Japan’s ultra-fast levitating trains heading to US?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

maglev meeting
Central Japan Railway Company chairman Yoshiyuki Kasai meets with former New York Governor George E. Pataki.

Over the weekend, several former US politicians were in Japan for a special test ride of the world’s fastest train, which uses magnetic levitation (maglev) technology. These machines speed along at around 315 mph, and if all goes as planned, we may see maglev trains in America.

We’ve come a long way from the days of steam trains, and even modern gas and electric ones don’t stand up to maglev tech. See, maglev trains work through the use of electromagnets, which act just like regular magnets. Namely, they’re attracted to opposite poles and repelled by similar ones. The difference is that electromagnets can switch their charge. As the signs switch, the train gets pushed forward with an electric charge and propelled faster with the magnets, all while floating several inches above the track like a ghost!

Japan is really trying to see their maglev trains brought to the US, and is even offering to pay billions of dollars to cover some of the cost. The thing is, their country is having trouble selling their trains to other nations, and they can no longer afford to keep the transportation system. The Japanese population is shrinking, and so it doesn’t seem logical to build a multi-billion train system if there’s no one to ride on it. Japan figures if they can sell their maglev technology to the US, other nations will want a piece of the action, too.

“In the past, the United States led the way in transport technology,” said Yoshiyuki Kasai, the chairman of Central Japan Railway. “Now the U.S. transportation infrastructure is in bad shape.” For example, the fastest train in America – Amtrak’s Acela – has a top speed of 150 miles per hour and needs 3 hours to go from New York to Washington. If the same trip was made with the Japanese maglev train, it’d only take an hour. According to the nation’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the train “is truly a dream technology.”

Abe met with President Barack Obama to discuss a train that’ll connect Washington to New York and offered to pay for the first 40 miles of the route. This undertaking could cost billions of Japaneses taxpayer dollars being used on the US, but as Kasai pointed out, “…why don’t the U.S.A. and Japan lead the world together?”

Featured image courtesy of Yosemite on Wikimedia. Image of Kasai and Pataki courtesy of Central Japan Railway Company.