Japan is testing the world's fastest bullet train – the 400km/h Alfa-X

Japan is testing the world's fastest bullet train – the 400km/h Alfa-X

Japan is pushing the limits of rail travel as it begins testing the fastest-ever shinkansen bullet train, capable of speeds of as much as 400km/h (249 miles per hour).

Called the Alfa-X, the train is scheduled to go into service in 2030. Rail company JR East plans to operate it at 360km/h. That would make it 10km/h faster than China’s Fuxing Hao, which links Beijing and Shanghai and has the same top speed.

The Alfa-X – which stands for Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail eXperimentation – is based on JR’s E5 platform, which already operates on major routes in Japan.

To cope with massive wind resistance when entering tunnels, the Alfa-X’s first car will mostly be a sleek nose, measuring 22 meters (72 feet).

But stopping is just as important as speed. In addition to conventional brakes, the Alfa-X bullet train will have air brakes on the roof and use magnetic plates near the rails to slow down.

It will also be fitted with dampers and air suspension to keep it stable when traversing curves, maintaining its balance and comfort for passengers.

With just three windows, there looks to be hardly any space, if at all, for passengers in the front.

Painted in metallic silver with green stripes, the 10-car bullet train began test runs this week between the cities of Aomori and Sendai at night, to be conducted over three years.

Japan’s bullet trains, which made their debut in the same year as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, have become a symbol of the country’s focus on efficiency and reliability.

Shinkansens are rarely late, even though they depart Tokyo Station every few minutes for Osaka, Kyoto and other destinations across the archipelago, making them a viable alternative to air travel. The Alfa-X is a key part of a plan to offer faster services to Sapporo, the biggest city on the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

"The development of the next-generation shinkansen is based on the key concepts of superior performance, a high level of comfort, a superior operating environment and innovative maintenance," says the East Japan Railway, better known as JR East.

Although the Alfa-X holds the title of the world’s fastest train right now, it may already be dethroned by the time it goes into service.

That’s because a new maglev line is being built between Tokyo and Nagoya with operations starting in 2027.

Traveling mostly through deep tunnels, the magnetically levitated train will travel at a top speed of 505km/h, cutting the time between the two cities to 40 minutes, from the current 110 minutes.

 

30 comments

  • Albinoni1967

    Albinoni1967

    10 May, 2019 06:38 pm

    Will Australia ever get get get a bullet train, would be nice if we did
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  • Angus  Coventry

    Covo95

    10 May, 2019 07:35 pm

    i don't think so unfortunately, political bias on both sides prevents high speed rail from ever getting off the ground. Political bias of infrastructure projects does not happen in Asia and Europe.
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  • Lake Pacific Airways

    lakepacificair

    10 May, 2019 09:33 pm

    May I ask what is "political bias" and why can't we work together to get rid of this bias if it is preventing Australia from building a high speed network?
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  • Angus  Coventry

    Covo95

    12 May, 2019 08:09 am

    perhaps there are politicians on both sides that are pocketed by the oil, auto, aviation and gas industries. Also some MP's in areas that the rail line will pass through could have a NIMBY attitude.
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  • Rotate

    Rotate

    13 May, 2019 09:49 am

    funny. the total lack of a viable business case for high speed rail in AU certainly has nothing to do with it I'm sure.
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  • koji

    koji

    10 May, 2019 07:41 pm

    It would take tens of years and billions of budget. Just take a look at the Sydney light rail construction.
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  • Sula

    Sula

    11 May, 2019 05:40 am

    I don’t think I read the news that said that travel between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane was going to stop within the next 10-20 years.

    In fact the reality that travel between the population centres will continue to grow is an argument FOR and not against the construction of a large scale sustainable and sensible infrastructure project with a long usable life once constructed such as a high speed rail line.
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  • Rembrandt

    Rembrandt

    12 May, 2019 10:27 am

    I agree Koji. I don't think many Aussies appreciate the immense cost and years to build for example a Melbourne to Sydney bullet line. Lets not forget the US doesn't even have a bullet train network or a proper fast train network for that matter....

    We have a very population, a large land mass and low density cities. We shouldn't be comparing ourselves to Japan which is the complete opposite.
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  • Rembrandt

    Rembrandt

    12 May, 2019 10:21 am

    One needs to appreciate that bullet train networks are very very expensive. In Australia we have a low population and very long distances between major cities. So the business case needs to really stack up. For example the Tokyo to Osaka route is roughly 50% the distance of Melbourne to Sydney and covers at least 60 million more people.

    Melbourne to Sydney would be good, but would the business case stack up? The construction cost alone would be staggering.

