Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe promotes Japanese maglev trains for US railways

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 April, 2014, 5:41am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 April, 2014, 5:41am

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took US ambassador Caroline Kennedy on a test ride of Japan's super-fast magnetic train yesterday, showcasing the maglev technology Tokyo hopes to sell to its ally.

"I hope ambassador Kennedy will enjoy the full package of Japan - the blizzard of cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji and the state-of-the-art technology," a relaxed-looking Abe said ahead of the ride.

As the distinctive white and pink petals of the blossom swirled in the breeze, the pair boarded at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line near Mount Fuji.

The smiling prime minister was able to show off the technology with ease, as the train reached speeds of 505km/h at certain points in the journey.

Maglev, short for magnetic levitation after the magnets that propel the vehicle forward in place of traditional wheels and axles, is a contender for US President Barack Obama's multibillion-dollar national high-speed rail project.

Japanese business newspaper Nikkei reported that the operator, Central Japan Railway, does not plan to charge licensing fees in the US for the maglev train, a strong incentive for officials to select the system for a proposed high-speed rail line between Washington and Baltimore.

The proposed 60-kilometre link will represent the first phase in the US government's plan to connect the capital and Boston. To cushion the estimated 1 trillion yen (HK$76 billion) cost of the franchise, Japan intends to finance half of it through the Japan Bank for International Co-operation, Nikkei said.

Japan is up against France, Germany and other bidders as it seeks to sell its bullet and magnetic train systems overseas.

After the ride, Abe said: "Since I was able to share this experience with ambassador Kennedy today, I hope she would share her story with White House as well."

Kennedy added she thought the technology was "something that will bring great benefits to Japan and hopefully to the United States".

In Japan, the company hopes to launch the maglev service - billed as faster, smoother and quieter than conventional trains - between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027. By 2045 it is expected to link Tokyo with Osaka in just 67 minutes, compared with the current time of more than two hours.

The world's first commercial maglev railway opened in Shanghai in 2002.