The World’s Fastest Train

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The World’s Fastest Train

This maglev train in Japan has a record speed of 587 km/h

What’s the fastest train in the world? Well, depending on what exactly you mean by ‘fastest’ and ‘train’ there are a few different answers, but Japan has a train with a very strong claim to the title.

France’s SNCF railways made headlines around the world in 2007 by achieving 575 km/h on the newly built line between Paris and Strasbourg. But this was a specially built train that was only ever used to break the world speed record – so does it really count? And while it was widely reported that this was the world’s fastest train, a little bit of investigation suggests otherwise.

Japan’s JR-Maglev train, which uses magnetic repulsion to make trains levitate above the track, had already achieved a record speed of 581 km/h on 2 December 2003, and on 21 October 2010, it went on to set a new world record of 587 km/h. What’s more, this was with a real train that can actually carry passengers – although in commercial operation the top speed will be only 500 km/h. The drawback is that so far only a test-track has been built – and that has only one station – making it absolutely useless as a transportation service. Work is underway to extend the existing test track into a new line that reaches all the way from Tokyo to Nagoya. This will necessitate building a tunnel straight through the Japan alps which lie in between, so more than 60% of the line will be underground. The journey time between these cities will be reduced to 40 minutes, compared to the 1 hour and 36 minutes it takes via the existing high-speed line that goes around the mountains. But don’t get your hopes up too soon – this new line isn’t scheduled to open until 2027.

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