Japan Testing Train That Travels 249 MPH

The fastest bullet train in the world is now being tested in Japan. The ALFA-X, projected to hit speeds of up to 249 mph, began a scheduled three years’ worth of testing at the end of last week. The goal for the East Japan Railway Company, which is testing the train, is for the ALFA-X to be introduced commercially in 2030.

The train will be tested on the line between the Japanese cities of Aomori and Sendai, which are located about 200 miles apart. Tests will take place twice a week after midnight, when the line is quiet. If the train achieves its touted speed, a trip between Tokyo and Sapporo, Japan’s largest city on the island of Hokkaido, would be nearly halved to four and a half hours. 

The Alfa-X’s futuristic design features 10 cars and is painted in metallic silver with green stripes. Its long and pointed nose, designed to decrease noise and pressure in tunnels, stretches out 72 feet in front of it. Dampeners and air suspension will be used to keep it stable, along with an air brake and a conventional brake on the roof controlled by magnetic plating near the tracks. The sleek-nosed design also has other features deigned to make it less susceptible to earthquakes.

The ALFA-X is a version of Japan’s Shinkansen high-speed bullet train, which debuted for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Just over a year ago, tests began for Japan’s new high-speed Shinkansen N700S, which is scheduled to enter operation in 2020. East Japan Railway said, “The development of the next-generation shinkansen is based on the key concepts of superior performance, a high level of comfort, a superior operating environment and innovative maintenance.” Tokyo will be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Currently, the fastest bullet trains in the world top out at 200 mph but Maglev locomotives are still faster. These trains, which work by levitating via magnetism above the rails, can reach 268 mph. One Maglev train that travels from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport to the Longyang metro station on the outskirts of Shanghai covers the roughly 19 miles of the trip in just seven minutes and 20 seconds.