Japan has again demonstrated its prowess in high speed rail train with its state-of-the-art maglev train setting a world record of just over 600km/h (373mph), just days after it broke its previous 12-year-old record.
The seven-car maglev high speed rail train – short for “magnetic levitation” – reached a top speed of 603km/h on Tuesday during what officials described as a “comfortable” zip along a test track near Mount Fuji.
The Lo Series train, carrying 49 Central Japan Railway employees, covered 1.8km in just under 11 seconds at over 600km/h, the company said.
“The ride was comfortable and stable,” Yasukazu Endo, the head of the Maglev Test Centre, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. “We would like to continue analyzing data and make use of it in designing the cars and other equipment.”
The new record came less than a week after the train reached 590km/h, breaking its own 2003 record of 581km/h.
The planned top speed of Britain’s HS2 high-speed rail link, by contrast, will be about 400km/h.
The maglev hovers 10cm above the tracks and is propelled by electrically charged magnets.
But fare-paying passengers face a long wait before they can experience the thrill of traveling at speeds that surpass even those managed by Japan’s vaunted shinkansen bullet train service, whose latest models whisk people between the main cities at speeds of up to 320 km/h.
There are concerns about the cost of building the infrastructure for a commercial maglev service, planned to go into operation by 2027, between Tokyo and Nagoya, 286km away.
The service, which would run at a top speed of 500km/h, is expected to connect the two cities in 40 minutes, less than half the present journey time in a shinkansen, which celebrated its 50th-anniversary last year.
By 2045 high speed rail train, maglev trains are expected to cover the 410km between Tokyo and Osaka in one hour and seven minutes, cutting the journey time in half.
But estimates put construction costs at nearly $100bn (£67bn) for the Tokyo-Nagoya stretch, with more than 80% of the route expected to go through costly mountain tunnels.
Despite the hefty price tag, Japan is hoping to sell its high-speed rail technology overseas as part of an attempt to revive the world’s third-biggest economy through infrastructure exports.
During his visit to the US later this month, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is expected to promote the construction of a high speed rail train, the link between New York and Washington, using Japanese technology. Reports have said Japan is willing to help finance the project.
How a Maglev train works
A maglev’s guideway has a long line of electromagnets.
These pull the train from the front and push it from behind.
The electromagnets are powered by controlled alternating currents, continually propelling the train forward
In the late 1940s, the British electrical engineer Eric Laithwaite, a professor at Imperial College London, developed the first full-size working model of the linear induction motor.
He became a professor of heavy electrical engineering at Imperial College in 1964, where he continued his successful development of the linear motor.
Since linear motors do not require physical contact between the vehicle and guideway, they became a common fixture on advanced transportation systems in the 1960s and 70s.
Laithwaite joined one such project, the tracked hovercraft, although the project was canceled in 1973.
The linear motor was naturally suited to use with maglev systems as well.
In the early 1970s, Laithwaite discovered a new arrangement of magnets, the magnetic river, that allowed a single linear motor to produce both lift and forward thrust, allowing a maglev system to be built with a single set of magnets.
Working at the British Rail Research Division in Derby, along with teams at several civil engineering firms, the “transverse-flux” system was developed into a working system.
The first commercial maglev people mover was simply called “MAGLEV” and officially opened in 1984 near Birmingham, England.
It operated on an elevated 600 m (2,000 ft) section of monorail track between Birmingham Airport and Birmingham International railway station, running at speeds up to 42 km/h (26 mph).
The system was closed in 1995 due to reliability problems.
*This article was originally published at www.theguardian.com