Maglev train offers smooth ride inside, deafening noise outside

August 30, 2013

By HIROKAZU TATEMATSU/ Staff Writer

TSURU, Yamanashi Prefecture--Even as the on-board monitor registered a mind-boggling 500 kilometers per hour, the Asahi Shimbun reporter invited to report on a test run of the high-speed magnetic levitated train felt no prevailing sense of speed.

Media representatives were offered a rare chance to ride the next-generation vehicle in train travel on the day that Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) started test runs of its L0 Series maglev in a mountainous area near Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Aug. 29.

The L0 Series is a prototype high-speed levitating train that will ply the planned maglev Chuo Shinkansen Line, scheduled to open in 2027.

It took the five-car state-of-the-art prototype just nine minutes to speed from one end of the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, which has recently been extended to a length of 42.8 kilometers, to the other.

Vibrations on the levitating train were mild compared to typical bullet trains.

Journalists accessed the test train through an airport-like gangway into a car that accommodated 17 rows of seats, two to a side, with a central aisle. The actual seats were similar to current Shinkansens, with a table mounted on the back of each chair for use by the passenger seated directly behind.

The L0 Series car, which has been redesigned from a round to a rectangular shape, had a spacious interior. Its reclining seats had no seat belts, and the reporters were allowed to walk down the aisle even as the car sped along at 500 kph.

Wheel noise disappeared when the speed reached 140 kph and the train started levitating. The reading on the speed monitor showed the train reaching 500 kph just 4.8 km from the boarding point.

While most of the length of the test line lies inside tunnels, it has three long outdoor sections, including one near the Yamanashi Maglev Test Center.

The windows were visibly smaller than those on a conventional Shinkansen, but were still somewhat larger than those on an airplane. The enormous speeds meant the view was a blur alongside the tracks, but more enjoyable the farther passengers looked in the distance.

Outside the confines and comfort of the maglev, things were quite different. The Asahi Shimbun reporter felt a shock wave and a massive gust of wind as the train sped past him. He also reported a deafening sound that made conversation all but impossible.

Viewing the tests from outside the train was a sobering reminder that before commercial operation can get under way, the operators of the maglev will need to secure the understanding and cooperation of residents living along the tracks.

By HIROKAZU TATEMATSU/ Staff Writer
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A monitor in an L0 Series maglev train car shows its speed exceeding 500 kph during a test run along the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Aug. 29. (Jun Kaneko)

A monitor in an L0 Series maglev train car shows its speed exceeding 500 kph during a test run along the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Aug. 29. (Jun Kaneko)

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  • A monitor in an L0 Series maglev train car shows its speed exceeding 500 kph during a test run along the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Aug. 29. (Jun Kaneko)
  • An L0 Series maglev train makes a 500 kph test run along the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Aug. 29. (Jun Kaneko)
  • A mother and son watch a maglev train on a test run near Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Aug. 29. (Takashi Tamura)
  • The boarding area of the maglev prototype high-speed train is seen here on Aug. 29 at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Center in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture.  (Takashi Tamura)

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