Japan’s railways are (rightly) famous for their bullet trains that move at up o 200 miles an hour. The Central Japan Railway Co. recently tested one that makes the bullet trains seem positively slow, reaching 310 miles per hour.
It’s called the L-Zero, and it’s a magnetic levitation, or maglev, train. Once it gets up to speed, it doesn’t use wheels — magnetic fields levitate it above the tracks. The train essentially flies. Once in service, the train will get from Tokyo to Osaka in 45 minutes, a trip that takes about an hour and a half now.
The railway tested a five-car train on a 27-mile track, making it the longest maglev train anywhere, as well as the fastest. Magnets not only float it above the tracks but keep the train itself centered.
Even though it reached its maximum speed in a few minutes, none of the people invited for the ride — mostly local journalists — reported feeling pressed back into their seats.
Completion is scheduled for 2027; the whole project will cost $90 billion. Even with the big up-front investment, though, maglev trains promise lower operating costs because there is less wear on the tracks.
If the L-Zero were built here, it could cut the travel time between Boston and New York to under an hour; a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles would take an hour and ten minutes. Even trips cross-country would be more feasible; Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited takes 19 hours to go 960 miles from New York to Chicago. A high-speed maglev could do it in less than half that, with stops.
Sadly, such a project remains a dream, despite the $8 billion the Obama administration promised for rail projects, which are geared to more conventional high-speed technologies. .
Image: Asahi Shinbun Digital via YouTube