The fastest train in America, the Amtrak Acela line running from Boston and DC tops out at 177km/h. Sure, that’s way faster than taking a Greyhound, but pathetically pokey compared to the 500km/h bullet of the Mag-Lev train currently being developed by Japan’s JR Tokai.
Dubbed the Series L0, this prototype commuter train will reportedly carry up to 1000 riders in 16 cars per trip. Like other bullet trains, the L0 relies on magnetic levitation — whereby an object is suspended using nothing but magnetic fields — for its propulsion and support. While Mag-Lev systems are more technically challenging and expensive to build than conventional train systems, their unique magnetic ability translates into a quieter, smoother ride for passengers and significantly reduced maintenance costs for the train operators. What’s more, because there is no friction between the train and the track it travels over, Mag-Lev trains can accelerate to speeds far beyond what conventional, wheeled locomotives can obtain.
When the train enters service in 2027, it will travel between Tokyo and Nagoya, two of Japan’s busiest transportation hubs along the famous Chuo Shinkansen Line, which already carries much of the country’s high-speed rail traffic. The 247km trip from Tokyo to Nagoya will drop from 90 minutes to just 40. Most of the trip will occur 40 metres underground in specially built tunnels. By 2045, authorities plan to expand the route all the way to Osaka — at 500km/h the Tokyo-Osaka transit time will just over an hour for the roughly 500km trip.
Fifteen years may seem an interminably long time to wait for a speedier ride but Mitsubishi and Nippon Sharyo have already begun construction on 14 pre-production models and a five-car test train is expected to hit the tracks by next year.