The trials for the world’s fastest magnetic-levitation train planned for Japan resumed yesterday, continuing work to extend the 24-kilometer test track built over five years by the Central Japan Railway Co. Traveling at the maximum speed of 500 kilometers per hour (310 mph), the maglev will connect Nagoya with Tokyo, taking its passengers on a 286-kilometer journey predicted to last only 40 minutes, according to the JR Central.
Despite the numerous upsides of having a high-speed link connecting the two cities, there are some concerns that by 2027, when the complimenting Shinkansen bullet-trail network is projected to be finished, Japan’s population might shrink and the travel demand will erode. According to projections by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s population may drop from the current 127 million to 80 million by 2060.
Magnetic-levitation is based on magnetic power that propels trains that float above the ground, enabling them to reach speed that far exceeds those of current bullet trains. With the maximum speed of 500 kmph, maglevs travel almost twice as fast as 270 kmph bullet trains. To facilitate the technology the company built 248 kilometers of tunnels, which is five times as long as the Channel Tunnel in Europe.
The project has encountered concerns about its high costs, which has fueled resistance towards the idea of building a high-speed line in the U.S. A similar scenario is taking place in the U.K. where the government is facing resistance to plans for building a high-speed link between London and Birmingham that was scheduled to open in 2026.
However, instead of getting financed by the government, JR Central’s maglev line will use cash flow, loans and bonds to fund the project. The company will issue 5-year, 10-year and 20-year bonds to help finance the project, claims the company. The project is predicted to become an extremely lucrative endeavor, according to Shinichi Yamazaki, an analyst at Okasan Securities Group Inc. JR Central’s shares have climbed 64 percent this year.
Images courtesy Yosuke Fukudome