The Japanese are it again. After pioneering the concept of ultra-fast bullet trains in the mid 60s, they are now on the path to redefine train travel using new maglev trains. Paving the future for ultra fast train travel are the two recent test runs conducted by a Japanese railway company. In the test conducted last week, the maglev train (maglev stands for magnetic levitation) achieved a top speed of 590 km/hr (361 mph). If that wasn’t fast enough, they managed to beat that old record earlier today and set a new world speed record by hitting an unbelievable 374 mph on a test track, The Guardian reported. This translates to 603 km/hr in SI units and is the fastest maglev trains have ever gone.
The historic test run happened in the city of Yamanashi on Tuesday, CNN reported. An experimental track was set up there specifically designed for a series of test runs. According to a spokesperson, the train maintained a constant speed of over 374 mph for 10.8 seconds during which it covered 1.1 miles. That’s like covering 20 football fields in a matter of a few seconds.
While the existing record for the fastest maglev trains ever belonged to Japan as well, there is still no commercially operational track running in the country. The record for the fastest commercial service of a Maglev train belongs to China, which has a track in Shanghai on which trains regularly run at 261 mph. Japan it seems, is looking to change that. The country expects to start commercial operations of trains running at this speed within a decade with regular commercial runs expected sometime in the mid 2020’s. There is a proposal of running maglev trains between Tokyo and Nagoya – two cities which are five hours apart by car. If Maglev trains are introduced, the journey could shrink to just under 40 minutes!
Meanwhile, several people who had assembled near the test spot to witness the maglev train action seemed thrilled and excited. According to Takeo Ookanda, who runs an exhibition center next to the test track, it was a phenomenal experience. He tells CNN;
“I was moved just like many other visitors here today. This maglev project… (increases) the hope that Japan can have a good growth again in the future.”
There are very few maglev trains in the world primarily because of the fact that they are expensive to make, maintain and run. Trains in the United States run at much less spectacular speeds with the fastest train in the country, the Acela Express, capable of touching just 150 mph. There are proposals to run bullet trains in the U.S., though.
[Image Via Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images]