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Japan unveils world's fastest levitating train

Japan's bullet trains can travel up to 300km/h. The Central Japan Railway Co claims that a new maglev train prototype can reach 500km/h.

The L0 Series maglev train.
(Credit: Central Japan Railway Co)

Japan's bullet trains can travel up to 300 kilometres per hour (km/h). The Central Japan Railway Co claims that a new maglev train prototype can reach 500km/h.

At this point in time, there are only two commercial maglev train systems operating: one in Shanghai (the Transrapid from Shanhai Pudong International Airport to central Pudong), and one in Japan (the Linimo in Aichi).

Central Japan Railway Co has now unveiled the prototype of a new maglev train, the L0 Series, to run between Tokyo and Nagoya on the Shinkansen bullet train line, ferrying passengers at speeds of up to 500km/h — the fastest land-based commercial speed. Shanghai's Transrapid has reached 501km/h in test situations, but only has a top operational speed of 431km/h.

Maglev trains operate via magnetic levitation (hence the name). Powerful electromagnets are used to propel the train along its track, making the trains quieter and smoother, and also requiring no fuel to run (outside of that used to create the electricity powering the magnets, of course). They're also considered to be quite safe, since they cannot leave their tracks. You can read in detail how the system works here.

The current record for the fastest maglev train was made in 2003 by Central Japan Railway Co's JR-Maglev MLX01, which reached a top speed of 581km/h, but those speeds are not practical for commercial purposes.

Central Japan Railway Co hopes to have the L0 Series up and running by 2027, with the capacity to carry 92 passengers across 14 carriages.