High speed rail developments

blurred railtracks indicating speedHaving undertaken work for the rail industry for many years, we at PRV Engineering like to keep an eye on the future of high speed rail travel www.prv-engineering.co.uk

We also marvel at the developments in Japan that, as we speak, are about to take another significant turn in the right direction.

When it comes to building high speed rail systems, Japan continues to embarrass the rest of the world.

First, they introduced the Bullet train, capable of travelling at approximately 200 mph.

Now, the government has approved plans to bring in a new high speed rail system that will enable passengers to travel the 178 miles from Tokyo to Nagoya in just 40 minutes. That’s less than half the time it currently takes the celebrated Shinkansen bullet train to travel the route.

It’s said that trains on the Chūō Shinkansen line will reach speeds of 300 mph thanks to their maglev (magnetic levitation) technology.

Five things you didn’t know about the Chuo Shinkansen line

What is Maglev?

Maglev uses extremely powerful superconducting magnets to float the train 10cm above the track, allowing for frictionless movement.

The technology has previously been used to build short demonstration lines in cities including Tokyo. However, the Tokyo-Nagoya route will be the first functioning intercity route.

Testing underway

Tests are already underway with around 100 passengers having been given the opportunity to whizz along a 27 mile route between the cities of Uenohara and Fuefuki, reaching speeds of up to 311mph.

Completion date?

The Central Japan Railway Co (JR Central) plans to finish the work by 2027 before extending the line from Nagoya to Osaka  before 2045. This second route will travel 331 miles in just 67 minutes, more than halving the current travel time.

What will it cost?

The estimated cost of the line to Nagoya is ¥5.5 trillion (£32 billion) with the full Osaka line running up a bill of around ¥9 trillion.

Funding

Central Japan Railway will be funding the project entirely through cash generated by its current bullet train lines; a sensible move for a company that reported a higher operating profit margin than even Apple in the fiscal year ending March 31.

To view the video of the maglev train trial see this BBC report

But Japan is not the only country in the news.

An Israeli company is to evaluate a rapid, on-demand mass transit system claimed to eliminate delays and queues.

The so-called skyTran system of passive magnetic levitation (MagLev) pod vehicles is to be trialled in the grounds of Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) corporate campus.

What is it?

Developed by the NASA Space Act company based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, skyTran is a network of computer-controlled, two-person vehicles designed to deliver passengers to their destination in an energy-efficient and high-speed manner.

SkyTran expects the first commercial skyTran system to be operational in Tel Aviv, Israel. The first commercial system will be completed within 24-months of start of construction, which is projected for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Total construction cost for the entire system is estimated at $80m. The company said this system would be Phase One of a much larger urban/suburban network that will cover Tel Aviv’s ‘Gush Dan’ metropolitan area. Other skyTran routes in advanced planning are in Toulouse, France; Kerala, India; and the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

How will it work?

Once commercially deployed, skyTran envisages passengers requesting a vehicle with computer or smartphone for embarkation at a location convenient to the traveller.

Once in transit, the computer-controlled system provides optimal spacing of the skyTran vehicles that are designed to travel at over 62mph on an overhead network. The fastest routes on the network are identified and all vehicles are sent along at speed with vehicles entering and exiting the skyTran stream with no interruption to the flow of traffic.

For more information about the skyTran, read this article from The Engineer

What’s your view of the latest developments in the rail industry?