Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Japan Transportation

Japan's Shinkansen Bullet Trains Celebrate 50th Anniversary 111

AmiMoJo writes Japan's Shinkansen bullet-train has marked its 50th anniversary. The first Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka debuted on October 1st, 1964, ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Since then, the Shinkansen has run about 2 billion kilometers, or the equivalent of 50,000 times around the earth. It has carried about 5.6 billion passengers. The latest series to enter operation, the E5, operates at 320km/h.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Japan's Shinkansen Bullet Trains Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Comments Filter:
  • what will we say when it's 50th anniversary time for Apollo 11? :(
    • Amen...

      Our unwillingness to do great things is really sad... We spend $4 Trillion dollars a year on government in this country and what do we have to show for it? Lots of food stamps, lots of war, and the NSA.

      In 1990, NASA came up with a plan to land humans on Mars in 10 years. Over 10 years it was going to cost $450 Billion ($45 Billion per year).

      Even if it was THREE TIMES THAT, so what... We spend money on dumber things...

      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        Just because there was "a plan" does not mean it was either a good plan or a feasible plan.

        Let's admit that the space program of the 60s had a goal, and that goal was not bettering humanity, scientific exploration, or even just being able to say we had done it. The moon mission came about because we hated and feared the Russians, and the notion that they would be first to the moon sent chills down the spine. There was the real feeling that the US could "lose" space and lose the Cold War.

        It would take that s

        • You miss the point...

          It doesn't *really* matter if we would have gotten there in 10 years, or if it cost $450 Billion or $1.45 Trillion.

          The technology and research developed in even trying would advance humanity by leaps and bounds.

          The Moon race might have been about the cold war, but you're typing on a computer connected to the Internet that is largely possible BECAUSE of the space race.

          Would they have been developed sooner or later? Sure... but not at the speed that it happened.

          What would it take for us

          • Would they have been developed sooner or later? Sure... but not at the speed that it happened.

            It seems to me that they would have been developed even sooner if we had spent more on scientific research and less on rocket fuel. Instead of spending X dollars on Y to get Z as a side effect, why not spend a lot less than X dollars directly on Z?

            • You need a reason to develop stuff...

              Just spending for no reason doesn't seem to work well...

              Spending to make stuff work in space? That worked pretty well...

              Going to Mars will require lots of new stuff, it will give us a goal, the amazing new technologies will come on their own...

              • Spending to make stuff work in space? That worked pretty well...

                It only worked well the first time. There were spin-offs from the race to the moon. There were no significant spin-offs from the shuttle or the ISS. By sucking dollars and engineers out of the rest of the economy, they likely did more harm than good.

                Going to Mars will require lots of new stuff

                There is no reason to believe that a Mars mission will require new non-space technology that wouldn't be developed anyway. Certainly not a trillion dollars worth, which is the low range estimate of what such a mission would cost.

      • Our unwillingness to do great things is really sad...

        Spending trillions on nationwide high speed rail (The SF-to LA run alone is projected to cost $300 Billion), that will require hundreds of billions more in subsidies, cater mainly to the relatively wealthy, and do little to reduce pollution or reduce CO2 emissions, is not a "great thing".

        • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @04:01PM (#48040867) Journal

          The SF-to LA run alone is projected to cost $300 Billion

          No, it's projected to cost $53.4 billion in 2011 dollars [ca.gov]. Meanwhile, it would cost $123 to 138 billion in 2011 dollars [ca.gov] to move the same number of people by air and highways (4,295 to 4,652 new lane-miles of highway plus 115 new airport gates and 4 new runways). Also, like every HSR system in the world that has been open for at least a few years, California's won't require any operating subsidies, unlike airports and freeways. So high-speed rail is a really good deal.

          • by Jack9 ( 11421 )

            > So high-speed rail is a really good deal.

            It was not and still is not.

            > move the same number of people by air and highways (4,295 to 4,652 new lane-miles of highway plus 115 new airport gates and 4 new runways)

            Those stats are completely made up and are modes of transportation are for orthogonal needs. You aren't going to stop that growth. This kind of quackery estimation is what has landed California in the money pit of the HSR Browndoggle.

          • No, it's projected to cost $53.4 billion in 2011 dollars

            No. That is the "bullshit" number made up by politicians. No one actually believes that, since that number is from 2012, and even the politicians are no longer sticking by it.

            The best way to estimate the cost, is to issue bonds that pay on a sliding scale, with a normal payout if the projected cost is met, more if the cost is under, and less it there is a cost overrun. Then see how much people investing THEIR OWN MONEY would be willing to pay for those bonds. Of course this will not happen for Californi

        • First, it shouldn't cost trillions. Our highway system didn't cost trillions, rail shouldn't either. If it does, then the system is really broken.

