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Progress for Maglev Development in Japan and China

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EIRNS—Unveiled at Hitachi’s Kasado works in April, the “improved” prototype for the Series L0 maglev vehicles intended to operate the Chuo Shinkansen route between Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka has a modified front end to reduce air resistance. According to the operator, a 13% reduction in air resistance compared to the previous design would significantly reduce noise and power consumption.

JR Central had been expecting to start running tests with the new vehicles in May, but the schedule was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A seven-car set has been formed for the resumption of trial running, with the three new vehicles marshalled at the Tokyo end of the formation and four of the existing Series L0 test cars at the Nagoya end.

There are also indications that China is considering the development of very fast freight maglevs, as China’s state-owned railway operator is planning to accelerate the development of a high-speed freight network, with a development plan published in mid-August that includes plans to further expand the passenger network and build an advanced control system that will integrate home-grown technologies such as 5G telecommunications, the BeiDou satellite navigation system, and artificial intelligence.

Earlier this month the Chinese Ministry of Transport indicated that it would redouble its efforts to develop a network of maglev trains which can reach speeds of up to 600 kph (370 mph). Whereas this is certainly the passenger transport version, there are hints that a freight version is also being worked on, which would travel at lower speeds but considerably faster than standard high-speed trains. [rap]