All aboard the maglev! Japanese train rockets toward the future

Taking a significant step toward a faster future, Japan plans to launch its first maglev train by 2025. Magnetic levitation is a completely different system from regular rail transport, using magnets to float the train above the tracks, reducing friction to nil. That allows maglevs to achieve speeds comparable to small aircraft, and the one planned by the Central Japan Railway will rocket passengers at 310 mph between Tokyo and Nagoya. At that rate, a one-way trip would take about half an hour. If all goes well, the line will be extended to Osaka, replacing the current Shinkansen bullet trains.

Since maglevs can't be used with normal rails, they've been slow to catch on, and the only commercial maglev train operating today is in Shanghai (shown above). They have reliability issues as well, as the U.K.'s Birmingham Airport found out when it had to replace a short maglev line with a conventional system in 1995 because of technical problems.

Funnily enough, the top speed of this breakneck maglev doesn't quite match the maximum warp of France's doubledecker TGV train, which set a record of 357.2 mph earlier this month. Maybe the Japanese and French should get together and pool their high-speed rail tech to create a supersystem that uses the best of both. Hey, it works with with cuisine.

BBC, via New Scientist