• Jiji


East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, held a test-ride event for journalists Tuesday night for its experimental shinkansen named ALFA-X.

This was the first test-ride opportunity for the ALFA-X, which was completed in May 2019. The train, having a maximum speed of 400 kilometers per hour, traveled at up to 382 kph in the test. ALFA-X is short for Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail eXperimentation.

The test run took place on the section between Sendai and Morioka stations on JR East’s Tohoku Shinkansen line, which links Tokyo and Aomori Prefecture.

JR East has been conducting test runs for the 10-car ALFA-X at speeds of about 360 kph to collect data for the development of next-generation shinkansen. Currently, E5 series trains travel at speeds of up to 320 kph on the Tohoku Shinkansen line.

The two end cars of the ALFA-X are shaped differently so the differences in wind pressure when the train travels in both directions can be compared. The car No. 10, which would be frontmost when the train travels north, is marked by its 22-meter nose section, 7 meters longer than that of the E5 series, while the car No. 1, the other end car, has a 16-meter nose section.

An aerodynamic braking system is installed on the rooftop of the ALFA-X to improve its braking performance. In addition, a system to decelerate the train using electromagnetic resistance with the rails is employed.

To give a more comfortable ride during high-speed travel, the ALFA-X is equipped with an improved damper that reduces not only horizontal but also vertical vibrations.

During the test, there was little noise even when the ALFA-X was traveling at speeds of over 320 kph. Noise and vibrations increased slightly when its speed topped 360 kph, and wind noise and noise from the train’s motors were heard when the speed approached 380 kph.

The ALFA-X traveled from Sendai to Morioka in about 40 minutes.

“After 1½ years of test runs, the ALFA-X can now run with a certain level of stability,” Koji Asano, head of JR East’s Advanced Railway System Development Center, said.

“We aim to put into service a shinkansen that travels at 360 kph so that our customers can spend meaningful time when riding the train,” he added.

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