Shanghai’s maglev Transrapid train at Longyang Road Station, Shanghai (Titus v.d. Malsburg/Wikimedia Commons)

Japan tests maglev train that approaches the speed of an airliner

29 September 2014 | By Rod Sweet 2 Comments

A rail operator in Japan has conducted the first-ever public test of its new ultra-high speed magnetic levitation (maglev) train. 

Last week, specially invited guests rode the train as it briefly hit a speed of 500km/h along the 42.8-km test track in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, reports Japan Today.

The driverless maglev train, operated by Central Japan Railway Co (JR Tokai), uses a high-tech propulsion system called “L-Zero” that first brings the train to a speed of 160km/h in the conventional wheels-on-rails way.

Upon reaching 160km/h, the train initiates the maglev system which both propels the train and causes it to float above the rails. Its speed was gradually increased to 500km/h, JR Tokai said. That is not far off the cruising speed of a Boeing 737 airliner – 780km/h.

The fastest train in Japan now is the Hayabusa shinkansen, which travels at 320km/h, Japan Today said.

JR Tokai plans to offer test rides to the broader public in November this year.

The maglev line, which will run 286km between Tokyo and Nagoya, is expected to be operational by 2027, and to have four stations.

Currently, the world’s only maglev rail line in commercial operation runs 30.5km from Shanghai, China to the city’s Pudong International Airport (pictured).

Japan is keen to be a global leader in the technology. To help promote it, its government has said that it will cover half the cost of a $10bn, 35km maglev line between Baltimore and Washington DC in the US.

Photograph: Shanghai’s maglev Transrapid train at Longyang Road Station, Shanghai (Titus v.d. Malsburg/Wikimedia Commons)