Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) has begun test runs of a magnetically levitated train that can reach speeds of up to 500 kph with an eye toward commercial operations beginning in 2027.
The test runs got under way on Aug. 29 on an extended Yamanashi Maglev Test Line over a distance of 42.8 kilometers using the latest prototype L0 train cars.
The test runs will initially involve five linked L0 cars and reach speeds of 500 kph.
The Yamanashi Maglev Test Line was extended from its previous length of 18.4 kilometers. The longer test line will allow JR Tokai to conduct test runs at 500 kph using a long link of train cars, as well as through long tunnels.
To prepare for actual train operations, the company will also assess the environmental impact on the ground and examine ways to reduce maintenance costs. When put into commercial operation, the maglev train will run on the yet-to-be-constructed Chuo Shinkansen Line, which would link Tokyo and Osaka.
An additional nine train cars will be constructed by fiscal 2015, with eventual test runs involving up to 12 train cars that would extend to a total length of 299 meters.
Among the participants at a ceremony on Aug. 29 to mark the start of the test runs were Yoshiyuki Kasai, JR Tokai chairman, Akihiro Ota, the transport minister, and Yamanashi Governor Shomei Yokouchi.
"We want to export technology completed in Japan to the United States so that it becomes the international standard," Kasai said during a speech at the ceremony.
Ota said: "This provides pride and hope as a technology power, and it will also be important in dealing with natural disasters. We want to provide support for the realization of this technology."
Ota and others also took a speedy ride as part of a test run.
"I experienced the ride at 505 kph," Ota told reporters. "My body felt the sense of speed, but it was not at all uncomfortable and conversation was possible as usual. There was not much vibrating."
Research started on the "linear motor" propulsion floating system in 1962. Cumulative test runs have exceeded 800,000 kilometers.
A preparatory environmental impact report will be released this autumn as part of plans to begin construction on the Chuo Shinkansen Line in fiscal 2014.
JR Tokai is planning to begin operations between Tokyo's Shinagawa and Nagoya in 2027. It has plans to eventually extend the line to Shin-Osaka by 2045.
Plans call for linking Shinagawa and Nagoya in 40 minutes and Shinagawa and Shin-Osaka in 67 minutes.
By HIROKAZU TATEMATSU/ Staff Writer