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Frequently Asked Questions About SCMAGLEV

    1. What is the SCMAGLEV system and how does the SCMAGLEV compare to other high-speed ground transportation systems?

      The SCMAGLEV, short for superconducting magnetically levitated train, is the fastest ground transportation system in the world, having been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records for its speed record of 361 mph (581 km/h) set in 2003. Unlike conventional railway systems, the SCMAGLEV accelerates and decelerates not by force generated by an onboard mechanical motor, but through a magnetic force generated between the onboard superconducting magnets and ground coils. This enables a stable ultra-high speed operation of 311 mph (500 km/h) in revenue service.

      Its characteristic features—lightweight vehicles with high acceleration and deceleration that use magnetic levitation for non-contact operation—allow ultra-high-speed and high frequency operations when compared to other systems, even in rough terrain and conditions.

    2. What is a superconducting magnet?

      A superconducting magnet is an electromagnet made from coils of superconducting wire that must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures during operation. The magnetism is much stronger than ordinary normal conducting electromagnets, and overall it can be less expensive because no energy is lost with no electric resistance of the superconducting wire during use.

    3. What are the main differences between the Japanese SCMAGLEV and the German Transrapid system?

      While both systems are world-class high-speed transportation systems, there are at least three basic differences.

      First, there are basic magnet design differences: SCMAGLEV uses superconducting magnets and the German Transrapid uses normal conducting electromagnets.

      Second, there are different magnetic levitation choices: SCMAGLEV uses inductive magnetic reactions with no active control and the German Transrapid uses attractive reactions that need active controls.

      Third, there is the physical approach: SCMAGLEV rides in a U-shaped channel and the German Transrapid surrounds its T-shaped guideway.

      Learn More About the SCMAGLEV Guideway

    4. Which company is promoting the SCMAGLEV system in Japan?

      The Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) is the promoter of the system.

    5. Is the SCMAGLEV system ready for commercial application? If not, when will it be?

      Yes. After many years of testing and refinement at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, the system has now been approved for construction in Japan as the Chuo Shinkansen, a commercial SCMAGLEV line which when fully completed will connect Tokyo and Osaka.

    6. Who will finance the cost of constructing the Chuo Shinkansen in Japan?

      JR Central will be fully financing the cost of construction.

    7. What is the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line?

      The Yamanashi Maglev Test Line is a test facility operated by JR Central, dedicated to the research and development of the SCMAGLEV technology. The 11.4 mile (18.4km) priority section was completed in March 1997, and since then over one hundred and forty thousand passengers have ridden on it for a cumulative distance of over 545,000 miles.

      The Test Line is currently undergoing a comprehensive upgrade to commercial specifications and being extended to 26.6 miles (42.8 km). Once completed, final test runs using vehicles designed for commercial operation will begin.

    8. Are superconducting magnets reliable?

      Superconducting magnets are highly reliable in themselves, and are widely used in other commercial settings, such as MRI machines. The SCMAGLEV system has maintained a high level of reliability during testing at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line since 1997, and has yet to experience a loss of superconductivity, which would impact the electromagnetic forces needed for operation.

    9. How does the SCMAGLEV propel itself?

      SCMAGLEV vehicles run levitated and centered in the guideway (corresponding to the rail tracks of conventional railways) by using electromagnetic forces acting between superconducting magnets on the vehicle and reaction coils on the guideway sidewalls.

      For propulsion, repulsive and attractive forces are used to propel the vehicle. The Propulsion Coils, which are located on the sidewalls on both sides of the guideway, are energized by a three-phase alternating current, creating a shifting magnetic field on the guideway. The onboard superconducting magnets are attracted and pushed by the shifting field, propelling the Maglev vehicle.

    10. How does the SCMAGLEV levitate?

      "Figure-8 shaped” Levitation and Guidance Coils are installed on the sidewalls of the guideway. When the vehicle’s superconducting magnets pass by, several centimeters below the center of these coils, an electric current is induced within the coils. As a result of this interaction, the lower parts of coils push the superconducting magnets upwards and the upper parts pull them upwards simultaneously, thereby levitating the moving vehicles. At lower speeds—such as when arriving and departing stations—the vehicle lowers onto rubber wheels which travel directly on the guideway, similar to an airplane landing on a runway.

    11. How does the SCMAGLEV guide itself?

      Levitation and Guidance Coils facing each other are connected under the guideway, constituting a loop. When a running Maglev vehicle moves laterally, an electric current is induced in the loop, resulting in a repulsive force on the side near the vehicle and an attractive force on the side farther away from the vehicle. Thus, a running vehicle is always located at the center of the guideway.

    12. Where does the Propulsion Coils/SCMAGLEV get its power?

      Power substations along the route provide power through cables with variable-frequency outputs to the Propulsion Coils mounted in the guideway sidewalls.

    13. How many passengers can each SCMAGLEV train carry?

      The number of seats per car is flexible, capable of meeting the operational needs of a proposed system.

    14. How fast is SCMAGLEV?

      The SCMAGLEV is the fastest ground transportation system in the world. In 2003, the SCMAGLEV recorded a speed of 361 mph (581 km/h), which has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s highest speed on a railway. In commercial service, the SCMAGLEV would operate at an operational speed of 311 mph (500 km/h).

