An L0 series maglev undergoing testing on the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line
|Rolling stock||L0 Series|
|Line length||286 km (178 mi)(Tokyo-Nagoya)|
|Operating speed||505 km/h (315 mph)|
The Chuo Shinkansen (中央新幹線 Chūō Shinkansen?) is a planned Japanese maglev line designed to ultimately connect Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. Its initial planned route is between Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and Nagoya Station in Nagoya, with stations in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Kofu, Yamanashi, and Nakatsugawa, Gifu, as well as an as-yet undetermined location in Nagano Prefecture. The line is expected to connect Tokyo and Nagoya in 40 minutes, and eventually Tokyo and Osaka in 67 minutes, running at a maximum speed of 505 km/h (314 mph). About 90% of the 286-kilometre (178 mi) line will be built underground or through tunnels.
The Chuo Shinkansen is the culmination of Japanese maglev development since the 1970s, a government-funded project initiated by Japan Airlines and the former Japanese National Railways (JNR). Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) now operates the facilities and research. The line is intended to be built by extending and incorporating the existing Yamanashi test track (see below). The trainsets themselves are popularly known in Japan as Linear Motor Car (リニアモーターカー rinia mōtā kā?), though there have been many technical variations.
Government permission to proceed with construction was granted on May 27, 2011. Construction of the line, which is expected to cost over ¥9 trillion, commenced in 2014. JR Central aims to begin commercial service between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, with the Nagoya-Osaka section to be completed by 2045. JR Central is considering opening demonstration service from a new station in Kōfu by the 2020 Summer Olympics so that tourists can ride on the experimental track through the Yamanashi mountains.
Miyazaki and Yamanashi Test Tracks
Following the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964, Japanese National Railways (JNR) focused on the development of faster Maglev technology. In the 1970s, a 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) test track for Maglev research and development was built in Miyazaki Prefecture. As desired results had been obtained at the (now former) Miyazaki test track, an 18.4 kilometre test track with tunnels, bridges and slopes was built at a site in Yamanashi Prefecture, between Ōtsuki and Tsuru ( ). Residents of Yamanashi Prefecture and government officials were eligible for free rides on the Yamanashi test track, and over 200,000 people took part. Trains on this test track have routinely achieved operating speeds of over 500 km/h (310 mph), making this an embryonic part of the future Chuo Shinkansen.
The track was extended a further 25 km (16 mi) along the future route of the Chuo Shinkansen, to bring the combined track length up to 42.8 km (26.6 mi). Extension and upgrading work was completed by June 2013, allowing researchers to test sustained top speed over longer periods. The first tests covering this longer track took place in August 2013. JR Central intends to restart public train rides on the Yamanashi test track, this time for paying customers, likely on weekends and during the summer vacation period, from fiscal 2013 or later.
The line's planned route passes through many sparsely-populated areas in the Japan Alps but is more direct than the current Tokaido Shinkansen route, and time saved through a more direct route was a more important criterion to JR Central than having stations at intermediate population centers. Also the more heavily populated Tokaido route is congested, and providing an alternative route if the Tokaido Shinkansen were to become blocked by earthquake damage was also a consideration.
The route between Nagoya and Osaka, as originally planned, included a stop in Nara. but in 2012 politicians and business leaders in Kyoto petitioned the central government and JR Central to change the route to pass through their city. The governor of Nara Prefecture announced in November 2013 that he had re-confirmed the Transport Ministry's intention to route the segment through Nara.
JR Central announced in July 2008 that the Chūō Shinkansen would most likely start at Tokyo's Shinagawa Station, citing difficulties in securing land at nearby Tokyo and Shinjuku stations for a maglev terminal, but the route has not been finalized.
