China rolled out the body prototype of its latest high-speed magnetic-levitation (maglev) train Thursday, which is expected to start commercial operations by 2021.

Built by the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), the train is intended to carry passengers at 373 mph (600 kmph). The current high-speed trains in China can reach up to 350 kmph.

It took three years of research for the Chinese team to lay the technical foundation for five sets of maglev engineering prototypes, which are quieter and smoother than conventional trains and have a greater potential for high speeds using a lightweight, strong and durable train body.

Maglev technology avoids friction, allowing the train to "float" with the help of two sets of magnets, one that repels and leviates the train up off the track, and one that pushs and moves the train.

This new prototype isn't the first one for achieve such a high speed as the highest recorded maglev speed is 603 km/h (375 mph), which was achieved by a Japan Railway train on an experimental track in Yamanashi in 2015. Japan is now in the process of developing a new Chuo Shinkansen maglev line, which is expected to cut the travelling time between Tokyo and Nagoya, by half.

Chinese bullet trains China Railway Harmony bullet trains are seen at a high-speed train maintenance base in Wuhan, Hubei province, Dec. 25, 2012. Photo: REUTERS

The maglev technology might just be the future of train transportation but there are only a few countries operating maglev trains around the world: China, South Korea and Japan, because the benefits of this tech has been hard to justify against the costs and risk. Especially so in countries when lines using current technology exist with spare capacity.

China faced a huge rise in passenger demand in the late 90s, which forced it to invest in making its transport network faster and more efficient. In 2008, China’s first high-speed railway track was inaugurated, which connected Beijing and the city of Tianjin.

China had set aside $550 billion in its 2016-2020 five year plan for expanding China's railway system, with an emphasis on high-speed rail and its results are visible now. China’s vast high-speed network is set to grow even more comprehensive in the near future.