A prototype nose section, still incomplete, of the next-generation Shinkansen bullet train.  Photo: Nikkei
A prototype nose section, still incomplete, of the next-generation Shinkansen bullet train. Photo: Nikkei

East Japan Railway unveiled on Wednesday a brand-new bullet-train series that will bring cities outside the island of Honshu closer to Tokyo once it goes into service.

The body shell of a test driving car for the next-generation Alfa-X Shinkansen train made its debut in Kobe. With a sleek and aerodynamic design featuring a 16-meter nose, the train will be able to reach speeds of 400km/h.

Kyodo News reports that assembly of an experimental 10-car Alfa-X train is half-complete, and a test run is slated for May.

Once up and running, the new train should slash the travel time between Tokyo and Sapporo in Hokkaido by 40% to within three hours.

When Alfa-X enters commercial service as Japan’s fastest bullet train, it will redeem the nation’s glory of being the leader of high-speed rail services with its Shinkansen network. China’s leaps in express rail construction and a sprawling, 25,000-kilometer network nationwide have eclipsed the fame of Japan’s Shinkansen. The top speed of trains in commercial service in China is 350km/h.

Japanese bullet trains currently in service. Photo: Kyodo News
China’s Fuxing bullet train running on the Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Railway. It can reach speeds of 350km/h. Photo: China Rail Corp

The experimental Alfa-X train will incorporate new technologies including dampers to reduce vibration as well as the likelihood of derailment when hit by an earthquake.

JR East officially announced its plans to build a 10-car experimental high-speed train in 2017.

According to JR East president Tetsuro Tomita, the new generation of train sets will be needed during the 2020s to run on the 211.7km Hokkaido Shinkansen extension to Sapporo. Running at 400 km/h, it would be possible to achieve a journey time of around three hours on the route between Tokyo and Sapporo.

A key priority for the train’s development will be to minimize noise during operation, as well as minimizing the pressure pulses when entering tunnels at extreme speeds.

Read more: China testing super maglev trains that could hit 1,000km/h

Bullets and bombs on China’s high-speed rail network

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