A JR Central report on the Chuo Shinkansen was approved by a Liberal Democratic Party panel in October 2008, which certified three proposed routes for the Maglev. According to a Japan Times news article, JR Central supports the more direct route, which would cost less money to build than the other two proposals, backed by Nagano Prefecture. The latter two plans have the line swinging up north between Kōfu and Nakatsugawa stations to serve areas within Nagano. In June 2009, JR Central also announced research results comparing the three routes, estimating revenue and travel time, which showed the most favorable being the shortest Plan C, with long tunnels under the Japanese Alps (Akaishi Mountains). The Council for Transport Policy for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism concluded on October 20, 2010 that Plan C would be most cost-efficient. JR Central announced that one station would be constructed in each of Yamanashi, Gifu, Nagano, and Kanagawa Prefectures. On 31 October 2014, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism appoved Plan C for construction. Construction began on 17 December 2014.
Stations in Nagoya are currently under construction with a planned completion date of 2016. A skyscraper measuring 220 m (720 ft) in height, is being constructed by JR Central. The structure was named "Nagoya-eki Shin-biru" (Nagoya Station new building) and will accommodate a station for the maglev trains in its basement area.
Summary of the three route options
|Plan name||Route between
Kofu - Nakatsugawa
|Distance from Tokyo (km)||Construction costs (JPY) from Tokyo||Shortest journey time from Tokyo|
|to Nagoya||to Osaka||to Nagoya||to Osaka||to Nagoya||to Osaka|
|Plan A||via Kiso Valley||334||486||5.63 trillion||8.98 trillion||46 minutes||73 minutes|
|Plan B||via Ina Valley (Chino, Ina, Iida)||346||498||5.74 trillion||9.09 trillion||47 minutes||74 minutes|
|Plan C||under the Japanese Alps and Iida City||286||438||5.10 trillion||8.44 trillion||40 minutes||67 minutes|
Construction schedule and costs
JR Central announced in December 2007 that it planned to raise funds for the construction of the Chuo Shinkansen on its own, without government financing. Total cost, originally estimated at 5.1 trillion yen in 2007, escalated to over 9 trillion yen by of 2011. Nevertheless, the company has said it can make a pretax profit of around 70 billion yen in 2026, when the operating costs stabilize. The primary reason for the project's huge expense is that most of the line is planned to run in a tunnel (about 86% of the initial section from Tokyo to Nagoya will be underground) with some sections at a depth of 40 m (130 ft) (deep underground) for a total of 100 km (62 mi) in the Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka areas.
The construction schedule as of 2013, which calls for the Tokyo-Nagoya segment to open in 2027 and the Nagoya–Osaka segment to open in 2045, is designed to keep JR Central's total debt burden below its approximate level at the time of privatization (around 5 trillion yen). The government of Osaka Prefecture, as well as local corporations such as Suntory and Nippon Life, have raised concerns about the impact of the delayed construction of the Nagoya-Osaka segment on the Osaka economy. Politicians from the Kansai region have called for expanded government assistance in order to expedite the line's construction.
JR Central estimates that Chuo Shinkansen fares will be only slightly more expensive than Tokaido Shinkansen fares, with a difference of around 700 yen between Tokyo and Nagoya and around 1,000 yen between Tokyo and Osaka. The positive economic impact of the Chuo Shinkansen in reducing travel times between the cities has been estimated at anywhere between 5 and 17 trillion yen during the line's first fifty years of operation.
On December 2, 2003, MLX-01, a three-car train set a world record speed of 581 km/h (361 mph) in a manned vehicle run. On November 16, 2004, it also set a world record for two trains passing each other at a combined speed of 1,026 km/h (638 mph).
On October 26, 2010, JR Central announced a new train type, the L0 series, for commercial operation at 505 km/h (314 mph). This model set a world record speed for a manned train of 603 km/h (375 mph) on 21 April 2015.
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Major construction on the 286km line, 90% of which will be underground or through tunnels, is set to begin in 2015 and the project is due to be completed in 2027.
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- JR Central information about the Chuo Shinkansen
- JR Central's website for the Linear-Express service (Japanese)
- Linear Chuo Express (Japanese)