Testing begins for Japan's 500mph maglev train

The maglev will travel twice as fast as Japan's bullet trains. Image: Getty.

Last week, 100 passengers tried out Japan's levitating maglev train for the first time. The test track runs between Uenohara and Fuefuki, but the ultimate aim is to install a line on which will link Tokyo and Nagoya at 500mph - more than twice as fast as any existing high speed line.

This video shows passengers enjoying the ride:

The final line will actually be a subway, travelling under 40m underground for most of its journey. This is because the technology requires a long, straight stretch of track, terrain between the two cities is notably mountainous, and it's much easier to dig one big tunnel than to keep going in and out of mountains. The train's terminal in Tokyo will be underground, too. 

The good news: it'll cut travel times between the two cities from 90 minutes to 40. The bad news: it won't open until about 2027. 

When the line is finally completed, it'll be the fastest maglev line in the world: engineers are hoping it'll reach speeds of around 500mph, more than twice the maximum speed of Britain's proposed High Speed 2 route. The current record-holder is the maglev line which links Shanghai's Pudong airport with the city centre, which runs at about 270mph. Japan's bullet trains, currently its fastest mode of transport, run at around 190mph. 

If all goes to plan, the government hopes to build a maglev network throughout the country, which would cut journey times by at least half, and, more importantly, make the rest of the world very jealous.

 
 
 
 

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CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.