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Japan's Maglev Train Breaks Own Speed Record

  • VOA News

The Central Japan Railway Co.'s seven-car 'magnetic levitation' or maglev train returns to the station after setting a new world speed record in a test run near Mount Fuji, April 21, 2015.

The Central Japan Railway Co.'s seven-car 'magnetic levitation' or maglev train returns to the station after setting a new world speed record in a test run near Mount Fuji, April 21, 2015.

A cutting-edge train in Japan has blown past its own world speed record, reaching 603 kph or 375 mph.

Central Japan Railway Co. officials said the seven-car "maglev" train — short for "magnetic levitation" — traveled at more than 600 kilometers per hour for 11 seconds during a test run Tuesday. Its previous record, set in 2003, was 590 kph or 366 mph.

Intercity High Speed Rail - comparative speeds

Intercity High Speed Rail - comparative speeds

The bullet train can reach such high speeds thanks to powerful magnets that allow it to hover several centimeters above the tracks, eliminating friction. The electronically charged magnets also help propel the train.

Railway authorities said they hope the maglev technology can be used by 2045 to eventually cut the travel time in half, to just over an hour, between the cities of Tokyo and Osaka.

A shorter route, between Tokyo and Nagoya, is expected to open sometime in the late 2020s. The goal is to cover the 300-kilometer distance in about 40 minutes, according to the Associated Press. Japan’s current shinkasen bullet-train service takes about 90 minutes for that distance.

Officials said Tuesday's test was meant to determine the limits of the technology, but stressed they hope actual operating speeds eventually will be around 500 kph or 311 mph.

The fastest commercial train now operating is China’s Shanghai maglev, which can reach 430 kph but averages 251 kph, according to Railway-Technology.com.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been touting the technology for possible future sale in other countries, including the United States, where the White House has invested billions in an ambitious high-speed rail project that is in its early stages.

The fastest commercial U.S. train is the Amtrak Acela, which runs at speeds of up to 241 kph or 150 mph, according to its website.

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