JR Tokai to kick off trials for ultrafast maglev train system in September

by Takuro Kishimoto

Kyodo

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) will in September begin test runs paving the way for the launch of a magnetically levitated train line between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, marking a milestone in its half-century of efforts to develop an ultrahigh-speed superconducting train system.

JR Tokai is extending its experimental track in Yamanashi Prefecture to 42.8 km for the tests, which involve the new L0 series shinkansen.

In mid-May, the carrier kicked off a second round of meetings with local residents along the line to explain the project in detail, including progress on environmental assessments.

The project to develop a maglev train line linking Tokyo and Osaka in an hour was launched by the now-defunct Japanese National Railways at the Railway Technical Research Center in Tokyo in 1962. It succeeded in running a trial ML-100 maglev train for the first time in 1972.

That success was attributed to “accumulated (research and development) efforts since the commercial launch of the Tokaido Shinkansen system in 1964,” an official at the research center said.

In 1979, the ML-500 model, which resembled a flat spaceship, reached a speed of 517 kph on a trial track in Miyazaki Prefecture.

JR Tokai, one of the entities created through the 1987 privatization of JNR, built an 18.4-km track in Yamanashi in 1996 for trial runs under actual conditions such as curves and tunnels. In 2003, the MLX-01 vehicle set a new world record of 581 kph.

“We are determined to build a bypass for the Tokaido Shinkansen Line,” said JR Tokai President Yoshiomi Yamada.

The Chuo Shinkansen maglev train system uses magnetic levitation to propel vehicles with superconductive magnets cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, or minus 273 degrees, at which electrical resistance is lost. Levitating about 10 cm above a guideway, vehicles can run at ultrahigh speeds even on the steep locations in the Southern Alps along the planned Chuo Shinkansen Line, JR Tokai officials said.

While maglev trains are already in service in Aichi Prefecture and in Shanghai, they are based on normal conduction.

Train cars of the L0 series are 2.9 meters wide and 3.1 meters high, somewhat narrower than their newly adopted N700A counterparts on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line. A train of 12 cars can carry some 700 passengers.

The Chuo Shinkansen service would make the one-way trip between Tokyo and Nagoya in as little as 40 minutes at speeds of 500 kph. Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano and Gifu prefectures are to each host stations on the line.

When full service between Tokyo and Osaka begins in 2045, JR Tokai plans to cover the distance in just 67 minutes.

Vehicles of the L0 series are already safe enough for commercial service, said Yasukazu Endo, head of JR Tokai’s maglev experiment center in Yamanashi.

“We will bring them to completion for greater safety,” he said.

  • Jonothan Clayton

    I would love to be there for the first run.