          Fix the system, don't blame the symptoms.

          Second, you honestly think that a thousand people moving via train on 200-400 mile distances instead of in 500 to 700 cars is "about the same CO2 emissions"? Really?

          Finally, building such a system might not be cheap in the short run (the interstate highway system wasn't), but it pays benefits for many, many years in the

          • If it does, then the system is really broken.

            Breaking news: The system is really broken. Pouring another few trillion into it won't fix it. It will make it more broken.

            Second, you honestly think that a thousand people moving via train on 200-400 mile distances instead of in 500 to 700 cars is "about the same CO2 emissions"? Really?

            Yes. That is about right. Moving people by train is about as efficient as moving two people in a car. That is why trains make some sense for local commuting, since most people commute one-person-per-vehicle. But they make less sense for long distance travel, where people mostly don't drive alone. But in either case, a bus is generally even better than the train, with much less u

            • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

              But in either case, a bus...is more flexible when commuting patterns change.

              That's circular logic, because commuting patterns only change when something as flexible as a bus is in place. Putting in something as permanent as a rail line gives developers confidence to make investments along the line in a way that doesn't happen around bus stops. So commuting patterns changing is a non-issue with rail.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Compared to spending that same amount on blowing up brown people, it is a great thing.

          There's always money for blowing up brown people.

    • That we put multiple robots driving around on other planets since then?
      That our scientific knowledge of space has expanded dramatically?
      That we've put satellites in space that help all of humanity navigate, communicate, and understand our world?

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        ...that it's still cheaper to fly jets like buses for the same kinds of routes a bullet train would cover.

        Americans get all excited about this stuff without ever actually experiencing it firsthand. They never see the high prices or how it might be simpler just to rent your own car.

        Bullet trains more of a glamour tech item like a Battleship or an Aircraft Carrier. They look good but they aren't nearly as practical as they seem.

        If the US wants to act like it's in love with trains again, it would be far better

        • I gotta disagree -- bullet trains make a lot of sense for some trips. Italy got high speed rail between Milan and Rome in 2009, and it's grounded a lot of airplanes (the same job gets accomplished with 5% of the energy). Plus, no mandatory security-kabuki entertainment, and shorter+cheaper taxi/bus ride from terminal to actual destination since the train arrives in the middle of the city. For the USA, airplanes are probably the best option transcontinentally, but fast trains going up and down the coasts wo
          • When the US gets high-speed rail service there will be the same bullshit security theater as the airport.

            • When the US gets high-speed rail service there will be the same bullshit security theater as the airport.

              Unlikely. A bomb on a train will kill far fewer people, and also generate far less psychological effect. People have an instinctive fear of heights, and falling from them. Our society has put disproportionate effort into aircraft safety, compared to almost any other area of risk.

              After 9/11 many fewer people flew on airplanes. Passenger volume took quite a while to recover. The train bombings in London had almost no effect on ridership.

              Also, it is hard to hijack a train.

          • the same job gets accomplished with 5% of the energy

            No. Trains move people for about 350 kJ/passenger-km. Passenger aircraft average 1.4 MJ/p-km. So that is 20%, not 5%.

            • Thanks! I went by what they print on the back of their ticket. Maybe it's CO2 emissions rather than total energy. Good to know!
        • Don't knock it until you've tried it, well run public transit systems are VERY convenient.
        • ...that it's still cheaper to fly jets like buses for the same kinds of routes a bullet train would cover.

          No way. You can buy a 90 day pass on Tkaid Shinkansen(run by a private for-profit company), for the price of a single round-trip airfare in the US of similar distance. I mean, it's a nice argument, but it isn't true. There were huge infrastructure costs in setting up the lines in the first place, but this "it's not cheaper than airfare" thing is completely made up.

          • It's not cheaper in the US because the government refuses to subsidize it, and indeed has done almost everything they could do to destroy Amtrak. Airlines, on the other hand, since they are private, get bailouts and subsidies and tax incentives and all sorts of help from the government.

            • It's not cheaper in the US because the government refuses to subsidize it

              The government subsidizes it [washingtonpost.com].

              indeed has done almost everything they could do to destroy Amtrak.

              Not true at all. It is the government keeping Amtrak afloat. Support for Amtrak is surprising broad. Democrats support it because they like big government, and especially like trains. Republicans support it [theblaze.com] because service to sparsely populated red states would be the first thing cut if the subsidies were reduced.

              • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

                The government subsidizes it.

                According to your link, the Acela Express (the U.S.'s closest thing to a bullet train) makes a profit.