    In regards to connecting cities like Melbourne to Geelong a 'fast train' is more than sufficient e.g. a train that can go along the existing rail infrastructure at faster speeds than normal commuter trains e.g. 130 to 160 kph.
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  • Rotate

    Rotate

    13 May, 2019 09:54 am

    Spot on. Trains in Sydney run slower today (on avg) than they did 50yrs ago according to my local station manager. Anecdotally, on a recent trip Melbourne to Bendigo, the train speeds were appalling. Perhaps existing infra could be 'hardened' to perform better before we start spending billions on projects that will get patronage from only a tiny minority of us.
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  • Nicho Kiu

    Nichokiu

    10 May, 2019 07:53 pm

    Don't hold your breath. Nigeria will get a bullet train before Australia does.
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    Trogdor

  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    10 May, 2019 09:38 pm

    Mate the bloody penguins in antartica will get HSR before us
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  • russell

    russell

    11 May, 2019 08:33 am

    All the Nigerian scammers are tipping their cash into rail infrastructure. We need to start scamming...
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  • Mark

    Mightyreds

    10 May, 2019 09:37 pm

    While Japan builds, we talk and make glossy brochures.
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  • Aidan

    Aidan

    11 May, 2019 12:10 am

    Melbourne regular train to the airport would be a good start.
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  • Lps988

    Lps988

    11 May, 2019 08:06 am

    Started testing now with introduction in 2030? Knowing the Japanese it'll be ready in half that time. Such a great way to travel.
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  • PunditShafton

    PunditShafton

    11 May, 2019 01:45 pm

    We need a Monorail in Australia not a bullet train!


    “Waddya we want, a monorail,

    when doya want it Now!”


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  • Aidan

    Aidan

    11 May, 2019 03:18 pm

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  • Ian Whillas

    Racala

    11 May, 2019 08:41 pm

    Germany has it's ICE, capable of 300kph.. it does it at times, but those sections are becoming fewer.. Why? you might ask.. well going from Munich to Berlin last year I was sitting across from 6 guys with computers moving data about.. It piqued my interest.. found out the they were the train planners devising the following years timetables. You might think that it wouldn't change much... but the local pollies are under pressure from mayors and others in their electorates.. the high speed trains must stop in their towns or else (votes!).

    So you have a train capable of 300kph.. having to slow down and stop (10mins).. at the station 3 mins (no-one gets off or on) and then takes 15 mins to get back to full speed...

    With out political situation the same will happen here..so hi speed rail will become a 22nd century joke (can't see it being built before).

    So ..in short to experience hi speed rail that is actually running we need to go to either Japan or China//

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  • Aidan

    Aidan

    12 May, 2019 10:36 am

    I would rather Australia just work on improving current transport offering within and getting to CBD locations for the suburbs.
    Airport rail is a must for ALL states.
    For interstate rail it’s a pipe dream in Oz. May aswell shoot for hyperloop !
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  • John Grant

    JohnnyGhe

    12 May, 2019 04:08 pm

    I have spent my hours on the Shinkansen and it is a wonderful system. But the system only works if you have at least 1 million people at each stop on the line. And this is required on the line not at the end points. You can find heaps of information from the Japanese on the costings and service requirements. And when applied to Australia the system would never make money. And even so you would have to build it, with all the nimby's and greenies the court cases holding it up it would never get build.
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  • sgb

    sgb

    13 May, 2019 09:14 am

    Gee, those High Speed tracks look pretty rusty....
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  • John Grant

    JohnnyGhe

    13 May, 2019 10:22 am

    Never seen the shinkanzen tracks have you sgb? This was taken at a works depot so does not have traffic. The real tracks have one train every 8 minutes on the Osaka Tokyo line and those tracks are in top condition but I assume by your tone that you are wanting to find fault with their system.

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  • TheBigM

    TheBigM

    13 May, 2019 11:10 am

    Why are there two different trains shown? Which is the relevant one to the article?
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  • Gearsau

    Gearsau

    15 May, 2019 08:33 pm

    " Why are there two different trains shown? Which is the relevant one to the article. " They are probably testing different designs to see which one works the best .
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  • Gearsau

    Gearsau

    15 May, 2019 06:57 pm

    We will never have High Speed Rail in Australia. Too small a population, and not enough traveling people to support it. I have traveled on all the high speed trains in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan. They are great, but, i cant see it happening here. I looked at south bound Shinkansen time table in Tokyo once. In the peak morning period, I recall seeing something like 17 trains in one hour. Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama.
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  • Mark McCullough

    pointyendmark

    15 May, 2019 07:26 pm

    I love Japan's Shinkansen, and was very impressed with the Fuxing between Shanghai and Beijing last year. Photo from on board (Business Class) shows we got to 353kph

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  • Gearsau

    Gearsau

    15 May, 2019 08:11 pm

    I meant to take the Fuxing from Beijing to Shanghai last November. Got confused with the train names, and, as there was a huge queue of people waiting to purchase tickets, I ended up on the 300 km/ hour train instead. I wont make that mistake again. I did purchase a model of the Fuxing train at the Railway Museum situated opposite the Forbidden City in Beijing.
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  • pelicanrouge

    pelicanrouge

    15 May, 2019 08:31 pm

    Great story. I’d just love to see a train from Melbourne to the airport. 😂😂😂
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  • Keith

    cqtiger

    16 May, 2019 08:53 pm

    The Maglev ride was the highlight of my Shanghai trip last month. This looks just as exciting
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Guest

19 May, 2019 10:54 pm

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