Japan Aims to Bring Fastest Train in the World to U.S.
The only existing high-speed rail in the U.S. is Amtrak's Acela Express, which takes close to three hours to travel between Washington, D.C. and New York City. But travel time could drop to an hour if Japan Railway succeeds in bringing the levitating Maglev train – the world's fastest train – to the U.S. Northeast.
That assumes the Japanese company can get approval to place a new high-speed rail corridor through the congested population centers of the U.S. Northeast. Besides, Amtrak has unveiled its own competing plan for a dedicated high-speed rail corridor that would slash Washington-NYC travel time to an hour and 36 minutes. [See graphic: Full Speed Ahead for High Speed Rail]
The Japanese SC Maglev train uses niobium-titanium alloy magnets cooled by liquid helium to temperatures of minus 452 degrees F (minus 269 degrees C). Such chilly conditions enable a superconductive state where the electrical resistance of a material approaches zero and allow for the generation of magnetic fields bigger than those used by current Maglev trains .
Extra hover height means that SC Maglev can safely operate at high speeds of at least 310 mph (500 kph). One of its prototypes set the world record for fastest train after hitting 361 mph (581 kph) on a test track in December 2003. Besides, added levitation space also means added safety in the event of yet another earthquake in Japan.
The first operational SC Maglev line is scheduled to connect Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027.
Yet even the fastest trains require certain conditions, such as their own dedicated tracks, in order to average high speeds. Amtrak's Acela service runs on older infrastructure shared by other trains, which limits its top speed of 150 mph (241 kph) to short stretches of track.
Conventional Japanese bullet trains of the non-levitating type run with a max speed of 186 mph (300 kph), which is not much faster than Acela trains. But they maintain a higher average speed on their dedicated tracks and experience less than a minute of delay on average per train each year.
"Even if it can run at 200 or 220 mph, if it's delayed, it's nothing," according to a Central Japan Railway manager. "But if it can run at maybe 150 mph and it's punctual ..."
President Barack Obama has proposed a $53 billion investment in U.S. rail over the next six years, and set the goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.
This article was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site of TechNewsDaily.