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Transportation Japan

Japan's MagLev Gets Go Ahead 159

Posted by timothy
from the arise-commuters-of-japan-arise dept.
ThinkPad760 writes "The Japanese government has finally given approval to build the long awaited MagLev train linking Tokyo and Osaka via Nagoya. But don't hold your breath. Construction will start in 2014. The Tokyo Nagoya section will be completed in 2027 with the final section to Osaka complete by 2045. I was hoping my wife could buy me a ticket as my retirement present, but looks like I have a wait a couple of years after that."
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Japan's MagLev Gets Go Ahead

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  • It's funny because the technology will be long outdated by then.
    • by stonedcat (80201)

      Knowing Japan, by 2014 they'll have found a way to build it in 1/3 of the time.
      Meanwhile the rest of the world will continue to lag 10+ years behind them in technology like we have for decades.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Knowing Japan, by 2014 they'll have found a way to build it in 1/3 of the time.

        Given that the project is high parallelizable, they could have done that already just by putting more workers and equipment on the job.

    • You say this now - but when they shoot down your orbital space-elevator, you won't be laughing.

    • Re:2027? 2045? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @02:35AM (#36278074)
      Will it? Where's your nearest thing to a 1964 bullet train?
    • Probably, but only because we invested in the R&D to make this a reality.

      It would be like saying that we shouldn't bother with developing new CPUs since the ones in 10 years will be 10x faster.

      Nothing drives innovation faster than demand for what's currently available.

    • by jonadab (583620)
      There's something about the plan that the summary isn't telling you: they're not linking Tokyo and Osaka by bullet train for the first time. It's more of a technology upgrade. They've had nozomi shinkansen (pronounced "no-zo-me-sheen-kahn-sane") making said trip in under two and a half hours, reaching speeds somewhere in the (rough estimate alert) neighborhood of 200 mph (though they can't average their top speed due to curves and acceleration and stuff), since the early nineties. You pay through the no
      • It's more of a technology upgrade. They've had nozomi shinkansen (pronounced "no-zo-me-sheen-kahn-sane") making said trip in under two and a half hours, reaching speeds somewhere in the (rough estimate alert) neighborhood of 200 mph (though they can't average their top speed due to curves and acceleration and stuff), since the early nineties.

        I live in Japan and speak Japanese. That's definitely not how you pronounce shinkansen. :-)

        This is not simply a technology upgrade, like previous shinkansen improvements. This is a new set of tracks following a new inland route, of which around 60% is expected to be tunnel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%AB%C5%8D_Shinkansen [wikipedia.org] has more details. Interestingly, it will be funded privately.

        This type of vast infrastructure investment is why Japan's economy works so well despite western economists talking it do

        • by khallow (566160)

          This type of vast infrastructure investment is why Japan's economy works so well despite western economists talking it down for decades now. The problem is that short term econometrics don't account for ongoing infrastructure benefits that keep delivering for decades. Japan has been investing like this since the 50's and that's why the standard of living here is streets ahead of anywhere else I've seen.

          It's worth noting that this model broke in the aftermath of the 1990 recession and hasn't worked since. There's a good reason that economists have been dissing Japan for the past few decades, using phrases such as "the lost decade."

      • The slower trains generally use the same rolling stock of Nozomi, N700, the difference in times is that the Hikari and Kodama services do more stops along the route but aside the different tracks inside some stations the main line is the same IIRC.

  • Let's point to the many long term development projects right here in the United States. Crickets. Enjoy.
    • by Ironchew (1069966) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @02:21AM (#36278032)

      As an eternal optimist, I think we (the U.S. public) aren't being loud enough. We need to take this disorganized grumbling about higher gas prices and start asking for efficient, interstate mass transport, like maglev (or the theoretical vactrain). It can be done, but Congress won't authorize it unless we don't let them weasel out of the problem. Maybe all it will take is a single letter from every constituent to their representative, flooding their offices.

      • by sqldr (838964)
        If I was going to be idealistically republican rather than pragmatically democrat (I'm neither, I'm pragmatically a British lib-dem for all the good that got us), then I would refer thee to the way corporations used to be before, er, corporations took over. Where you could invest a few dimes into building some railroads, and get them back as a shareholder once they are built. Figuring out what went wrong with the economy and why the people at the top of corporations are ambitious in the process
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Unless you want to donate an additional 10-20% of your income to said Congress, and the next 200 years worth of Congress thereafter, don't hold your breath for a vactrain or maglev. These things are ridiculously expensive and virtually never pay for themselves -- ever.

