Maglev line gets green light


Central Japan Railway Co. on Friday received a green light from the government to build a magnetically levitated train line between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027.

The maglev line will shorten travel time from Tokyo to Nagoya to about 40 minutes, according to JR Tokai, as the railway is known. It also plans to extend the maglev line to Osaka by 2045, cutting the trip between the two metropolises to just 67 minutes versus 138 minutes by bullet train.

The cost of the entire project is estimated at ¥9 trillion.

JR Tokai filed the maglev application in August with the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, which examined the project’s safety and environmental impact.

Transport minister Akihiro Ota told a news conference that there is some concern about the project’s environmental impact and said JR Tokai will need to ask residents along it for permission.

The Tokyo-Nagoya leg will traverse seven prefectures.

JR Tokai President Koei Tsuge, who received a letter of authorization from Ota, told the minister that the railway will cooperate with local governments and “make all-out efforts to achieve the project at an early date.”

Construction is expected to start as early as this month, with an eye to completion in 2027. After that, the 88-minute shinkansen ride from Tokyo to Nagoya will seem an eternity.

The maglev train floats on an invisible cushion of repelling magnetic forces, which dramatically reduces friction and allows the carriages to go as fast as 500 kph.

The engineers will face significant obstacles. About 86 percent of the 286-km leg from Tokyo to Nagoya is expected to be tunnels. In some urban areas, the trains will pass more than 40 meters below ground.

JR Tokai intends to shoulder the entire cost of building the segment to Osaka, but the Tokyo-Nagoya leg is expected to cost ¥5.52 trillion.

Last month, the company successfully completed another maglev run on its test track in Yamanashi Prefecture. The seven-car train ran on tires until it reached 160 kph, whereupon it lifted off and accelerated to 500 kph.

JR Tokai will take the technology to local communities with public displays in November and December and test rides, it said.

  • keratomileusis

    Oh great, 40 minutes! Wonder what people will do with all that extra time? And who’s going to pay for this I wonder?

    • DA

      Did you say the same thing when the Shinkansen was established, or when the steam locomotive route between Shimbashi and Yokohama was replaced (the question’s rhetorical)? People forget that one of the beauties with Japan is that change is the only constant. Mono no aware. It’s about being at the right place at the right time. And thus I’m a sucker for all things Meiji and Taisho (and most things Showa too for that matter) because I wasn’t there. But for some, who were there, your statement above is probably more fitting…

      • keratomileusis

        What I’m saying is that the cost-benefits are way disproportionate. With your analogy, I suppose you could say that the time saved is proportional to the pace of life at the time. But humans can only function so fast. We can’t cram more activity into the same amount of time. I’m concerned about back door funding and who ultimately benefits from this. Isn’t the Shinkansen fast enough? And think of the environmental degradation.

  • Jeffrey

    All the infrastructure and energy challenges Japan has and they think this is necessary? Megalevs are energy sucks and the kind of Buck Rogers technology, possible or otherwise, that will provide but a marginal benefit in a country with a declining population, a shrinking tax base and what is already the best high-speed rail transport in the world.

    • Yoshiko

      that’s not true about high-energy requirements, because the energy can be provided to only specific portion of track where train is located, this system can be very high energy-efficient.
      Magnetic power is the fundamental phenomena of our universe which is present from the start of our world. Using magnetic power is much cleaner and like much more natural than burning the coal or oil from ancient fossils.

  • Yoshiko

    Very great technology with very bright promising future. When it will be synthesized with other things like aviation+magnet-levitation it brings very new ways and methods for new kinds of machines.
    Even in some japanese movie anime like Armitage already imagined such unique transport like cosmic spaceships between Earth and Mars where the passengers fuselage of this spaceship is in fact the real detachable maglev train which must complete the last portion of route on surface between the spaceport launch station and passengers auditorium.

  • J.P. Bunny

    The technology behind these things is neat, but not really necessary in Japan. Tokyo to Osaka in one hour instead of two…whoopee! The train system here is already a great one with no real need for this white elephant. In a few more decades there won’t be enough people left (excluding tourists) to ride the thing. If this were built to go across the U.S., or from Asia to Europe, then that would be something useful.

  • AvalS

    This sounds like something I’d like to experience with some friends on tour. Can people with a pacemaker safely ride?

  • Clive Durdle