Magnetic levitation or maglev for short is the system of making a vehicle, more frequently than not a train, hover over the ‘track’ and travel by the use of magnets. Magnetic levitation has the potential to move trains more quickly and more quietly than traditional wheel-based trains. Surprisingly, most of the power consumed is used to overcome wind resistance at high speed, not to keep the train suspended in mid-air.
The most flourishing maglev train in operation nowadays runs to Shanghai airport like the British one ran to Birmingham Airport. However, the resemblance between the two stops there. The British maglev travelled at up to 26 mph, whereas the Chinese, but German built, maglev runs at a peak speed of 160 mph.
A lot of the early research and development was carried out in Britain by Professor Eric Laithwaite from after the Second World War to 1973, but Germany is the foremost influence on the maglev train now, even though Germany is working closely with the Chinese and the Japanese to advance the technology.
One of the main stumbling blocks for maglev trains is infrastructure. Maglev trains are incompatible with traditional rail rack so they have nowhere to go. Laying new maglev track is not hideously costly, but it is dear and would involve having two sets of incompatible rails running alongside each other for several decades, which would naturally take up two times as much land. Japan has just agreed on plans to lay out their very own maglev train and they are currently in talks with the US to help them potentially finance a maglev train from D.C. to New York.