        The route between these two Japanese cities is hugely profitable for their current high speed rail routes. There are 185,000 individuals who live on each mile of that proposed route. And it's currently their most heavily traveled route. In

        • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @03:45AM (#36278240)

          These things are ridiculously expensive and virtually never pay for themselves -- ever.

          The problem with this mindset is that it only measures ticket sales. If you make travel between cities incredibly fast then you open up all kinds of new business opportunities and larger efficiencies.

          There is certainly a need to balance cost/benefit but too often we only balance direct costs vs direct benefit while ignoring the larger returns that result.

          Picture for a moment Broadband internet. If a couple of universities needed to move large files then it wouldn't make sense to lay fiber optic lines across the country--you could just overnight fedex them. But once you do lay fiber to everybody suddenly you can teleconference, you can have movies delivered to the home, you can create an entire entertainment sector where people play MMOs etc etc...

          When I was in highschool I had to plead with my parents to get internet. And then a second phone line. And then broadband. Now thanks to what I mostly learned on the internet I have a high paying job. It was a great investment that they made--but not one necessarily that looked like it should pay itself off. I mostly wanted high-speed admittedly to play games. As a gaming connection it was a complete money loser. But it opened up my world and from that I found unintended consequences.

          Conservatives tend to be the ones who always bemoan the unintended consequences of market intervention. But for some reason everyone seems to believe that there can only be negative unintended consequences.

          • by khallow (566160)

            The problem with this mindset is that it only measures ticket sales. If you make travel between cities incredibly fast then you open up all kinds of new business opportunities and larger efficiencies.

            Intangibles which you can value arbitrarily high are a convenient way to ignore that the train isn't paying for itself. If all this value is being created, then the value would show up in the form of higher ticket sales.

            Conservatives tend to be the ones who always bemoan the unintended consequences of market intervention. But for some reason everyone seems to believe that there can only be negative unintended consequences.

            Probably because that is the kind that is far more likely to occur. Also, since when has "We might do something useful by accident" been a good argument for continuing an activity?

          • by khallow (566160)
            Also, you can't have rail to every house and business. And urban areas are already heavily connected with roads and airports, especially in places which have bemoaning conservatives.
          • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

            Actually it highlights a massive flaw in our Capitalist model... if this were to be done by private industry it would never happen because they would need to directly turn a profit, the other associated benefits and profits would not be factored into it at all and it would never get off the ground (bad pun intended).

            • by khallow (566160)

              Actually it highlights a massive flaw in our Capitalist model... if this were to be done by private industry it would never happen because they would need to directly turn a profit, the other associated benefits and profits would not be factored into it at all and it would never get off the ground (bad pun intended).

              What's the flaw which this highlights? US railroad builders in the 19th Century were quite cognizant of the ability of railroads to raise property values and other things and they had a variety of ways to profit from that. A number of railroads were actually part of some grander scheme (for example, railroads were a key component of the massive, "open range" cattle drives that turned scrub and grass on vast tracts of unclaimed land into beef on eastern US dinner plates).

              But why spend your own money to ma

              • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

                Well, seeing as how I worked for the US side of one of Japan's most well-known (and loved) train mfrs... I may know the reality of the situation here in the US. And even from your own post, notice how you had to go back to the 1800s? Ever notice how our infrastructure is STILL in the 1800s? It may come as a surprise but wooden railroad ties are not the bee's knees of technology an haven't been for quite a long damn time. It is one of the main reasons why we can't have any sort of high-speed rail here.Nah, e

                • by khallow (566160)

                  Nah, everything is perfectly fine with our system... just keep telling yourself that.

                  I deeply apologize for not buying enough of your no-doubt wonderful company's products, but I don't deal in fashion. The wooden tied rails are what the US needs for moving cargo while high speed rail just duplicates the collectively better transportation systems of road and air, both which, I might add for fashion's sake, are 20th Century products not 19th Century products such as your trains.

        • These things are ridiculously expensive and virtually never pay for themselves -- ever

          Just like highways and roads then?

      • All it would take is a reasonable plan. So far, every plan (in the United States) I've seen has failed because of one or more of the following reasons:

        1) The train would run through a sparsely populated area and there would be no one to ride it, thus the train would lose money and be a waste of energy.
        2) The train would cost too much to build and operate. These suckers are expensive. The high speed rail in California is estimated to cost $45 billion, and so far voters have only approved $9billion (via bo
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DeathSquid (937219)

          A lot of people don't realize how expensive trains are. I took an hour-and-a-half trip in Spain recently, and it cost 50 Euros. Are people really willing to pay that? The trip from SF to LA will cost two or three times that. What is there to entice a person to ride the train instead of fly or drive? Flying in Europe is often cheaper than taking the train. And if you have more than one person going (talking about the US again), driving is just more economical, and not necessarily slower.

