Central Japan Railway has begun construction of the first station for the $90bn Chuo Shinkansen, its ultra-high-speed maglev train link that will eventually connect the Japanese capital with Osaka, its third largest city.
The station is to be dug 40m below Shinagawa station, a major railway junction in the south of Tokyo.
Work on the terminal will take more than a decade to complete, as will the digging of tunnels through the south Japanese Alps. For safety reasons the line must be as straight as possible, and this means that as much as 90% of its 500km length will be underground.
The $47bn first phase of the line will stretch 290km to the central city of Nagoya.
Central Japan Railway Company has announced that there will be four intermediate stations on the route, at Sagamihara, Kofu, Iida and Nakatsugawa.
When complete, trains will travel at about 500km/h, compared with the conventional Shinkansen’s maximum operating speed of 320km/h. This will cut the journey time between Tokyo and Osaka to one hour from the current six hours by car and two hours by train.
Japan Railways estimates that the line will attract 88 million passengers a year, with 72 million of them shifting from the existing Tokyo-Osaka line, which is the busiest high-speed line in the world, with 143 million passengers a year.
The company says it will pay the bulk of the cost of the line itself, using cash generated by the Shinkansen link.
The final stage to the line, to Osaka, is expected to be complete by 2045.
Photograph: The Chuo Shinkansen’s eastern terminus will be inserted beneath Shinagawa station (Aimaimyi/Wikimedia Commons)