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Transportation Japan Technology

Japan's L-Zero Maglev Train Reaches 310 mph In Trials 174

Posted by timothy
from the zippy-is-right dept.
coolnumbr12 writes with this excerpt from IBTimes: "Japan's magnetic-levitation train is still more than decade away from completion, but the L-Zero recently proved that it really is the world's fastest train. On a 15-mile stretch of test track, the L-Zero reached speeds of 310 miles per hour. After the successful trials, Central Japan Railway Co. is going ahead with a 5.1 trillion yen ($52 billion) plan to build a 177-mile maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya. CJR says the trip will take just 40 minutes on the L-Zero." There are other fast trains in the world, but the L-Zero edges out the others on this list.
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Japan's L-Zero Maglev Train Reaches 310 mph In Trials

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  • ...an obvious nickname?
  • Hate to hit (Score:3, Funny)

    by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Saturday September 07, 2013 @05:29PM (#44785791)
    A cow at that speed...
  • A me too case? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ateocinico (32734) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @05:46PM (#44785893)

    If every kilometer of it's tracks is about as costly as the German's maglev, what is the economic justification? China balked at the cost of a Shanghai-Beijing maglev line and built a wheeled system instead. And nobody has built a maglev after the Shanghai's airport to city center line.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At 310mph it would be able to out run Godzilla's atomic breath. There's your justification.

    • Re:A me too case? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @06:40PM (#44786191)

      Why does everything have to make a profit?
      Can nothing be done for national pride or to push forward the cutting edge?

      • Re:A me too case? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @08:03PM (#44786705)

        Why a profit at all anyway? Shouldn't everything done by the governments be done at break-even costs?

        • Re:A me too case? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @02:12AM (#44788029)

          fair enough. but what's the economic justification for the train to make sure the gov't breaks even? how do you make sure you don't build a billion dollar white elephant?

          • Re:A me too case? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by serviscope_minor (664417) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @04:31AM (#44788509) Journal

            but what's the economic justification for the train to make sure the gov't breaks even?

            Since when is "break even" even necessary: the US governmant for example doesn't charge people to use the interstates. From that narrow point of view, they made a massive loss.

            Clearly the wider economic benefits of good trnsport is sufficiently clear that few people debate the need to have such a system.

            the key with the train, just like road is to put it where people like to go.

            • by adolf (21054)

              But they do: Fuel tax.

              I buy fuel, pay taxes on it, and they keep the roads working.

              (I can also buy untaxed fuel easily enough, but I cannot legally use it in my car on a public road.)

              • But they do: Fuel tax.

                Doesn't cover the cost of the roads.

                The tax yielded from general economic development covers the cost of the roads.

                • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

                  But they do: Fuel tax.

                  Doesn't cover the cost of the roads.

                  The tax yielded from general economic development covers the cost of the roads.

                  Umm actually construction and maintenance of the roads is nearly 100% financed through the highway trust fund, which comes from gas tax. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_Trust_Fund [wikipedia.org]

            • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

              The question still stands, how do you make sure you don't build a billion dollar white elephant?

          • Re:A me too case? (Score:5, Informative)

            by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspaM.world3.net> on Sunday September 08, 2013 @05:29AM (#44788641) Homepage

            Well, in Japan there is definitely demand for this service. A lot of people already travel that route and the trains are often full to capacity. They go every 15 minutes and can't be sent out any faster for safety reasons.

            Japanese companies tend to take a long term view, so don't expect a full return in the first five years. Also they expect to be able to export the technology for additional profit. There will also be additional economic benefits for Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka as people are more easily able to move between them. From businesses wanting to send employees to another office or go for a meeting in another city to consumers who enjoy taking a shopping trip or a weekend visit to the Kansai cultural centre.

            As for why they don't just expand the existing lines the main issue is noise. The current trains are limited to 320KPH but could easily do 360 or more, if it were not for noise problems. The maglev will be quieter and take a route that uses more tunnels and avoids populated areas so that it can maintain 510KPH for most of the journey.

      • Can nothing be done for national pride

        Wow, how about your taxes go to that, and mine go to something more useful. National pride is cool and all until I have to pay for it myself.

      • by Shavano (2541114)
        Why should anything impractical be done at all?
    • Re:A me too case? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @08:20PM (#44786789) Journal

      Well, let's see.