          • by TheSync ( 5291 )

            My JR Tokaido Shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto was $140. A Southwest flight from LAX to SFO is $73.

            I think of Southwest as the real "high speed rail" of California. Flights take off almost every hour.

            • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

              My JR Tokaido Shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto was $140. A Southwest flight from LAX to SFO is $73.

              According to FareWatch from GoFox.com [gofox.com], the average airfare between LAX and SFO is $145.58.

              • by TheSync ( 5291 )

                Southwest doesn't share its prices with other sites. I can tell you that a "Wanna Get Away" fare from SW with 14 day advance purchase LAX to SFO is under $80 one way, some flights are under $70.

        • I spent a lot of times riding trains, bullet and otherwise, in Japan, and have had the occasion to from time to time in visits to other places.

          Yes, in our spread-out country roads serve most of the country more efficiently than any mass transportation system ever could. For these trips our tech will advance in the direction of automated cars. But for those crowded corridors where you physically can't cram in any more traffic, there is a place for trains. Even Phoenix has a crosstown train now - just one lin

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          High speed rail is nothing like flying or driving. It's a lot faster on many routes for a start. No going to the airport and going through security, waiting to take off and disembark etc. Much faster and more direct than driving, no traffic jams. It's a lot more comfortable, you can relax, work, eat or whatever.

          Places that are a long way away are suddenly just a short train journey away. It's fantastic for visiting places, fantastic for business. Japan's economy benefits hugely from having high speed rail,

          • It's the getting on and off that is the biggest plus for high speed trains. I have stayed in Shinjuku a number of times and the train station there is incredible. It takes about 3 hours just to walk round the outside of it.

            Inside it has everything from shinkansen to local rail trams. You can jump off a local tube with your suitcase in tow, meander across to the shinkansen platform, jump on and away you go. No security checks, no checking luggage nothing. And they are way more comfortable than planes, t

            • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

              They also have no luggage area. If you're trying to replace flying with the Shinkansen, you need to hope that you get lucky enough to find a place to fit your non-carryon luggage.

              • The Japanese solution is to have your luggage shipped door to door by a freight company. A very good idea, but I must assume that Japanese freight companies ask a far more decent price for this service than in the rest of the world.
              • I never had a problem - travelling with a family with 2 suitcases and all the crap you need for young kids on an international holiday, we just got on the train. Generally there was loads of room and they have a cubby for larger bags which we made use of. Most of the time the carriage was less than half full so even having the suitcase across the aisle taking up another seat was more than viable.

                • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

                  They don't have a cubby for large bags on the newer trains (there is literally no storage for larger bags anymore), but we were lucky enough on the various times that we rode it.

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

                They do have luggage areas, just not enough for everyone. They are only in certain cars, usually near the rather spacious toilets. Most people don't have luggage, but I have taken a large suitcase and large carry-on bag on the shinkansen a few times between Osaka and Tokyo.

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )
          It might be simpler to rent your own car, but it's not recommended to drive your car at ~200MPH while drinking beer, watching movies, sleeping, and/or having dinner. Trains like these also aren't as expensive as you might imagine, and coupled with a decent citywide public transport system, make getting around ridiculously easy. This isn't rocket science. And no, it's probably not cheaper to just have jets, as trains stop at stations along the way, which jets don't. You'd have to compare many jets to a s
    • "What will we say when it's 50th anniversary time for Apollo 11? "

      We will reminisce about how brave and adventurous Americans were back then.

      Recently I was speaking with a highly educated relative of mine, a California Democrat, and I asked how the LA - SF bullet train project was doing. I had just come back from a European trip that included riding the Eurostar from London to Geneva. Her response was "I don't think Californians could be trusted to build something like that..."

      • Err, the Eurostar goes from London to Paris, not Geneva...
    • It's amazing what can be done when people are willing to pay for progress. In the US the wallet opens wide for war but is inexplicably absent when it is time to talk about spending money on something useful for the people.
  • Hai! (Score:5, Informative)

    by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @02:58PM (#48039945) Homepage
    Shinkansen is awesome. Amazingly smooth, unbelievably fast. I had the pleasure of riding one between Tokyo and Kyoto earlier this year. According to my phone's GPS, I topped out at 173mph (278km/h). It's amazing to me that they've been running for a half century already, while in the States we're nowhere near this level of rail technology, even today.

    Also, hai means yes in Japanese. You hear it very frequently there. If someone's on their cell phone, oftentimes all you hear is "Hai! Hai, hai, hai. Hai!" What an agreeble culture!
    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      While technically "hai" means yes, in conversations it's more of a "i understand" or "ok". Subtle difference but I've been corrected in the past.

