Destinations Asia

The next generation of high-speed trains in Japan will float at 301mph

Nov 27, 2012 8:10 am

Skift Take

These new trains have no wheels. That’s understandable for a maglev machine, but is rather mind-blowing to anyone forced to endure the Northeast Corridor in the U.S.

— Jason Clampet

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Yosemite  / Wikimedia Commons

A maglev test train in Japan. Yosemite / Wikimedia Commons


The first of a new generation of high-speed, magnetic levitation trains has been unveiled in Japan, designed to operate at speeds of more than 310mph.

The front car of the Series L0 maglev measures nearly 92 feet long – of which 49 feet forms an aerodynamic nose section – and is fitted with 24 seats. A full 16-carriage train will be able to carry 1,000 passengers.

Designed by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), the state-of-the-art trains are scheduled to go into use in 2027 and link Shinagawa Station, in central Tokyo, with Nagoya.

At present, it takes 90 minutes for a conventional “shinkansen” bullet train to complete the journey between the two stations, but the new technology will cut the trip to 40 minutes.

The vehicle has no wheels – doing away with friction and, hence, providing a smoother and quieter ride at a faster speed – and is propelled along a track through electromagnetic pull.

JR Tokai has announced plans to more than double the length of the track at its Tsuru development facility to 26 miles and conduct further tests.

“Through the test runs, we will make final checks to ensure that commercial services are comfortable,” Yasukazu Endo, the head of the development centre, told local media.

The aim is to extend the line to Osaka by 2045 and the cost of the new lines has been put at Y8.44 trillion (£64 billion).

A panel under Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is examining the route proposed for the new line by JR Tokai. The plan is for a track that runs through the mountain chain known as the Southern Alps to the northwest of Mount Fuji.

Japan will be the first nation to build a large-scale maglev route and hopes to be able to export the technology once it has been perfected.

Japan is famously the developer of the bullet train system – which can trace its genesis as far back as 1964 but is still regarded as one of the best high-speed mass transit systems in the world – but developers want to get in ahead of the competition for the next generation of trains.

JR Tokai points out that bullet train technology will be 60 years old by 2025, while maglev technology is less polluting than flights that presently link the cities.

At present, a maglev train operates in Shanghai.

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