Japan is putting some leverage behind all the hype developed last year about bringing Japanese maglev (magnetic levitation) high-speed train technology to the United States, saying that it will offer around 500 billion yen (approx. US$4.79 billion) in loans just to realize the project. Japan is pushing to export this particular high-speed train technology, and admittedly, the U.S. clearly needs it as it will be able to transport commuters from Baltimore to the capital (Washington D.C.) in a little over 15 minutes.
Currently, this commuter corridor requires over an hour to traverse. The United States has made it known that it has plans to improve this, looking to build a 60-kilometer high-speed rail track between the two cities, and Central Japan Railway Co.’s (JR Tokai) maglev technology could be the answer that the U.S. is looking for. The Japanese negotiating panel has told Washington that it is able to and intends to offer half the amount of construction costs in loans through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, just so that the maglev technology could be introduced in the United States. This will create a lot of hype and marketing momentum for JR Tokai. The maglev technology uses magnets to lift the train above the tracks, eliminating friction and allowing the train to travel at high speeds.
Tokyo and Washington have both estimated the total construction costs to be at around US$8 billion (834.32 billion yen). Tokyo experts estimate that the final project cost will be around 1 trillion yen, taking into account fluctuations in the currency exchange rate. If Japan will push for the cost in loans as it intends to offer, Tokyo’s share of the project costs will amount to about 500 billion yen. If the U.S. is happy with the technology, another project will eventually follow – the building a 730-km maglev track linking Boston and Washington. Japan wants to be in the picture for when that project is lined up, and this is why it is willing to spend dearly for pushing maglev technology for its first stint stateside.