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Japanese maglev smashes speed record

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High-speed train travelled on test run at 375 mph

A Japanese maglev which is the fastest passenger train in the world has broken its own speed record.

Operator JR Central said the train reached 375mph (603kph) in a test run today, surpassing its previous record of 361mph (581kph) set in 2003.

The train travelled for just over a mile (1.8km) at a speed exceeding 373mph (600kph).

Japan's high-speed rail services are among the most advanced in the world, with hundreds of trains running each day with minimal delays.

The Maglev Test Line, near Mount Fuji, about 50 miles (80km) west of Tokyo, is developing technology for use on a future link between Tokyo and Osaka. The magnetic levitation trains hover above rails, suspended by powerful magnets.

JR Central hopes to have the train running on a 100km line from Tokyo to Kofu in time for the 2020 Olympics and then on to Osaka by 2045. The 310 mile line is expected to cost £52bn.

MLX01 uses superconducting magnets in its bogies to induce a current in coils built into guideways either side of the train. The train initially runs on rubber wheels, but once its speed increases to above 93 mph there is enough current to cause it to levitate 100 mm above the guideway. This allows it to increase its speed without being constrained by the friction of wheel-on-rail. Linear motors are used to power a secondary set of coils in the guideway. The coils are also linked together in the track underneath the train. These links are used to correct the train’s position.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said the world speed record was a hugely exciting milestone and showed the potential for high-speed train travel.

She said: “While maglev technology is not appropriate for use in the UK, due both to its high costs and incompatibility with conventional rail infrastructure, this record illustrates how advanced high speed train technology now is.

“This latest technological advancement demonstrates Japan’s vision and ambition to develop a truly integrated transport network, which includes conventional high speed rail, something that we are distinctly lacking in the UK.”

A run-down of the World's 10 fastest trains is here. 

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