      Another key characteristic of the SCMAGLEV is its capability of constantly maintaining a high rate of acceleration. In revenue operation, the SCMAGLEV will constantly accelerate at a rate of 0.1G. From a complete stop, an SCMAGLEV train can accelerate to its maximum operational speed of 311 mph (500 km/h) in approximately 2 minutes 20 seconds. This means that a distance of only 6.1 miles (10km) is necessary for the SCMAGLEV to achieve its maximum operational speed of 311 mph (500 km/h).

    15. How steep of an incline can the SCMAGLEV climb?

      The SCMAGLEV is capable of climbing a 4 percent gradient while maintaining its maximum operational speed of 311 mph (500 km/h). The system is capable of climbing steeper inclines, but with constant electromagnetic propulsion forces, its top speed is limited by gravity according to the law of physics. For example, at a 10 percent gradient, the SCMAGLEV may be estimated to be capable of cruising at 200 mph (322 km/h).

    16. What is the optimum distance between stations for the SCMAGLEV system to make full use of its high speed?

      A spacing of approximately 30 miles (50km) is considered to be a reasonable minimum for high-speed running, since acceleration and deceleration require a distance of approximately 6.1 miles (10km).

    17. Will the SCMAGLEV be used for freight transportation purposes?

      Currently, there are no plans to apply the SCMAGLEV to freight transportation.

    18. How does the noise generated by the SCMAGLEV compare to high-speed rail, highways and other transportation systems?

      SCMAGLEV is the quietest high-speed train ever built. Compared to High-Speed Rail:

      • SCMAGLEV traveling at 186 mph (300 km/h) is much quieter than a TGV moving at only 55 mph (88 km/h).
      • SCMAGLEV traveling at 250 mph (400 km/h) is about as loud as an Acela train moving at only 100 mph (160 km/h).

      Compared to Highways:

      • SCMAGLEV traveling at 186 mph (300 km/h) is about as loud as an automobile moving at 55 mph (88 km/h).
      • SCMAGLEV traveling at 250 mph (400 km/h) is about as loud as a heavy commercial truck moving at 55 mph (88 km/h).

      Compared to Transrapid maglev:

      • SCMAGLEV is similar to Transrapid under similar operating conditions.

    19. Are the ground vibrations generated by the SCMAGLEV perceptible?

      No. Actual measurements at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line have been performed and have determined that for a five-car test train the actual ground vibration is below the threshold of perception for humans.

    20. Are the magnetic fields generated by the SCMAGLEV dangerous?

      SCMAGLEV is completely safe for humans and the environment. The system meets all magnetic field exposure guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which are recommended by World Health Organization (WHO).

    21. How much energy does the system use at various speeds?

      SCMAGLEV vehicles are much lighter than other high-speed maglev vehicles and can travel in much longer train sets, increasing energy efficiency levels dramatically. SCMAGLEV has been estimated to consume 30% less energy than a Transrapid maglev when traveling at similar speeds, up to 311 mph or 500 km/h. Further, SCMAGLEV has been estimated to consume 50% less energy than a Boeing 777-200ER widebody aircraft.

    22. Is it safe to ride on the SCMAGLEV system?

      Yes. After many years of testing and refinement, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) acknowledged in 2009 that “the technologies of the SCMAGLEV have been established comprehensively and systematically,” and certified that it is ready to be applied to revenue service. Additionally, over a hundred and forty thousand passengers have ridden on the SCMAGLEV at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line at very high speeds, for a cumulative distance of over 545,000 miles, without a single fatality. Specific safety standards will be jointly developed between U.S. and Japan authorities to ensure the complete safety of the SCMAGLEV system in the U.S.

    23. How does the SCMAGLEV system operate in rainy conditions?

      Rainfall up to torrential levels - hard, continuous rain with the potential to flood - has no effect on SCMAGLEV operations. Slopes are introduced and light rainwater is drained off the guideway deck through drain holes and rainwater pipes.

    24. How does the SCMAGLEV system operate in icy and snowy conditions?

      A warm water sprinkler system is installed in open sections of the guideway outside of tunnels. Sprinklers are set up outside sidewalls and warm water is sprinkled to melt snow on roadbeds for wheeled operation and on sidewalls. The system includes sprinklers, pipe laying, warm water-supplying equipment, control devices and snow detectors. Ice and snow buildup along the guideway in open sections must be totally cleared, typically using sprinklers, to avoid collision hazards and road surface freezing must be averted to allow proper emergency braking operations. Therefore, a warm water sprinkler system is installed anywhere at which road surface freezing is expected.

    25. What happens to the operations of the SCMAGLEV in an earthquake?

      In the event of an earthquake, a seismic detecting and alarming system is activated, which triggers vehicle speed to be reduced immediately. Even if power were lost due to an earthquake, the on-board superconducting magnets would be unaffected, keeping the vehicle levitated in the center of the guideway. The guideway sidewalls also prevent the vehicle from derailing.

    26. How would passengers escape from the vehicle in case of emergency?

      There are emergency walkways installed on both sides of the vehicle. Passengers will evacuate using the nearest evacuation exit via these walkways.

    27. Can the SCMAGLEV vehicles collide?

      No. The SCMAGLEV adopts a total system approach, including signaling and control systems, to ensure that trains do not collide.

    28. Will the SCMAGLEV system comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards?

      The SCMAGLEV will comply with all ADA standards.

    29. Is the SCMAGLEV coming to the United States?

      Yes, The Northeast Maglev (TNEM) is working closely with JR Central to bring this technology to the United States.

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