The transport ministry is asking for 10 million yen ($130,000) in the next fiscal year budget to look into the feasibility of a cargo bullet train that can travel at 200 kph.
Some experts question the need for such a train because estimates for commercialization have set the price at about 100 billion yen.
The program is called "Train on train" and involves loading a normal cargo car intact onto a special bullet train car.
Hokkaido Railway Co. began development of the project in fiscal 2005 and has engaged in joint development from fiscal 2010 with Japan Freight Railway Co.
The estimated development cost for the special cars is set at about 7 billion yen.
Plans call for the cargo bullet train car to run along about 82 kilometers of a section of the Hokkaido Shinkansen in the Seikan Tunnel over which normal trains and the bullet train will share tracks. The Seikan Tunnel connects Hokkaido with northern Honshu. The Hokkaido Shinkansen is expected to begin operations in late fiscal 2015 between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate stations, a stretch of about 150 kilometers.
When bullet trains and cargo trains pass each other along the area where they share tracks, the wind generated by the bullet train is capable of blowing the cargo train car over and derailing it.
However, because cargo trains now make 42 runs through the Seikan Tunnel every day, any reduction in the number of such runs would lead to distribution problems.
The cargo bullet train idea is intended to prevent the cargo train from overturning by having it travel at similar speeds as the bullet train. The number of cargo train runs could also be maintained.
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