Japan’s magnificent, magnetic levitating train breaks speed record at 603km/h

21 Apr 2015

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The Central Japan Railway maglev train image via Wikimedia Commons

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Japan’s ultra-cool, ultra-futuristic magnetic levitation (maglev) train has broken the speed record for a train of its class, reaching 603km/h during its latest test to surpass its previous record of 590km/h.

The train is very much unique in its design, given that it operates without any wheels and actually levitates 4in off the ground with the help of electrically-charge magnets on both the train’s underside and on the track, which allow it to glide effortlessly without the friction of wheels.

The train is operated by Central Japan Railway, which, during its latest test, was able to push it to its new record speed for a period of 11 seconds, with an audience of excited train enthusiasts, engineers and journalists following its progress on screens and along its route.

According to the BBC, Japanese train passengers eager to reach such speeds will eventually have to make do with a maximum speed of 505km/h designated by the train company when it begins carrying passengers.

They may also have to wait some time before the train enters regular service, with expectations that the first line between Tokyo and Nagoya will not be operational until 2027, which would slash the 280km journey time in half to just 40 minutes, with the hope being to link Tokyo and Osaka by 2045.

Unsurprisingly, a magnetic track is not cheap, with estimates for the Tokyo-Nagoya line expected to reach as high as US$100bn.

Following its test, a member of the public who caught a glimpse of the train said to Japanese media: "It gave me chills. I really want to ride on the train… It's like I witnessed a new page in history."

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com