      I rode Tokyo to Nagoya, it is so nice. Also rode the Eurostar from London to Paris. I wish we had a good rail system here....
    • Hai does not exactly mean yes in Japanese. It _can_ mean yes, but it more often is just an acknowledgment that someone is listening to you. You may hear a phrase like, "Hai, ." This doesn't mean, it's difficult but yes, this is actually their polite way of saying 'no', because saying no outright is considered rude. When they mean 'yes', they will often just make a sound like 'uhn'.

      Be careful of literal translations. :)

      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        Hai does not exactly mean yes in Japanese. It _can_ mean yes, but it more often is just an acknowledgment that someone is listening to you.

        So it has the various meanings that the English 'yes' does. :-) 'Yes' can mean... well, 'yes' as in the acknowledgement of correctness or truth, or it can be an agreement, but it's often used as a grunt acknowledging that you're just listening and have attention.

      • Japan in particular can be difficult with literal translations. When you ask someone if they would like something, like a cup of coffee, you are unlikely to get an explicit no. You are more likely to get "choto" which literally translates to "a little".

        Japanese and English are rated two of the hardest languages to learn because of the fine variations that occur during use of words that may not be immediately obvious when you are reading a definition.

    • What an agreeble culture!

      Yes, they're so agreeable that no one visits beaches after September 1st [bbc.com].

      From the article:

      "Many of us are so submissive to authority that we will never think to challenge the status quo," says Sato.

      Indoctrination starts at school. Children are drilled: "Follow the rules. Don't be selfish. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."
      • Fascinating story about beach season etiquette. Seems very much in line with my perception of Japanese culture.
      • by JanneM ( 7445 )

        That piece is kind of crap. The main reason is that the summer holidays are over. The kids are in school (and busy with clubs, homework and so on on the weekends) and the parents are working. And as most bathers are gone, so are the drink vendors, the equipment renters and so on.You'll still find people on beaches, just not many.

      • "Follow the rules. Don't be selfish. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."

        Sounds like the US attitude to workplace relations and why many are indoctrinated to think unions or any bunch of employees getting together to question a management decision in any way is evil.
        I think you'll find "nail that sticks out gets hammered down" in many cultures, even ones that propagate myths of lone heroes working outside the system. Insert the name any country on the planet with large cities for Japan or US and t

    • by gentryx ( 759438 )

      One reason might be that railways are more efficient in densely populated areas. There express trains can even compete with airplanes. Yesterday we went from Tokyo to Osaka. Flight time would have been ~1h, plus 1h checkin and transfer to/from the airport (~45min. each). The Nozomi Shinkansen took us there in 2:30, and both stations were directly at the center of the cities.

      Most of Japan's population is situated in coastal regions, so just a hand full of routes can service all major cities. Imagine how m

      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        Most of the arguments about population density/demand/etc that apply to high speed rail in Japan (or more to the point in Europe) would very much apply to a super-fast train linking, say, Grand Central Terminal in NYC to, say, Union station in Washington DC.

      • 45 minutes checkin? Really? Were you on an international flight?

        When I lived there, I used to fly between Matsuyama and Tokyo/Fukuoka about twice a week. Arrive at the airport about 10 or 15 minutes before the flight (even at Haneda), pop my JAL or ANA card in the machine, get my boarding pass and walk to the gate. And they'd scan my drink at the gate if I had one.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @03:40PM (#48040573)
    The average speed of a train in Canada has slowed significantly down from where they were in the 1930's. My family recently took a few trips to a location that is 2.5 hours of driving and the scheduled time for the train is a bit over 3 hours. Each time it is usually around the 4 hour mark and sometimes has exceeded 6. Plus major rail lines are being ripped up and turned into walking trails and the runs are far less frequent on the remaining ones. The areas with the removed train services have sunk into economic stagnation.

    You might be thinking that we have a marvellous road system or something but, nope, our potholes have potholes (pictures available) and our most productive fishing and farming areas have a tortuous routes to get to major markets.

    This is fairly typical of most of Canada with the exception of a tiny corridor running by the Ottawa area (our federal capital).
    • I just drove from Edmonton to Ucluelet (near Tofino on Vancouver Island) and back. Road conditions were great. Hell, I'd even say they were perfect. BC has 120 km/hr speed limits on many stretches of highway now. There are good rest areas, some with picnic tables, proper bathrooms, and a concession truck - even in the middle of what seems like nowhere. I don't know where you got the idea that our highway system sucked but maybe you should come drive out west.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        I just drove from Edmonton to Ucluelet (near Tofino on Vancouver Island) and back. Road conditions were great. Hell, I'd even say they were perfect. BC has 120 km/hr speed limits on many stretches of highway now. There are good rest areas, some with picnic tables, proper bathrooms, and a concession truck - even in the middle of what seems like nowhere. I don't know where you got the idea that our highway system sucked but maybe you should come drive out west.