          Until you've used a good train system, it is really hard to understand why it is better. Afterwards, it's obvious.

          For example, in Japan (and Europe) fast trains are better than commercial flights because there is no messing around getting to and from distant airports, no long checkin queues, no excess luggage charges, no long security queues, no requirement for invasive searches/imaging, much more legroom, more comfortable seating, a smoother ride, you can use your phone/electronics the entire trip, no wait

          • by peragrin (659227)

            In the USA. train stations are very seldom in useful areas of a given city. more often they are farther out than the airports.

            The cit I live in and my parents city. The train stations are 10-15 miles away from anywhere useful, and while they are attached to the bus stations the busses don't go every where, indeed.

            For fun I timed it out once. to go by bus/train to my home to my parents would take something along the lines of 6 hours to travel what I do in my car in 90 minutes doing the speed limit. The

          • You don't have to tell me the good things about riding a train. I like riding trains. You fail to understand how the American system works.

            If you tell an American it will cost him $70USD to travel for an hour and a half, he will say, "forget it, I'll just drive a car and pay $15." That is doubly true if you are riding with someone else. The extra advantage is you have your car with you when you arrive at the destination. A secondary extra advantage is you can haul a lot more stuff in a car than on either
            • Except driving REALLY costs over fifty cents a mile when you figure in all the money you're actually spending on your car, not just the gasoline (gasoline in the US is very cheap, and is actually NOT the majority cost of driving).

              Moreover, even at 50 cents a mile, you're still assuming that you're getting free labor from an unpaid worker -- the driver (who is probably you). During this whole time when you could be working on a paper, talking to friends, drinking vodka, playing angry birds, or whatever.... i

              • lol if you are wasting your time while driving and complaining about it, you truly are an idiot. Lately I've been learning Russian when I drive (or fly, actually). Not everyone wastes their time. Stop wasting your time.

                Besides, it doesn't matter. People aren't going to get rid of their cars because of ONE high speed rail system. They need high speed rail plus local transportation, and very often they'll still buy a car if they can afford it, because they are just so convenient (try hauling a load of groce
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The first step would be to convince a US politician to give a shit about anything that happens after their term of office.

    • by khallow (566160)
      Even if you restrict your attention to the public arena, the US has plenty of long term plans. They might be disasters in the making (such as the high speed rail plans), but the US has them.

      I think there is a broad conceit that planning is always better than not having a plan, just as acting now is somehow always better than acting later. What is ignored is that sometimes what the plan implements is worse than no plan, especially when important details are glossed over (such as why build infrastructure t
  • A faster trip to the funeral home you'll never find, unless they bring back the Concorde..

  • Always with the magnets.

  • by hackertourist (2202674) <hackertouristNO@SPAMxmsnet.nl> on Sunday May 29, 2011 @02:29AM (#36278052)

    TFA mentions 67 minutes travel time. The Shinkansen takes 155 minutes for the same distance, so this would be a significant improvement. The cities are 500 km apart, even an airplane would not take significantly less than an hour.

  • by sqldr (838964)
    we can all get crammed into a tin can that runs at 300 mph rather than 150!
    • Re:yay! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FishTankX (1539069) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @04:30AM (#36278330)

      As opposed to being groped or scanned, and then stuck in a 1 foot by 1 foot seat on an aluminum can that can fall out of the sky? Or be stuck going about 5x slower than said tin can in a car? o.o

      I don't know of any transportation method in the world other than maglev that can get you from the downtown area of one city, 300 miles away, to the down town area of another city in 70 minutes. Much less one that could acomplish that while not requiring security scans or invasive groping, and a scan of your luggage, or heck, any luggage weight limits whatsoever.

      • by khallow (566160)

        I don't know of any transportation method in the world other than maglev that can get you from the downtown area of one city, 300 miles away, to the down town area of another city in 70 minutes.

        Airplanes, of course, can do that now.

        • No, they can't, because the overhead of check-in, security, waiting for a runway, baggage check, baggage pickup, etc, adds hours to even the shortest flight.

          • by khallow (566160)

            No, they can't, because the overhead of check-in, security, waiting for a runway, baggage check, baggage pickup, etc, adds hours to even the shortest flight.

