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High-speed maglev train is for domestic needs, not to compete with China: Japan

twitter-logoPTI | November 12, 2018 | Updated 15:40 IST

By Ananya Sengupta Fukuoka (Japan), Nov 12 (PTI) Japan's first driverless bullet train maglev, which is capable of clocking a speed of 500 km/hr while running 10 cm above the ground, was developed keeping in mind the country's domestic requirements and not in competition with China, its developer has said. Touted as the future of public transport across the globe, maglev will be unveiled in Japan by 2027. The technology of using powerful magnets to push the train cars above a concrete pathway, rather than on wheels on tracks, the maglev short for "magnetic-levitation" -- is being seen as Japan's efforts to beat China's fastest train at 430 km per hour. "The train Chuo Shinkansen will connect three of the largest Japanese cities, covering a distance of 286 km between Tokyo and Nagoya in 40 minutes from its present 86 minutes in its first phase," Takatoshi Shishido, Deputy Manager, International Department, Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), which has developed the maglev, told PTI. "Plans are afoot to extend the line further to cover Kyoto and Osaka by 2045. Once completed, journey between the three cities will be 67 minutes as compared to the present 1.42 hours. "The train will be Japan's first driverless Shinkansen," Shishido said. The trains with aluminum alloy bodies will run 40 metre underground and have the capacity to accelerate from zero to 160 km/hr in 30 seconds and to its maximum speed of 500 km/hr in around three minutes, he said. Refusing to acknowledge that it was the Chinese domination in the field that has spurred Japan to take on the ambitious project, Shishido said that the company started researching the technology around 50 years ago. "The Chinese maglev which runs in Shanghai is not the same technology. In fact, we have a much powerful magnet. Also, their technology is German, while ours is domestic. It is not about competing with them, its about strides in technology which Japan can provide to the entire world. "You have to understand that the present line between Tokyo and Osaka is the busiest route and the oldest in the country. It is over saturated. The maglev will help ease the pressure. So, it was created due to our domestic demand, we are not in any competition with China," said Shishido. India, with its close relationship with Japan, is particularly keen to check out the technology. The country is excited about the possibilities of using it as a medium of mass transit. Developed at a cost of 5.5 trillion Yen (USD 48.24 billion or Rs 3.5 trillion), JR Central is keen to take the technology overseas to recover some of the costs. In fact, it has been pitching the maglev train to the US through its partners for the past seven years. "We are studying to export the maglev system in the northeast corridor of the US Washington-New York-Boston area. The cost of this system is higher compared to the existing high-speed railway system so our export possibilities are limited," said Shishido. The train, however, other than its speed is also being pitched as the safest shinkansen with powerful magnets keeping the train on the centre of its concrete pathway even during earthquakes. For passengers, though, it is the experience that sets the maglev apart. Those that have ridden on a short 49 km stretch currently opened for 'fun rides' by the company have given glowing reviews. "It was like travelling while sitting in my living room," said a passenger in her testimonial on the company website, while another, travelling with her two toddlers said: "It was so comfortable that my children slept through the journey". PTI ASG CPS AKJ CPS

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