        Well, you're also talking about BC which has a na

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

      The train from Montreal to New York City averages something like 50 kilometers an hour.

  • It is rather pathetic that in the first year of operation, 1967, the shinkansen achieved speeds of 137 mph while here in the US 45+ years later, we have yet to approach this average speed on our fastest line (Northeast corridor).

    Admittedly, Japan benefited from a dedicated, grade-separated track, and new-build greenfield infrastructure that made efficiency and continuous improvement possible. As well as concentrated population centers with good local feeder public transport systems that could suppor
    • But still, you come back home to the US and wonder how we are still #1

      What precisely is it that we're still #1 in, besides arms exports?

  • by remi2402 ( 816874 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @07:10PM (#48042677)

    Not to sound too pedantic, Shinkansen started out far from 320km/h. In fact, the original "bullet trains" back in 1965 were limited to 210km/h (about 130mph y'all non metric folks). The mighty Penn RR had GG1s pulling trains from NYC to DC at 100mph around the same time. Back in (my beloved old) Europe, SNCF class BB 9200 electric locomotives were pulling 200 km/h (120mph) trains in 1967 on part of the way from Paris to Toulouse; in Germany, Class 110 were pulling express trains at speeds similar to that of the GG1s.

    Now, if anything should be remembered from JR of yesteryear was their bet against air and road traffic. It truly was against all odds that JR executives fought for proper rail infrastructure. For a completely new standard-gauge network, that did not exist. Unlike other countries, Japan's high speed standard-gauge network was built from scratch, with connections to the narrow-gauge network being done in the late 90's. This high-speed network has since then been upgraded to 320km/h operations over the past decades. Regardless of top speed, this is what Shinkansen should be remembered for: 20/20 hindsight.

    As a Frenchman proud the national TGV network, I tip my hat off the Japanese engineers and executives who envisioned and built the Shinkansen.

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @07:44PM (#48042933)

      Yes, how minor an accomplishment for a country still recovering from being destroyed in a devastating world war to produce trains in 1963 that were a mere 31% faster than the GG1. Shattering the speed record for actual passenger service is such an inconsequential accomplishment.

      The Shinkansen may not have held that record for long, but it's been on the forefront of high-speed rail ever since. And compared to the average speed of the fastest trains between Montreal and New York City in 2014 (around 50 kilometers per hour), it's blazing fast.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      The step up from 160km/h to 210km/h was a major breakthrough and required the development of several new technologies. It wasn't just a case of fitting a bigger motor and pushing the throttle a bit harder.

      One of the biggest problems was oscillation in the suspension, which required a new type of dampener to be developed to prevent the train derailing at high speed. They also had to develop new pantographs to avoid destroying the overhead lines at high speed, and a new completely electronic and automatic sig

  • Punctuality. (Score:5, Informative)

    by crazyvas ( 853396 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @11:49PM (#48044085)

    One thing that has always impressed me about the Shinkansen is its near obscene punctuality:

    Quote from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Shi... [wikiwand.com] :
    The Shinkansen is very reliable thanks to several factors, including its near-total separation from slower traffic. In 2012, JR Central reported that the Shinkansen's average delay from schedule per train was 36 seconds. This includes delays due to uncontrollable causes, such as natural disasters.[14] The record, in 1997, was 18 seconds.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      In 2003 the Tokaido Shinkansen managed an average delay of 6 seconds over the year, including delays due to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

    • by wrook ( 134116 )

      From my experience, normal JR rail is almost as punctual. They have special gear that goes out and checks the rails after every earthquake. Typhoons usually don't even make the trains late. I got used to that service when I was in Japan. In 5 years I can only remember the train being late twice (both due to suicides on the track). I spent the last 2 years in England. They don't even count the train as late if it is less than 10 minutes late. Even with that, the train near me is late nearly 20% of the

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The summary and most of the comments here seem to be missing one minor detail:

    Setting aside how fast / slow trains are in country X or Y, the shinkansen has experienced zero passenger fatalities during these 50 years.

  • What many people don't know is that over the 50 years of the Shinkansen, there has never had a fatality due to derailment or collision which is an impressive safety record considering the frequent earthquakes and typhoons in Japan (there has been a single fatality by the doors closing on a passenger trying to catch the train). Younger high-speed rail services on other countries already count fatalities.

Basic unit of Laryngitis = The Hoarsepower

Working...