            None of those things require adding hours to the flight. It's worth noting that in the US, the same government which burdens US airlines also promotes high speed rail.

            • I should rephrase then. I don't know of many transportation methods that can get you in the door of your departure station and out the door of your destination station traveling 300 miles from downtown to downtown in an hour and a half.
              (Disclaimer, I live in Japan)
              This is part of why the shinkansen is so succesfull. Note that I realize my previous analogy is maglev to planes, and this is shinkansen to planes. So this is a seperate discussion.

              But the reason why the shinkansen has been succesfull is that gene

              • by macshit (157376)

                What seems ever-so-slightly silly is that with the maglev, travelling between Tokyo and Nagoya will actually be faster than travelling from one side of Tokyo to the other (albeit a lot more expensive)...

              • by khallow (566160)

                I should rephrase then. I don't know of many transportation methods that can get you in the door of your departure station and out the door of your destination station traveling 300 miles from downtown to downtown in an hour and a half.

                You should rephrase that. You don't know of any current transportation method that does that. There are some future methods that could do this. It's foolish to compare present day flight to future rail rather than future flight to future rail.

                But ask yourself this. Given that airplanes already travel fast enough that the travel portion of the flight is a small portion of the overall time of travel, why should we make faster trains rather than speed up the lengthy non-travel portions of air flight? Which

        • by sjames (1099)

          While by restoring sanity we could get rid of the groping and scanning, and very careful planning and design could minimize other delays (but probably not enough), that would still leave being crammed into the 1 foot square seat and the weight limits on luggage.

          • by khallow (566160)

            that would still leave being crammed into the 1 foot square seat and the weight limits on luggage.

            Neither which is particularly significant. The point here is that high speed rail covers a modest domain between air flights and cars. Most of that domain can be covered merely by improving the non-travel portions of air flight, which also would be more cost effective in terms of passengers affected than building expensive, specialized railways.

            • by sjames (1099)

              It may not be significant for YOU, but I assure you, it is for me. I will happily take a train in comfort over a plane if it can get me there in no more than twice the time.

              Then, there's the vastly better fuel efficiency for a train and the impossibility of hijacking it to Cuba or crashing it into anything.

              • by khallow (566160)

                It may not be significant for YOU, but I assure you, it is for me.

                Yea yea yea. The "but" here is the cost. Sure, you like to ride trains, but are you willing to pay considerably more for that? Fuel efficiency? Hard to compare since some trains are electric, but trains, particularly high speed trains, aren't that efficient energy-wise until the train is heavily loaded.

                • by sjames (1099)

                  Your statement applies to jetliners as well. They start losing money FAST if they aren't mostly full. Maglev trains will likely be much more fuel efficient than a conventional high speed rail.

                  Trains are more scalable though. They can't just take a passenger segment out of a 747 if ticket sales are a bit light.

                  I doubt trains would take over everything, but they probably make sense on busy routes.

                  • by khallow (566160)

                    Your statement applies to jetliners as well. They start losing money FAST if they aren't mostly full.

                    And they fly mostly full unlike trains in a lot of places.

                    I doubt trains would take over everything, but they probably make sense on busy routes.

                    In a place with working transportation systems, why would trains be busy?

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      Now you're deep into circular reasoning.

                      Because nobody rides the old slow trains now, nobody will ride the new fast trains later? Even if they're roomy, slightly cheaper than flying and don't come with an anal probe?

      • by sqldr (838964)
        I love karma whoring.  You make a sarcastic humourous comment about the reality of trains (I get the london underground every day), and we get "insightful" comments about the advantages of trains over aeroplanes or cars.  I've learnt nothing except that there's a lot of karma whores on slashdot.
        • My apoligies. I mistook you for one of those 'Trains are for shmucks with no freedom' drive till you die types. Sorry my comment was misguided.

          But I still think that doubling the speed is a huge thing, because it will finally allow the train to out-race the airplanes on THAT route, which i'm familiar with. And, as such, shouldn't be dismissed as an incremental upgrade.

          • by sqldr (838964)
            hehe, you could probably summarise trains in the same way Winston Churchill summed up democracy:

            "It's the worst system of government there is, but the only one we have"
      • Why do you believe they'll let people get into their many-billion-dollar, super high tech maglev without requiring them to go through a security scan first?
        • With current tech, for better or for worse (hackers), if I understand the tech correctly, if the train is hijacked, since the motors are under the control of the network as well as the train operator, they'll be able to do something about the hijacking, making it significantly less dangerous than even hijacking a bus.

