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Deep secrets of maglev Shinkansen emerging
Publication Date : 15-10-2013
The Linear Chuo Shinkansen, a dream ultraexpress maglev train system that will likely come into use in 2027, features a variety of unique innovations.
With construction set to begin on the bullet train line next fiscal year, a fuller picture of the next-generation rail line is finally coming into view.
Hoping to start service in 2027, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) last month revealed the detailed route from Shinagawa Station in Tokyo to Nagoya, as well as the precise locations of six stations along the way. JR Tokai is currently holding explanatory sessions in municipalities on the proposed route.
One thing JR Tokai is especially proud of is its technology that overcomes a great difference of elevation of up to 1,300 metres in railway tracks used for the maglev train system‚ÄĒfrom a maximum of 100 metres underground in Tokyo to a tunnel 1,200 metres high near the Southern Japanese Alps. This compares with up to about 970 metres in the Nagano Shinkansen.
The Linear Shinkansen‚Äôs biggest selling point is its speed, which exceeds 500kph. To make best use of its zip, the railway operator selected the shortest route possible to Nagoya, but along it sit the giant mountains of the Southern Japanese Alps.
The Linear Shinkansen will surmount these mountains using hill-climbing capabilities that far outstrip any previous bullet train.
Regular railways cannot climb more than 30 metres per kilometre since the ability of a train‚Äôs wheels to ‚Äúgrab‚ÄĚ the tracks decreases as speed increases. Even the Kyushu Shinkansen, which has motors on every car to maximise its potential, can only climb about 35 metres per kilometre.
The Linear Shinkansen, however, is expected to mount steep inclines of 40 metres per kilometre around the border of Kanagawa and Yamanashi prefectures. ‚ÄúThe Linear is great on hills, which makes this route possible,‚ÄĚ said a JR Tokai official.
Another important feature of the Linear Shinkansen is that it has outside electricity lines connected to the cars. But this raises the question of how to supply the cars with power to run things like air conditioners and lights.
JR Tokai initially planned to install gas turbines in each car to generate electricity, but that was before the company thought of employing the technology used to charge electric toothbrushes.
By installing coils on both the tracks and the train‚Äôs wheels, and then running electricity through the coils on the tracks, power can be supplied to the cars without a direct cable connection‚ÄĒa technology called inductive power collection.
Putting gas turbines on the Linear Shinkansen would mar its smart, green image. ‚ÄúInductive power collection will let us get by without any emissions,‚ÄĚ said a JR Tokai official.
Although the new train is a high-tech super train, a few analog modifications are being used to improve the Linear Shinkansen experience.
Along almost all of the 286 kilometres from Tokyo to Nagoya, the Linear Shinkansen will run through tunnels and under concrete sound barriers, which will largely prevent riders from enjoying the view.
Nevertheless, JR Tokai wanted to find some way to allow its customers to appreciate the scenery.
One solution is to place small windows at regular intervals in the sound barriers at the same level of the train‚Äôs windows. When the train passes, riders would see what looks like an unbroken view of the outside scenery, somewhat like a flip-book comic.
JR Tokai is considering using this idea in sections of the route where Mt. Fuji is visible. ‚ÄúWe want to make it possible for customers to enjoy gazing out the windows even at 500 kilometres per hour,‚ÄĚ said a company official.