Japan Is Testing an Even Faster Bullet Train

The speed would make it the fastest of its kind in the world.

Japan Is Testing an Even Faster Bullet Train

The ALFA-X prototype, pictured here, can reach speeds up to 249 mph.

Photo by JIJI PRESS: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The high-speed train battle is heating up. Earlier this month, Japan’s JR East rail company rolled out its new, next-generation shinkansen, or bullet train, which will travel at maximum speeds of nearly 224 miles per hour when the train goes into preliminary service in 2030.

At that speed, a train trip between Tokyo and Sapporo, capital of the island of Hokkaido, would take around four hours, reports NBC—around half the time the journey takes by shinkansen today, and about the same amount of time it would take you to watch The Darjeeling Limited and The Girl on the Train, back to back.

The prototype, named ALFA-X, has already reached testing speeds of more than 190 miles per hour, and operators will push it to speeds up to 249 mph during nightly tests roughly twice a week, reports Japanese newspaper the Mainichi. The $91 million 10-car train will also be tested with two “noses” to identify which makes the train quieter when it travels: one 52 feet long and another 72 feet long. “We want to improve not only speed, but also safety and comfort,” Ichiro Ogawa, the head of JR East’s research and development center, told the Mainichi.

Japan’s shinkansen program, which began in 1964, has not had any accidents since the program’s inception. Today, it operates across eight main lines and notches around 1,000 trips per day. Adding salt to the wound of any New York City subway rider? The average delay time is 0.7 minutes, according to a 2018 annual report from JR East.

If the new shinkansen hits its estimated top speeds when in service, it would take the title of fastest bullet train from China’s Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, which can reach speeds of 217 mph. Japan is also currently building a 314 mph “floating” magnetic levitation train—or maglev, for short—scheduled for completion in 2027, and China on Thursday unveiled a prototype of its latest maglev train, which is capable of hitting speeds of 372 mph and is scheduled to enter service in 2021 after testing. Speed demons, rejoice.

>> Next: Escape From the Modern World on a Pilgrim’s Path Through Japan

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at Afar focused on features and essays.
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