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LaHood Rides MagLev

The line may only be 12 miles, but the train speeds at 312 mph. The Secretary of Transportation was in Japan as part of the effort to bring high speed rail to the U.S. though it's not clear whether he is in fact considering the maglev technology.
May 17, 2010, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Japan is anxious to find customers for its fast trains, particular maglev, the fastest type of train. The world's first high speed rail is The Shinkansen that opened in 1964, also in Japan - but some in the U.S. feel that the latest technology should be considered for U.S. HSR corridors.

"Very fast," Mr. LaHood said after stepping off the maglev at a track nestled here in mountains west of Tokyo. "We're right at the start of an opportunity for America to be connected with high-speed, intercity rail," he said.

"Maglev, short for "magnetic levitation," uses powerful magnets that allow the train to float just above the track, reducing friction. The train starts off on wheels, then gravitates upward after reaching high speeds

Japan has also been goaded into a new export boldness by the rise of China, a rival whose surge in construction of high-speed rail networks could give Beijing an economies-of-scale edge in the global railway market.

Central Japan Railway, which is based in Nagoya and is more commonly known as JR Central, is promoting its N700-I trains, which are in use in Japan and can run at a top speed of about 330 kilometers (205 miles) an hour. If Japan does not start selling maglev trains overseas, it risks losing its technological edge, Hitoshi Ieda, a professor in civil engineering at the University of Tokyo, warned. Unless JR Central can win a contract, the maglev, for now, could stay nothing more than a novelty."

Thanks to Mark Boshnack

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Published on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 in The New York Times - Global Business
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