Thursday, October 9, 2014

Shinkansen: Toward the Next Half Century

A junior rail-fan and the EMU N700 series trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen
On October 1st, the Shinkansen celebrated its 50th anniversary. That day, 50 years ago, in 1964, people became able to travel between two mega-cities, namely Tokyo and Osaka, in four hours with a maximum speed of 200 km per hour.

Since then, the Shinkansen has continued to evolve. A total of eight routes have been opened one after another. Currently, the maximum speed is 320 km per hour. The operating interval is every three minutes in rush hour. Nearly one million passengers use the Shinkansen every day.

JR Central, which is the operator of the Japan's first Shinkansen (Tokaido Shinkansen), has recently opened a special website to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tokaido Shinkansen. Although it is described in Japanese, you can get to learn about the history of the Shinakansen from the videos and photos. I particularly enjoy the nostalgic TV commercials, "Xmas Express" in the 1980s. They are a series of love stories in the Christmas season on the Shinakansen trains.

What is the plan of the Shinakansen toward the next half century? With regard to its maximum speed, the next target is 360 km per hour. It will be realized in the near future, when Shinkansen is required to reinforce its competitiveness against the airlines.

The next step will be the operation of a magnetic levitation railway (SCMAGLEV) called Chuo Linear Shinkansen, which is planned to be opened in 2027. The super express train with a maximum speed of 500 km per hour (311 MPH) will be operated to connect Tokyo and Nagoya in 40 minutes.

The Shinkansen era is going to go on.

Side view of the N700A series (modified car)