JR East eyes fastest bullet train for Aomori

Kyodo News

East Japan Railway Co. envisions launching Japan’s fastest bullet train service with a top speed of 320 kph on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Aomori at the end of fiscal 2010, railway industry sources said Thursday.

The 320 kph speed matches that of the French national railways’ TGV trains — currently the world’s fastest.

And it exceeds the 300 kph top speed of Japan’s current fastest trains on the Osaka-Fukuoka section of the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line operated by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) and West Japan Railway Co.

JR East earlier planned to operate Tohoku Shinkansen bullet trains at 360 kph upon the start of service on the 100-km extension from Hachinohe Station to Shin-Aomori Station, both in Aomori Prefecture.

It is scheduled to launch service on the extended section at the March 2011 end of fiscal 2010.

JR East abandoned the original plan because of environmental problems relating to noise and vibration. Instead it decided to reduce the speed to 320 kph, the sources said.

A new bullet train will cover the approximately 730 km between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations in around three hours — a key proposition when competing with air services, the sources said. More travelers are said to prefer aircraft to trains if their travel time exceeds three hours.

Currently, JR East’s fastest bullet trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line are the Hayate and Komachi superexpress trains that travel up to 275 kph.

JR East has been testing the Fastech 360 train on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line since June 2005 in a bid to achieve 360 kph.