Business / Corporate

JR East shinkansen ALFA-X prototype hits 320 kph in test run in northeastern Japan

Kyodo

A prototype of Japan’s new shinkansen conducted a trial early Thursday, reaching 320 kilometers per hour, the maximum speed for existing shinkansen models.

The prototype, dubbed ALFA-X, is designed to travel at 360 kph when it is put into service by the spring of 2031, according to the operator East Japan Railway Co.

Thursday’s test run by JR East was the first shown to the media since the trials began last Friday. The company will continue the tests every week through March 2022 to collect data, and it is hoped speeds of 400 kph will be reached.

Thursday’s test started around 1 a.m. after the company closed JR Morioka Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen line in northeastern Japan.

The 10-car train was completed this month, costing around ¥10 billion ($91 million).

It features two long nose-shaped heads, measuring about 16 meters for the No. 1 car and 22 meters for the No. 10 car. JR East will study pressure and sound differences between the two noses when the train enters tunnels.

Existing trains, such as the E-5 series Hayabusa shinkansen, have noses measuring about 15 meters.

The company will also test the train’s emergency brakes, anti-derailment functions in the event of an earthquake and new equipment to avoid vehicle vibrations.

JR East is planning to introduce the train once Tokyo and Sapporo are linked by bullet train after the Hokkaido Shinkansen line, currently operating between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto stations, is extended to Sapporo.

“Tests are going well so far. We will keep working to ensure that the next-generation shinkansen has appropriate safety and environment performances,” said Kazunori Koyama, a division chief of JR East’s Morioka branch.