A collaborative endeavor between Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi, the ALFA-X went into testing on Friday (May 10), a phase that is expected to last at least three years.
Although capable of reaching a maximum speed of 400 kilometers per hour (about 249 miles per hour), it will carry passengers at around 360 kmph (224 mph) when it becomes operational sometime in 2030.
Even at the reduced speed, the ALFA-X will be one of the fastest bullet trains in the world, if not the fastest.
The test runs of the 10-car train with a 72-foot-long nose will be conducted twice a week after midnight between the cities of Sendai and Aomori, about 280 kilometers (174 miles) apart as the crow flies.
According to DesignBooms, a shorter 52-foot-nose version will also be tested to determine which of the two offers the best aerodynamic experience in terms of wind resistance and noise.
Some of the main features of the ALFA-X include vibration sensors, temperature sensors, and, of course, the dramatically elongated futuristic-looking nose for minimizing wind pressure and noise, especially when passing through tunnels.
For braking, the train has been equipped with roof-mounted air brakes and magnetic plates on its underside.
But, before commuters get to experience the blistering speed of ALFA-X, they will have already been introduced to another bullet train, the Shinkansen N700S.
The train is undergoing tests now and is expected to go operational in 2020 on the Tokaido Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka; the timing intended to coincide with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
However, its maximum speed of 300 kmph (186 mph) will be well short of the speeds the ALFA-X is designed to achieve.
The N700S will comprise 16 cars, two of which will be driving cars – one on each end – while the remaining 14 will be dedicated to a maximum of 1,323 passengers.
Again, the all-important nose has been given due attention, with a ‘dual supreme wing type’ design to improve airflow and reduce noise, particularly the sonic boom-type effect experienced when passing through tunnels.
However fast it goes during the tests, the ALFA-X will never be able to match the speed of Japan Railway’s maglev (magnetic levitation) train which was able to reach 603 kmph (around 375 mph) on a test track in 2015.
Here’s a look at some of the world’s fastest trains currently in service.
The Shanghai Maglev – 431 kmph (267 mph)
Based on magnetic levitation (maglev) technology, the Shanghai Maglev debuted way back in 2004.
The superfast train operates between Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport and the Longyang metro station on the outskirts of Shanghai, completing the 30-km (19-mile) run in just over seven minutes.
Fuxing Hao CR400AF/BF – 400 kmph (249 mph)
China’s Fuxing Hao CR400AF and CR400BF, nicknamed “Dolphin Blue” and “Golden Phoenix,” respectively, are the fastest non-maglev trains currently in operation.
While “Fuxing Hao” means “rejuvenation” in Chinese, the letters CR before the 400AF/BF stands for Chinese Railway.
Operating between Beijing South and Shanghai Hongqiao Station, the two trains carry up to 556 passengers each in just under five hours, which is half the time it takes on the conventional track between the two points.
Shinkansen H5 and E5 Series – 360 kmph (224 mph)
It has been 55 years since Japan launched the Hikari high-speed train service between Tokyo and Osaka, cutting down the travel time between the country’s two largest cities by a good three hours; it brought down the nearly seven-hour trip to just four hours.
Owned by Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido), the high-speed H5 series has been operating on the Tohoku and Hokkaido Shinkansen services since its debut in March 2016.
The E5 series is operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) on Tohoku Shinkansen services since March 2011 and on Hokkaido Shinkansen services since March 2016. (Wikipedia).
The Italo and Frecciarossa – 354 kmph (220 mph)
The high-speed Italo and Frecciarossa, or “red arrow,” owned by NTV and Trenitalia, respectively, are among the fastest in Europe, capable of transporting passengers between Milan and Rome, or between Milan and Florence, in less than three hours.
Haramain Western Railway – 350 kmph (217 mph)
Saudi Arabia’s high-speed rail service between the cities of Mecca and Medina was officially inaugurated in Sep 2018.
The 453-kilometer (281 mi) distance between the two holiest cities in the country is covered in a mere two and a half hours at 300 km/h (190 mph), although the electric trains operating on the route are capable of higher speeds.
Deutsche Bahn ICE – 330 kmph (205 mph)
The Siemens-designed high-speed train Valero, used by DeutscheBahn ICE (Inter-City Express), makes for a spectacular sight as it speeds through Germany’s scenic countryside.
With DeutscheBahn’s long-term plans to operate these trains between Frankfurt and London, the Velaro has been designed to fit through the Channel Tunnel.
Korail KTX – 330 kmph (205 mph)
Having debuted in 2004, South Korea’s high-speed rail network may not be the newest but surely finds a place among the fastest.
The latest route connecting Incheon International Airport in the west to the eastern coastal town of Gangneung, with a stopover in Seoul, opened in 2018 – just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Thalys – 300 kmph (186 mph)
One of Europe’s more important train services, the Thalys operates multiple services daily, connecting Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and Cologne.
The Brussels-to-Paris service remains the most profitable, accounting for half the entire revenue, despite the extension of the German route to as far as Dortmund in 2015.