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Japan begins testing its 248 mph next-gen bullet train

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The first passengers are expected in 2030

Image: AFP / Getty Images

Japan’s next-generation bullet train, the Alfa-X, has gone into testing. The train, which will be built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi, is capable of hitting a maximum speed of 400 km/h (248 mph), but it’s expected to carry passengers at 360 km/h (224 mph) when it opens to the public in 2030. Before that happens, DesignBoom notes that the train has to go through years of testing, making nighttime runs between the cities of Aomori and Sendai.

To cope with the high speeds, the Alfa-X has a 72 foot-long aerodynamic nose, which is designed to minimize pressure and reduce the amount of noise that the train creates, particularly as it goes through tunnels. DesignBoom reports that a 52 foot-long nose is also due to be tested. The train is equipped with roof-mounted air brakes and magnetic plates on its underside for braking.

The Alfa-X is set to be the fastest bullet train in the world when it launches in 2030, but it won’t be the fastest train overall. That title currently belongs to Shanghai’s maglev train, which uses magnets to hover above the rails. It’s capable of a maximum speed of 431 km/h (268 mph). Bloomberg notes that Japan is also due to open its own maglev train route between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, which could go as fast as 505 km/h (314 mph).

Before the new train launches in 2030, Japan also plans to launch a new “Supreme” version of its existing Shinkansen bullet train in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The new train will travel at the same 186 mph speeds as the country’s existing bullet trains, but it will be lighter, more energy efficient, and it should be more comfortable with more legroom and power outlets for passengers.