Public transportation comes in many different forms, shapes, and sizes. In Japan, bullet trains are making a lot of headlines. Also known as Shinkansen, the network of high-speed railway lines produces some impressive train “speeds” The following vehicles show how fast trains are capable of traveling on this network of railways.
“STAR21” Surpasses 260 MPH
It is almost unthinkable to be seated on a bullet train capable of surpassing a speed of 260 miles per hour. This speed is on par with most race cars driving in a straight line at top speed. The Class 952/953 train, also referred to as STAR21, successfully achieved a speed of 2641 miles per hour in July of 1996. The test was performed at a dedicated part of the high-speed railway network, but things have vastly improved ever since.
Class 955 “300X” Goes Slightly Faster
The late 1990s were quite interesting for trains involving bullet trains. Just two and a half years after the previous speed record, the Class 955 300X improved upon the top speed set. Although the difference is just one mile per hour, it marks the first time a bullet train effectively surpassed 265 miles per hour. That record would not last long, as innovation is always ongoing behind the scenes.
The Same 300X Finds More Speed
It is rather interesting to note how the exact same model of train successfully beat its own record just 15 days after the previous attempt. On July 26, 1996, the Class 955 “300X” successfully noted a top speed of 275.3 miles per hour. An absolutely insane speed which is not deemed commercially viable, for rather obvious reasons. When maglev trains were introduced not long after, the speed records shot up quite significantly.
MLX01 Sets Three Separate Records
Widely considered to be one of the most successful bullet train series, the MLX01 – which is also the first major maglev train being tested – noted three separate speed records over a period of just under 6 years. Between December 1997 and December 2003, this train recorded top speeds of 340, 343, and 361 miles per hour respectively. A vast improvement compared to previous records, albeit further improvements were introduced down the line.
The L0 Series Hits 375 MPH at its Peak
It took quite some time until the previous speed records were improved upon. That is not entirely abnormal, as the speed was improved upon by nearly 100 miles per hour in just 10 years. In April of 2015, the L0 series finally showcased some of its potential. A first test achieved a world speed record of 370 miles per hour. Five days later, after some careful tweaking, a speed of 275 miles per hour was noted. To date, this is still considered to be the world speed record.
Special Mention: The ALFA-X
While all of the speed records above are impressive, they don’t allow for commercially viable operations at this time. That situation won’t necessarily come to change when the ALFA-X is introduced. As of this week, it has begun the first of its three years’ worth of testing days. What makes this bullet train so remarkable it will enter “operations” in a decade from today. Which operations that would entail exactly, remains rather unclear at this time.
It is expected the ALFA-X will enter operations by 2030. Since most trains are only tested on experimental tracks first and foremost, this new model will have to live up to high expectations. This new line enters the fray at a rather interesting stage. About a year ago, the Shinkansen N700S began its testing period. However, that model will never surpass 187 miles per hour.
Still not Commercially Viable for the Masses
Even though it sounds exciting to take a train capable of surpassing 250 miles per hour, it is not a commercial method of transportation. Despite vast improvements and decades of research, it remains a highly expensive way of traveling from point A to point B. That doesn’t mean no one uses bullet trains, but the target audience is very limited, even under the best of circumstances. Whether or not that situation will ever change, is rather difficult to predict.