According to The Nikkei Asian Review today, JR Tokai, the main railway operator in central Japan, set a new speed record Thursday when the magnetic-levitation train it is testing in Yamanashi Prefecture clocked in at 590kph, breaking its old record of 581kph set 12 years ago.
This new record could be short-lived, however, because JR Tokai intends to gun for 600kph next Tuesday. If it accomplishes that feat, it will submit the event for a Guinness world record.
An L0-series maglev train running Thursday morning on the rail operator's Yamanashi Maglev test line cruised to the new speed standard.
Normal bullet trains on the company's Tokaido Shinkansen line travel at 285kph. When maglev trains come into operation in 2027 they will travel at a top speed of 505kph. The point of the high-speed tests is to collect data necessary for designing equipment.
JR Tokai also set a new distance record two days earlier when the L0-series train traveled 4,064km in a single day. That is more than twice the distance covered in a day by a Tokaido Shinkansen train.
The maglev trains are even faster than Japan's famous bullet trains, which currently travel at about 320km/h (200mph). They use magnetic levitation, hence the name, to "float" above the train tracks. This minimises the friction encountered by ordinary trains, and allows them to travel faster. Maglev trains are due to be up and running by 2027. The ones being tested in Yamanashi will eventually run from Tokyo to Nagoya, carrying passengers between the two cities in about 40 minutes. Currently the journey takes an hour longer than that by bullet train.