The first commercial model of Japan’s latest bullet train, which features magnetic levitation (maglev) as opposed to conventional wheels, was unveiled on the test track in Yamanashi Prefecture and presented to the press on Monday. Dubbed the L0 model, the Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) said they extending the text track to 43 kilometers (26.7 miles) in order to allow for full test runs before its service officially begins in 2027.
The maglev bullet train will be shuttling passengers across Japan at speeds of up to 500 km/h (311 mph), however an earlier prototype model already set a world speed record of 581 km/h (361 mph) back in 2003. Passengers will be able to travel from Tokyo to Nagoya, in central Japan, in 40 minutes when the maglev train opens commercially 14 years from now. The maglev will be able to run the rest of the existing bullet train’s route to western Japan’s Osaka starting in 2045, connecting riders between the country’s second largest city and Tokyo in just over 1 hour, instead of the 2 hours, 25 minutes that is possible today.
During the press demonstration, a 5-car train was pulled by a locomotive at slow speeds in order to check that there was sufficient clearance from the “tracks” on the ground. The new high-speed maglev train is the first to take advantage of superconducting electromagnets, which eliminate electrical resistance and creates a stronger magnetic field. This has the train levitating at levels higher than the conventional maglev trains that use ordinary electromagnets and are currently in use in a number of countries, Japan included. The new L0 commercial model introduced on Monday replaces a previous prototype that had already been used for test runs over a 10-year period ending in 2011. A modified design in this new model sees more passenger space, while the test center’s president is looking forward to the new data that will be collected from this second round of test runs.
JR Tokai has been eagerly developing and promoting the maglev train as a new alternative to the existing bullet train service that runs between Tokyo and Osaka. That route will turn 50 years old next year, and is recognized for its high maintenance costs. The test center adds that it will begin new high-speed test runs this September.