In a bid to compete with trucking firms, Japan Freight Railway Co. plans to develop the world’s first non-locomotive freight train that will travel as fast as limited express trains, company officials said Monday.

Unlike conventional freight trains pulled by diesel or turbine locomotives, the new train will be powered by cars equipped with electric motors, the officials said.

JR Freight plans to run the new freight train at a maximum speed of 130 kph between Tokyo and Osaka, the route on which trucks transport more than 90 percent of freight. The new train will cut transport time between the two cities by around one hour from the seven hours needed by conventional freight trains running at a maximum speed of 110 kph.

JR Freight, one of the seven privatized railway operators of the now defunct Japanese National Railways, has been operating in the red over the past eight years due in part to competition from trucking firms running between Tokyo and Osaka.

The company expects to spend more than 1 billion yen to develop the new freight train by fiscal 2003, the officials said.

The planned freight train will comprise 16 cars — conventional liners have up to 26 — with each car carrying the equivalent of two large truckloads, the officials said.

“It could not carry heavy loads at the cost of speed, so instead we want to carry as many light loads as possible that customers want to transport fast,” one official said.

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