Japan's New Bullet Train Can Hit 224 MPH

Sure, the train won't be taking passengers for at least another decade. But lord, is it fast.

japanese alfa-x
JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty ImagesGetty Images

Japanese shinkansen, or bullet trains, are perhaps the best known regional train system in the world. Often seen as a symbol of Japanese efficiency, the trains the modern nature of the country. Now, the East Japanese Railway Company (JR-East) is pushing the system even further with a bullet train known as Alfa-X, which is capable of traveling at top speeds of 224 mph (360 km/h).

JR-East is one of seven for-profit companies that control Japan's bullet trains under the auspices of the government's Japan Railways Group. The train itself will be built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi. The company plans to begin testing the train this Friday, with the goal of putting it into service by 2030. During the tests, the engineers hope to push the Alfa-X to a little past 248 mph (400 km/h). The tests will run twice a week for the next three years.

Eleven years might sound like a long time from now, but integrating a new train into such a complex system takes time. The Alfa-X is longer than current trains—51 feet (16 m) versus the current 49 (15 m)—and features a 72-foot long (22 m) nose, which is an experiment to see if it will be quieter when entering tunnels.

The noise from shinkansen has been , especially as the train system has expanded deeper into the country's rural areas. Without further adaptation, making trains faster and faster would just exacerbate the problem.

japanese alfa x train cab
Inside the cab of the new Alfa-X train. Japanese officials hope the train will be on the rails for customers by 2030.
JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty ImagesGetty Images

"We want to improve not only speed, but also safety and comfort," said Ichiro Ogawa, the head of JR-East's research and development center, in an interview with Japanese newspaper .

Japan will also be in time for the 2020 Olympics in an effort to reduce noise through what will surely be a very crowded Tokyo. But if you can't wait that long, there's always the immersive Japanese train simulator.

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