East Japan Railway (JR East) have announced plans to test an updated version of the infamous bullet train. The new Shinkansen has eyed the 360km/h target which hopes to enter commercial service in 2030. It will proceed the E5 Series bullet train with the existing speed of 320km/h, currently the fastest in Japan. The test train is scheduled to be tested in spring 2019 and will travel at a maximum speed of 400 km/h during test runs. But speed is not the sole objective for JR East as preventing earthquake derailments will be among the major improvements in addition to reducing noise and pressure waves. JR East will be faced with an eye-watering bill of ten billion yen (£68 million, $88 million) to complete testing and inauguration.
"During the testing the ‘Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail experimentation,’ (ALFA-X) test train will have two varying front cars as JR East will test the differences made to reduce air pressure in the train tunnels."
Plans for a 360km/h train were initially disclosed in 2012. JR East sees a need for faster trains, given the length of travel on the extended line to Hokkaido. They will begin tests with a new ten-car experimental train with the aim to run along the planned extension of the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line to Sapporo Station in Hokkaido. The Hokkaido Shinkansen Line, operated by Hokkaido Railway, opened in March 2016 where a bullet train seamlessly links to the Tohoku Shinkansen Line at Shin-Aomori.
During the testing the Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail experimentation, (ALFA-X) test train will have two varying front cars as JR East will test the differences made to reduce air pressure in the train tunnels. It is assumed that one will have a longer nose than the current E5 series and the other will have the same nose length with an experimental shape. The new designs will also allow JR East to have full control over the train cars, tracks and overhead wires to enable faster response times for train malfunctions.
The new generation bullet trains are hoped to start operating in accordance with the proposed new high-speed line to the city of Sapporo in Hokkaido, the main northern island of the Japanese archipelago. JR East is also developing the controversial maglev train which is hoped to begin commercial operations in 2027.
This isn’t JR East’s only ambition however, lacking growth opportunities at home, the innovative operator is now looking overseas. Joining forces with the Dutch operator Abellio, the companies are looking to operate the high-speed rail lines connecting London with the South-coast, Kent. They are in the final stages of a bid for the South Eastern franchise and if successful will power the line for the next ten years. This would be JR East’s first international operation.