Bloomberg News — TOKYO Japan is resuming trial runs for the world's fastest magnetic-levitation train that will complement the Shinkansen bullet-train network when ready in 2027.
Central Japan Railway plans to begin work on the 5.1 trillion yen ($52 billion) maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya as early as April. Trial runs resume Wednesday after the company spent five years building a 24-kilometer extension of a test track. The trains can run at speeds of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) per hour.
The maglevs will whisk passengers to Nagoya, a city of 2.3 million people, from Tokyo in as little as 40 minutes for the 286-kilometer journey, from as short as 95 minutes now, according to JR Central. Faced with the challenge of tunneling under Tokyo's skyscrapers and Japanese Alps, the project is unlikely to be completed on time even as Japan's population is projected to shrink.
"I think it's going to be finished very, very late," said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research Corp. in Tokyo, which manages about $3 billion in assets. "If the population projections are correct, then the use of the bullet train will go down."
Japan's population may fall to as little as 117 million by 2027 from 127 million now, according to projections by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. By 2060, the overall population may drop to 80 million.
Maglevs use magnetic power to propel trains that float above the ground, traveling at almost double the 270 kmh of current bullet trains between the two cities.
To make the line straight enough for that speed, the company has to dig 248 kilometers of tunnels, or almost five times the length of Europe's 50-kilometer Channel Tunnel.
"We're not using radically new technology for the tunnels," said Teruyoshi Nagashima, a Tokyo-based spokesman for JR Central. "We'll start work on it when we get permission," he said, declining to say exactly when the building work would start.