There are few icons of Japan more recognizable than its Shinkansen bullet train. Japan introduced the 新幹線 (new trunk line) train in 1964 and since then has remained a leader in the implementation of high-speed rail, ferrying 150 million passengers a year.
As the United States is still taking baby-steps in the direction of high-speed rail, however, Japan is still shattering records. Typical of Japan’s focus on the future, the train may not be due to begin ferrying passengers between Tokyo and Osaka for another 30 years, but Japan’s magnetic levitation (maglev) train is already conducting testing along a special section of test track in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Operator JR Central said the train reached 375 miles per hour in a test run on Tuesday, surpassing its previous record of 361 mph set in 2003. The train traveled for just over a mile at a speed exceeding 373 mph. The Maglev Test Line, near Mount Fuji about 50 miles west of Tokyo, is developing technology for use on a future 250-mile link under the mountains that will reduce travel time between Tokyo and Osaka to just over an hour. The current minimum by bullet train is nearly three hours. The high-speed track will stretch from Tokyo to Nagoya by 2027, and from Tokyo to Osaka by 2045. The infrastructure won’t come cheap: just the first section of track is expected to cost $100 billion.
The magnetic levitation bullet train was carrying 29 technicians during the test run, but passengers who travel on the line when it opens in 2027 won’t experience quite the same speeds. When it officially opens for business, the train is expected to operate at a maximum speed of 505Kph (313 mph). Last year, 100 train enthusiasts from the public took a similar test run on the maglev line at speeds of 500 km/h. The Japanese government gave the construction of the train line the go ahead in October 2014.
By contrast, the fastest train in the United States, Amtrak's Acela Express, is only capable of 241 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour), though it rarely stays at that speed very long. The maglev trains, begun as a project of Japan Airlines and the national railways with government support, have undergone decades of testing. The maglev hovers 10 centimetres (four inches) above the tracks and is propelled by electrically charged magnets. Construction of the Tokyo-Osaka link began in 2014.
Want to see the train in action? Check out this clip:
The Chicago Tribune
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