  • They kept saying that maglev trains will be everywhere by 1985, and that there will be cities in space by 2010.

    The illustrations showed them using black land-line telephones and mainframes that spit out hexadecimal ticker-tape, too.

    • And they'll have Linux desktops built into the back of the seats!! :D

      They kept saying that maglev trains will be everywhere by 1985, and that there will be cities in space by 2010.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @04:14AM (#36278286)
    Just saying, first things first.
  • (I got here by using longer urls into my profile)

    Where is the backup meeting place/blog for slashdot if and when the site has problems?

    (e.g. Google has this status page for their apps: http://www.google.com/appsstatus [google.com] )

  • Over here, at least, one of Greenpeace's main arguments is that nuclear power plants take too long to build - 5 years.

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @04:45AM (#36278378)

    From Maglev project gets go-ahead [nhk.or.jp]:

    Japan's transport ministry has ordered the construction of infrastructure for magnetically levitated trains, putting the country's project for next-generation high-speed rail service fully on track.

    The ministry on Friday ordered the Central Japan Railway Company, or JR Tokai, to build maglev train tracks between Tokyo and Nagoya.

    Maglev trains boast a maximum operating speed of 500 kilometers per hour, and could travel the 340 kilometers between the 2 cities in just 40 minutes.

    The ministry told JR Tokai to build the tracks on an almost straight route, using underground tunnels to pass beneath a mountain range.

    The firm plans to start an environmental assessment this year and begin construction in 3 years.

    Maglev trains are to start operating between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 and between Tokyo and Osaka in 2045.

    The project is expected to cost 9 trillion yen, or nearly 113 billion dollars.
    Friday, May 27, 2011 17:04 +0900 (JST)

    The first leg is specified at 340km, and the total appears to be roughly 500km. At nearly 9 trillion yen, that would be 18*10^9 yen/km, or about 350 million dollars a mile. That looks ridiculously expensive, though a significant part of that may be drilling through mountain ranges. Often the maglev components themselves are insignificant compared to the necessary ground work, or securing rights of way.

    Still, I'm curious how much of that cost could be avoided by opting for an Inductrack [wikipedia.org] based system instead. Inductrack is an elegant passive magnetic levitation system, which is vastly cheaper than conventional systems due to its profound simplicity. It also seems likely that they chose a nearly straight path, exactly because of the excessive track cost. If that is the case, the path flexibility afforded by using a cheaper technology, may have allowed for significantly less ground work and a more attractively priced system.

    In a country like the US with large flat expanses, Inductrack would make for an excellent intercity transit network. The costs are very reasonable, even when compared with conventional high-speed rail.

    • by macshit (157376)

      Maglev track isn't cheap, but I don't think it's a significant part of the total cost... as you say, boring the track through several mountain ranges is likely the biggest component, along with, perhaps, land-acquisition (especially in the cities). A short path length not only reduces land and construction costs, it reduces journey times on the final system, which is very important for them.

      Moreover, initial track cost is less of an issue than long-term maintenance cost.

      In any case, JR has been developin

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Actually the route they chose was influenced as much by politics and NIMBYism as much as practicalities and directness.

        Various cities along the route were keen to be served by the route because a high speed rail link brings huge economic benefits. In Japan more than most countries the big economic centres are built around stations, and often the train companies themselves build large shopping centres or department stores around them.

        The issue of noise from trains, particularly when exiting tunnels has long

        • by macshit (157376)

          Actually the route they chose was influenced as much by politics and NIMBYism as much as practicalities and directness.

          Various cities along the route were keen to be served by the route because a high speed rail link brings huge economic benefits.
          ...

          Note that they actually chose a fairly direct route, over several others under consideration which detoured to hit intermediate cities in Nagano prefecture (despite much pressure from the latter)...

          As you say, there are advantages to avoiding intermediate cities -- aerodynamic noise is a major issue with the existing Tokaido shinkansen, although curve radius is also a big factor limiting its speeds (newer shinkansen routes have much larger curve radii) -- but those actually tend to reinforce the concept of

    • The Japanese maglev system has a lot in common with "Inductrack", it uses passive figure-8 coils in the track to levitate and guide the train. The magnets on the train are superconductors, and powered alternating magnets in the track are used for propulsion. The trains have wheels because they don't levitate at low speeds or while stopped.

      The only difference between the systems is in the kind of magnet used in the train itself.

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