Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A group of former U.S. politicians are being wooed by the Japanese government in the hope of selling their high-speed maglev train technology.
The former politicians visited Japan for a ride on the 315 mph train, which uses magnetic levitation to achieve its high speeds and is twice as fast as Amtrak’s Acela, presently the fastest train in the U.S.
The test comes ahead of Japan's planned introduction of a high-speed line between Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.
The proposed line would start at nation's capital before moving inland to Nagoya and then south to Osaka. The Tokyo-Nagoya line would be completed by 2027 and the next phase by 2045. But Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has come in for sharp criticism at home for the spiraling cost of the project -- a staggering $112 billion.
This makes the strong pitch to build a maglev train line in the Northeast corridor, stretching from New York to Washington D.C., all the more important for the beleaguered prime minister, who has been entrusted with rebuilding Japan's technological edge and shoring up its struggling economy.
To sweeten the deal Japan has promised to provide the maglev guideway and propulsion system for the first 40 miles of the route, between Washington and Baltimore, free of charge.
“It is truly a dream technology,” Mr. Abe said in a speech at the New York Stock Exchange in September.
Using Japanese maglev technology, levitation is achieved at 90 mph and from there on the train levitates nearly four inches off the tracks and is propelled forward using superconducting magnets.
But the 300-plus mile per hour technology would pale in comparison to Elon Musk's hypothetical Hyperloop, which would take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes -- more than twice the speed of the maglev trains. Unlike the conventional trains that the maglev technology uses the Hyperloop would transport people in “pods” that would travel through tubes. The tubes would be mounted on pylons that could be designed to withstand earthquake movements.
And the most astounding part of Musk's project is his claim that it would cost only $6 billion. This compared to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which, while real, is not expected to be completed until 2029 and will cost an estimated $68.4 billion to build.
“It doesn’t seem plausible to me,” said Richard White, a professor of American history at Stanford and author. “I’m suspicious about everything, especially cost.”
While the Hyperloop is only an idea on paper, one which Musk believes can be built in just 2 years, it is unlikely to be embraced as part of America's heavily burdened transportation infrastructure. The maglev trains, however, already have the years of safety testing and proofs of operation preferred by government.
[The Verge] [The New York Times] [The New York Times]