Revealed: Alfa-X, the world’s fastest bullet train – complete with a 72ft nose
It is a futuristic shade of silver, has a super long nose stretching 72 feet – and is on track to become the world’s fastest bullet train.
Japan, the birthplace of high-speed rail travel, has unveiled its latest new generation bullet train Alfa-X, which will be able to travel at top speeds of 224 mph.
Test runs of the new train start Friday, with plans to put the new train into service by 2030, around the same time the nation’s bullet train network will extend to reach Sapporo, the main city in Japan’s northern Hokkaido region.
The new 10-carriage Alfa-X train is packed with new technology, and its distinct aerodynamic nose is dramatically elongated to minimise pressure and noise when passing through tunnels. Other features include specialist equipment to reduce the impact of possible earthquake tremors.
The new train’s speed will easily surpass the world’s fastest bullet trains which are currently in operation in Japan and France, travelling at a maximum speed of around 200mph.
The Alfa-X – which has a light green line running along its silver body – will start its debut test run on Friday night after the last train service, along a stretch of track between Sendai and Shin-Aomori stations on the Tohoku line in northern Japan.
Test runs of the new generation train – whose full name is something of a mouthful: “Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail eXperimentation” – are due to take place roughly twice a week between now and March 2022.
Designed with high-tech features from vibration sensors to temperature sensors, testing will focus on all technical aspects of speed and safety throughout its 10 electric cars, which were manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi.
Operators are planning to test run the new bullet train at its maximum possible speed of nearly 249 mph, although its top speed when in commercial operation will be capped at 224 mph.
Rail officials will also reportedly test the train with a nose stretching 52 feet in length as well as the prototype’s current 72 feet nose, in a bid to determine which will offer passengers the fastest and least noisy journey on board.
"We want to improve not only speed, but also safety and comfort,” Ichiro Ogawa, the head of JR East’s research and development centre, told the Mainichi newspaper, as the prototype was unveiled to media.
It will also be – perhaps unsurprisingly – dramatically faster than trains in the UK, where average speeds tend to hover closer to 65 mph, while the Eurostar hits a maximum speed of around 186 mph.
Japan first unveiled its fleet of famed shinkansen bullet trains to the world amid much pomp and ceremony during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, with the fast locomotives emerging as a symbol of the nation’s postwar economic recovery.
Although Japan and other nations are continuing to invest heavily in bullet-train technology today, the world’s fastest trains currently in operation are Maglev, which can travel at significantly higher speeds while hovering above magnetic rails.
Shanghai is home to the world’s fastest commercially operating Maglev train, which has a top speed of 268mph, enabling it to cover a 19-mile distance in just seven minutes and 20 seconds.
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