      Assuming the train travels between Tokyo and Nagoya, a distance of 177 miles according to the summary, and travels at 310 MPH that comes up with 34 minutes from Tokyo to Nagoya. What the heck, we'll make it 45 minutes, what with acceleration and deceleration and all.

      Tokyo is one of the most densely populated areas in Japan and is pretty high up there in world rankings. Areas of high population density, of course, tend to be expensive places to live. Sure, you can have a place outside Tokyo for much cheaper but then you spend your life in traffic or on a train--not an attractive prospect.

      Imagine if I could live in Nagoya and work in Tokyo and not have to spend hours a day commuting or living in a tube during the week and only being home on the weekends. Imagine that an employer might be more interested in hiring me as I could work "cheaper" since my living expenses could be far less in Nagoya. I remember reading how New York City's economy improved by creating infrastructure (i.e., bridges, trains) allowing people who lived in Brooklyn to conveniently get to New York City.

      Also, Nagoya has a pretty big airport that is arguably under-utilized. Making it more convenient to access from Tokyo may improve that situation.

      • A trip from Tokyo to Nagoya costs 10,600 yen currently (around $106 USD), so if the price will be similar, it's going to be $212 daily commute, which is kind of expensive:

        http://www.hyperdia.com/en/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=TOKYO&arv_node=NAGOYA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2013&month=09&day=08&hour=10&minute=28&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facil [hyperdia.com]

        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          There are people who pay that here for a daily commute between London and my home town (100 or so miles down the line). It's painful, but people do it. Admittedly these would be well paid contractor types, but there are enough of them around these days; enough to fill a few commuter trains each day, anyway.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Your point about Nagoya airport is a good one. Currently it takes about 50 minutes to get from Narita to central Tokyo, or about 30 minutes from Haneda.

      • by jrumney (197329)

        Imagine that an employer might be more interested in hiring me as I could work "cheaper" since my living expenses could be far less in Nagoya.

        Your living costs are only cheaper if you disregard the $500 a day spent on train travel to get to work and back.

  • It is weird i don't see any USA or Russian trains, they both got a vast country and a knack of looking for grandour.
    How come that much smaller countries like Taiwan got faster trains, heh.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Simple. Concentrated ridership and dense urban areas.

      • Simple. Concentrated ridership and dense urban areas.

        So, Taiwan is essentially...the little yellow ridinghood?

      • It is weird i don't see any USA or Russian trains

        Simple. Concentrated ridership and dense urban areas.

        Like San Diego to LA to San Francisco?

        • by faedle (114018)

          Right. Isn't California actually trying to do something like this? So, your point is?

          • Yeah right. I'll come back to see whether it's half finished in twenty years.

            • Yeah right. I'll come back to see whether it's half finished in twenty years.

              California is broke, and the Feds will not pay for High Speed Rail - like they dished out cash to airlines after 9/11 ...

    • by ah.clem (147626)

      Not absolutely certain, but I imagine it has something to do with the trucking, auto manufacturing and petroleum industries in the US. Just a guess.

    • by myowntrueself (607117) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @09:27PM (#44787115)

      It is weird i don't see any USA or Russian trains, they both got a vast country and a knack of looking for grandour.
      How come that much smaller countries like Taiwan got faster trains, heh.

      The Russian train system is very heavily used. People 'commute' on the trans-siberian.

      A trans-siberian mag-lev would be awesome. The existing tracks are so fucked up its a very bumpy ride. The passenger and freight service shares the same tracks and those freight cars are the size of houses (Russian gauge is wider than the rest of the world, the freight cars are fucking HUGE) and visibly bend the tracks as they roll along... needless to say the rails don't bend back to straightness.

  • TFA from Wired (Score:5, Informative)

    by nojayuk (567177) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @05:58PM (#44785961)

    TFA is a cut-n-paste from a badly-written and poorly-researched Wired article some staffer wrote to fill in a blank space on the website last week.

    The Japanese maglev trains (there are two parallel tracks) have been running consistently at 500km/h (310 mph in old money) for over a decade and more in testing. Its actual record speed is 580km/h (about 360mph). In addition the test track is 40km long, not 26km as stated in the article; it was extended a few years back. Etc., etc.

    • Can you provide a better link? I'm curious what safety measures are in place, considering the recent disaster in Spain [telegraph.co.uk].

      • by nojayuk (567177)

        Safety -- like the shinkansen the proposed Tokyo-Nagoya maglev will run on separated track, no crossings or other traffic allowed on the same route. There are barrier walls and fencing along all of the track to keep cows, people and Gojira from getting in the way.

