Maglev approaches Longyang Road station

Longyang Road Maglev station is above street level, with arriving and departing trains passing over a bridge adjacent to the station. I watched some trains arrive and depart from from street level, before heading to the adjacent subway station. Longyang Road subway station is a junction with subway lines 2, 7 and 16. I had observed a potentially good photo point for Maglev trains from a station on subway line 16, so I climbed the steps up to a very crowded and chaotic platform. Longyang Road is the terminus of this recently opened line, and the 3 car trains operating on it were inadequate for the crush loads on the platform. I managed to squash into a train and was glad I was only going one stop. I exited the overcrowded little train at Middle Huaxia Road, where a footbridge gave me an excellent view over a deserted park towards the Maglev line.

Number 13 Metro Train

A number 13 metro line train arrives at Middle Huaxia Road

It was late afternoon, and there was a cold wind blowing across the lake in the park, a noisy freeway ran under the footbridge. I waited for several minutes and saw a headlight in the distance, It quickly approached and I was able to snap a few blurry shots as the Maglev zoomed quitely past. I waited about 5 minutes in the cold wind and fared a little better on the train running in the opposite direction.

Maglev at Middle Huaxia Road

A Shanghai Maglev passes Middle Huaxia Road metro station

I left the footbridge to try and find an entry to the park, hoping to get a shot through the trees, but I soon found out why the tidy park was deserted; it was surrounded by a 2m mesh fence with no visible gates. The beautifully manicured lawns, ornamental lake and carefully positioned trees on wide footpaths were inaccessible! A sign with only chinese characters adorned the fence, presumably telling people not to even think about trying to enjoy the fenced garden.

No Entry!

No way into this garden!

I returned to the footbridge and took a few more mediocre shots of the Maglev and subway lines through the fading light. I soon was unable to feel my fingers due to the cold wind, decided enough was enough and headed back to the subway station. I travelled one stop further on Line 16 to Luoshan Road, where I changed for a Line 11 train which took me back to my hotel to pick up my bags. I travelled from my hotel to Shanghai station, where I was to board my overnight train for Tianjin (then on to Beijing by High Speed Train).

I arrived at Shanghai station about 90 minutes before my train was due to depart, and passed through the security checkpoint into the station building. When looking for the departure gate for my train (T110), I was surprised to see train D312 displayed on one of the screens. I had wanted to book on this train, as it is a new type of sleeper train with pod style berths in a semi-high speed EMU. The websites had all shown it as not running on the day I was travelling, but the departure boards suggested otherwise. I consulted one a booking websites, which still showed plenty of berths available.

I exited the station towards the booking office, with a view to exchange my ticket. I didn’t want to cancel my existing booking before I’d made the new booking (in case I missed out altogether). After queuing at a ticket window for about 10 minutes, I was told that yes, D312 was running and there were berths available tonight. I asked for a ticket, and the agent started to make the booking. When I handed over my passport, he looked puzzled and said that I couldn’t buy a ticket, as I already had another ticket booked for the a different train at the same time. I explained what I wanted to do, and he told me that if I wanted to exchange my ticket, I’d have to go upstairs. I went upstairs and joined a smaller queue and explained what I wanted to do all over again. After a little help from Google translate, I was told that I couldn’t do that, as my original booking was Shanghai – Tianjin – Beijing and the ticket I wanted to exchange it for was direct from Shanghai to Beijing. Really wanting to catch the EMU sleeper, I decided to chance it and cancel my original booking, then immediately rebook on the new service. I explained my decision to the agent, who told me I would have to go to another ticket window in the next room. I went to the cancellations window and asked to cancel my booking. I handed over the tickets, and was asked for the credit card that had made the original booking. As a friend had bought the tickets for me, I did not have the original credit card. Not having the original credit card meant that I could not cancel the tickets, and because I couldn’t cancel the tickets, I couldn’t buy the new tickets. The bureaucracy of the Chinese Railways ticketing system had foiled my plans!

All was not lost; I still had my ticket for a soft sleeper on board train T110 to Tianjin West. I traipsed back through security and into the station and found my departure gate. To add insult to injury, it was the same waiting hall from which train D312 would depart about 90 minutes later.

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