Enablers and drivers for future superlarge 500 million person Metacities

President Xi Jinping has a signature project to link 130 million people across Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province into a single megalopolis, the so-called Jing-Jin-Ji region. Xi has held out the model as a template for China’s urbanisation in the future. For the project to work, he will need to align policy and interests that are often in conflict – ones that touch on urban planning, industry, state and private enterprises, and environmental protection.

It’s a potent challenge, but analysts say Xi’s recent move to consolidate his power could give him enough leverage to rein in the competing interests, and see the vision realized.

Xi’s plan calls for the three northern areas to be united into one economic sphere. The Bohai Bay area would become a key growth plank, similar to the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta. Vice-Minister of Finance Wang Baoan has said the new metropolis would require an investment of 42 trillion yuan (HK$52.7 trillion) over the years. The region’s gross domestic product was US$1 trillion last year, similar to South Korea’s, and the 15th highest in the world. But wealth is spread unevenly: per-capita GDP of Beijing is US$15,000, while Tianjin’s is US$11,500 and Hebei’s only US$6,300.

Previously there had been talk of 260 million people getting integrated in the Bohai area by 2020. This would be if even more cities are merged into the Jing-Jin-Ji region. China is increasing from 50% urban now to about 70% in 2030 and could reach 90% urbanization in 2050.

Self driving cars could have wide adoption and eliminate traffic jams and allow for safe driving at higher speeds. This could enable cities that cover 80-100 miles of diameter that can be crossed in one hour. China is integrating cities with high speed rail.

Very low pressure tunnel trains could enable speeds of 600mph to even 3000 mph or more. This would expand the size of urban center integration. China plans to limit extending the Shanghai maglev line to approximately 200 million yuan per kilometer. $30 million/km. The very low air pressure tunnel is supposed to cost $1.5-2.95 million more per kilometer. So more than doubling the speed adds about 10% to the cost. In a worse case, where China is able to build new maglev for $16.5 million/km and the high end of the tunnel costs occurs then the current estimate would be a 20% incremental cost. If China is successful with the low are pressure tunnel maglev then this could replace air travel wherever there is a connecting tunnel maglev.

Metro Seoul has a population of about 20 million which is about 40% of the population of all of South Korea. Tokyo is about 36 million and is over 20% of the population of Japan.

Economic drivers are that doubling the population of a city boosts per capita income by 15%. If the infrastructure penalties (like traffic jams) can be eliminated and superfact intracity transportation can be achieved with robotic cars and low pressure tunnel trains then size limitations go away. China has the political, economic and social drivers for larger megacities. Only the Hukou system is preventing more people from moving to the biggest city where the best jobs are.

The centers of Beijing–Shanghai are 1,318-kilometers or 819 miles apart. Very low pressure tunnel trains could enable a less than one hour commute time. Merging those two megacities, and urbanization increasing to 80-90% would mean a huge future 500 million to 800 million person super metacity.

The Shanghai downtown to airport maglev can reach 268 miles (431 kilometres) per hour. Super-maglev, however, could allow for even higher speeds. This is because, by using a vacuum tube, they decrease the speed limitations imposed by air resistance on regular maglev trains</>A.

In a paper on the subject, Dr Zigang says: ‘If the running speed exceeds 400 kilometres (250 miles) per hour, more than 83 per cent of traction energy will wastefully dissipate in air resistance.’ And, he adds, ‘Aerodynamic noise will break through 90 decibels (the environmental standard is 75 decibels).’

The only way to break this barrier is to reduce the air pressure in the running environment, which he has done in his tube by lowering it to 10 times less than normal atmospheric pressure at sea level.

‘The vehicle was designed to accelerate to a maximum speed of 50 kilometres (30 miles) per hour without passengers.

‘This speed is limited by the small radius of the ring guideway, which is only six metres (20 feet).’

‘The meaning of the project is that it will be the first one to realize the prototype of the future evacuation tube transportation (ETT).

‘At this moment, we are conducting evacuation tests on the new system. We will release our achievements after the successful running in the near future.’

McKinsey forecast of China’s urbanization to 2025.

We have reviewed the Bohai megaregion aka the Capital Economic Zone which includes Beijing and Tianjin aka the Jing-Jin-Ji region.