        The recent Spanish high-speed train "accident" was a disaster waiting to happen when you study it, there is no way a high-speed railway line should have had an 80kph-limit curve like that anywhere along its length. The Japanese maglev will be basic

        • by xaxa (988988)

          The recent Spanish high-speed train "accident" was a disaster waiting to happen when you study it, there is no way a high-speed railway line should have had an 80kph-limit curve like that anywhere along its length.

          No, that's no problem. The problem was not installing/using a suitable signalling system, which is present on high-speed lines in most other countries.

          (I don't make a habit of remembering the speed limits of curves, but IIRC the speed limit through the Channel Tunnel is 100km/h.)

          • by Jeremi (14640)

            No, that's no problem. The problem was not installing/using a suitable signalling system, which is present on high-speed lines in most other countries.

            It seems to me that it would have been (and still is) possible to include a GPS receiver, a maximum-train-speeds database, and a speed-limiter on each train as a fallback. With that, as long as the GPS was working, even the dumbest/craziest engineer would not be able to make the train go faster than its maximum specified speed at any given location.

            • by mrvan (973822)

              This type of systems exists, e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Rail_Traffic_Management_System [wikipedia.org]. AFAIK, the problems are (1) legacy systems on most national railroads that are slowly being phased out, if at all, and (2) technical difficulties like losing the controlling GPS signal in tunnels or urban areas, causing trains to do an emergency stop in the middle of a tunnel, which makes nobody happy.

              I guess the real problem is that the One System to rule them all is trying to do lots of stuff (maximum s

            • by xaxa (988988)

              No, that's no problem. The problem was not installing/using a suitable signalling system, which is present on high-speed lines in most other countries.

              It seems to me that it would have been (and still is) possible to include a GPS receiver, a maximum-train-speeds database, and a speed-limiter on each train as a fallback. With that, as long as the GPS was working, even the dumbest/craziest engineer would not be able to make the train go faster than its maximum specified speed at any given location.

              GPS wouldn't work in tunnels, and very often higher speed lines are adjacent to lower speed lines. here [google.co.uk]'s an example, which I used to walk past sometimes. The fast lines have a 110mph limit, the "slow" lines 70mph, and the siding for a factory 20mph. The tracks are about 4-6m apart. Also, the maximum safe speed is much lower if there's a train ahead on the line -- the capacity of the line is much reduced if you have to enforce 10km distance at all times.

              There are very safe signalling systems, like The TG [wikipedia.org]

              • by Jeremi (14640)

                GPS wouldn't work in tunnels

                This wouldn't be a problem in practice, since the computer would know where the tunnels are and could therefore be programmed to do the right thing when the train enters one and the GPS signal is lost.

                and very often higher speed lines are adjacent to lower speed lines

                This would be a problem. I can't think of a good solution there (other than "note the issue in the database, and do something reasonable")

                • by dave420 (699308)
                  Easy. Have each train know which track it is on, and receive the speed limits for all the tracks in the GPS window it is currently in. It'll then know how fast it should be travelling on its particular track, with no fear of confusion.
                  • by xaxa (988988)

                    If you're somehow telling it what track it's on, you may as well use that system to tell it what the speed limit is -- which is what the European signalling systems do already.

        • I appreciate all the responses, they are well informed and made me smarter :) I was too lazy to research myself and appreciate the additional insight. Your comments are the main reason I keep coming back to slashdot and participating in discussions.

        • Safety -- like the shinkansen the proposed Tokyo-Nagoya maglev will run on separated track, no crossings or other traffic allowed on the same route. There are barrier walls and fencing along all of the track to keep cows, people and Gojira from getting in the way.

          The recent Spanish high-speed train "accident" was a disaster waiting to happen when you study it, there is no way a high-speed railway line should have had an 80kph-limit curve like that anywhere along its length. The Japanese maglev will be basically as straight as they can make it with a lot of tunneling and raised viaducts like the existing shinkansen routes but even more so as the maglev will start operation with a 50% speed increase over the steel-wheel-on-steel-rail shinkansen (there are somewhat sketchy plans to eventually run maglev trains at 700km/h and more once the technology improves).

          80kph curve pshaw! He was doing 190kph and he NEARLY made it!

          They should get him test driving these maglev trains, the guys clearly an ace.

      • Re:TFA from Wired (Score:5, Informative)

        by Zyrill (700263) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @06:27PM (#44786115)
        I'm sorry to have to say that, but that is a very ignorant and claptrap post. Maglev trains by design cannot be derailed. Even the non-superconducting Transrapid by Siemens (Germany) that commutes between Shanghai Airport and Downtown cannot leave his tracks instead of catastrophic failure of the whole track. That's because the tracks are shaped like this c-× so the magnets push the "c"-shaped guides away from the "-"-shaped track in every direction. The worst that can happen is that the "c" hits the track in which case the train simply brakes because of friction. In the case of the L0, consider this picture: http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/51b73df36bb3f78825000002-2238-1678-400-/japan-maglev-train-may-2010.jpg [businessinsider.com] Yes, the track is almost straight. No, there are no sharp curves as in Spain, else it couldn't go that fast. For a more informed article with some tech specs, check here: http://www.dailytech.com/Japanese+Maglev+Train+Begins+Full+Speed+Testing+at+310+mph/article33281.htm [dailytech.com] Please don't ask questions just for the sake of asking something. A very academic thing to do, but trust me, everybody hates the frustrated postdocs who do this.
  • Earthquakes? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Em Adespoton (792954) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Saturday September 07, 2013 @06:01PM (#44785977) Homepage Journal

    What are they using to protect the track against earthquakes? I'd hate to be speeding along at those speeds and have the track shift/vanish from under me.. or even the "mag" suddenly cut out for that matter.

    • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @09:52PM (#44787241)

      "... or even the "mag" suddenly cut out for that matter."

      Don't worry--we've worked diligently to address this issue by placing plutonium-core, self-contained electric cells every 500 meters along the track. Each section is self powered.

      I hope that alleviates your concerns regarding a steady supply of safe, reliable power. I appreciate this opportunity to answer all your questions.

      Bob, Senior Design Administrator
      TEPCO

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      same thing as they do right now with the bullet trains
      the train comes to a screaming emergency slowdown and halt

    • Re:Earthquakes? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ichijo (607641) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:24AM (#44787895) Homepage Journal
      Remote seismic sensors can detect earthquakes (which move at a little over the speed of sound) and transmit a signal to the trains (at the speed of light) which then immediately brake to a stop before the seismic wave hits.
  • by sandbagger (654585) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @06:05PM (#44786001)

    Just curious.

    As an aside, this is truly amazing technology. In case you're interested, look up how the acceleration and braking is controlled for a smooth ride. It's ethernet all the way down the trains for very small on the fly adjustments for ride smoothness.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Even the current wheeled trains have incredibly smooth acceleration and braking. More than once I have got on a Shinkansen, sat down and started checking my phone, only to look up and realize it had started moving. It's that smooth, that gentle.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They should've asked Elon Musk to design a Hyperloop transport system for them. It would've saved them billions.

  • Given China's history of theft, it won't be long until we see a design that is a knock-off of the Japanese design with some other bits thrown in.

  • Energy efficiency? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @07:54PM (#44786649) Homepage Journal
    While the speed is all well and good, I have to wonder how much more energy this consumes than the current technology(or perhaps it's more efficient?) With the proliferation of mobile internet technology, I don't really see a whole lot of advantage in shaving off a few minutes on my travel time if it makes the ticket much more expensive(due to increased energy costs). I can get almost as much work/play done on the train as I can on the ground...

    Also, from TFA:
    Despite the falling national population, Tokyo continues to grow. Japan is hoping that the L-Zero maglev train will persuade millions of people to fly and drive less.

    People would take the train more and fly/drive less if JR weren't stupidly inflexible about ticket prices. Unlike planes(and high speed trains in places like Europe for that matter), there is basically 0 flexibility in their prices. Going during prime hours costs the same as going early in the morning or on weekends etc. The reason people fly instead of taking the trains is simple, the trains are often times more expensive. It's already faster to take the train in most cases(esp. if you are going from Tokyo to Nagoya), but since the train is often times 2x as expensive as flying, even when the train is almost empty, I'm willing to put up with the extra time required to fly. So maybe instead of pouring massive amounts of money into faster trains, they should maybe think about hiring a couple of good logisticians who can actually work out a pricing system that actually takes advantage of these newfangled devices called "computers" to dynamically adjust prices to make JR more money AND give better customer satisfaction...... Meh, knowing JR, that's just a pipe dream. Bring on the maglevs!
  • by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @09:42PM (#44787193)
    What's a news item like this without video?

    Here is one: L0 going 500 km/h [youtu.be]
    (views from inside the train earlier in the video)

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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