Clean Transport

Published on March 12th, 2014 | by Andrew Meggison


We Can Learn From The Success Of Japanese High-Speed Rail

March 12th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Gas 2.


Japan’s Shinkansen high-speed rail line network of bullet trains began operation in 1964, and it is the oldest and safest high-speed rail line in the world.  So how’d they do it?

The Shinkansen high-speed rail line network has a top speed range of 149-200 mph, and consists of 1,483.6 miles of track in Japan. The line is a massive success and has carried over 10 billion passages with zero fatalities during its decades-long run.  A true success story in rail, and yet one that is unique to Japan. All efforts to export the Shinkansen-style system has gone unwanted since the effort began in 2009.

Why? For starters, Shinkansen is not just a train, it is indeed an entire system. Yes, England has bought a few of the trains, but that’s not what makes the Shinkansen the best in the world. The Shinkansen system is constantly updated with the latest technology, from the basic signaling systems to the development of automated trains. Issues that plague current high-speed rail projects such as the California High Speed Rail Project have been solved by the Shinkansen system years ago.

For example, when a high-speed train enters a tunnel there is a very loud booming sound that happens as the train leaves the tunnel. Well, Japan solved this back in the 1960s by making the noses of their bullet trains more pointed. Additionally, Japan has installed sensors on their high-speed trains that detect earthquakes and then shut the train down for safety. These are features California’s high-speed rail system is going to have to employ as well.

But all of this costs money and requires heaping public support – two things that are in short supply here in the U.S. Also I can’t help but think that nationally, America has lost interest in high-speed rail. Culturally, America is always looking forward – what’s new, what’s the next big thing? Like I already said, high-speed trains have been around since the 1960s, and trains in general for about two centuries. Many Americans simply consider them an old hat.

Not only is the Shinkansen effective and safe, it’s stylish and comfortable too. New trains have reed flooring and foot baths. So yes, you are literally riding in a spa at 200 mph.

The state of high-speed rail here in the U.S. is not well and the odds of having foot baths and a stylish interior are bleak. Thankfully Japan is leading the way and we can all learn a thing or two from the world’s oldest and safest high-speed rail network.

Source: Global Rail News

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About the Author

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor's Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison

  • James Johnson

    I think Andrew Meggison should move to Japan so he can enjoy all the benefits of his dream world reality choo choo.

    • Altair IV

      You really don’t have any clue as to what you’re talking about, do you?

      The Shinkansen is absolutely the easiest and most convenient way to get between the major cities of Japan. Many businessmen I know use it all the time to travel between Osaka (where I live) and Tokyo, or in the other direction all the way to Fukuoka. Others use it to visit their families in other cities on the weekends and holidays.

      It generally takes a lot of time, effort and expense to go all the way out to the airport, check in, go through security, wait and board and wait some more for your plane to take off, then do it all again in reverse when you arrive. But the trains pull straight into the center of the city, and there’s nothing but a simple ticket gate to slow you down. The whole thing is well worth the small difference in price compared to flying.

      The real discount travelers generally use overnight buses, BTW.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Those of us who have experienced high speed rail realize that the US is missing out on a very comfortable way to travel.

      We’ve got a choice. Do we add more lanes to our highways (at taxpayer expense) and build more airports (at taxpayer expense) or do we build high speed rail?

      I’m all for moving transportation to non-polluting, electricity power HSR. I’ll take it over flying any day.

      • James Johnson

        Are you provoking me? *that would be funny. Are you even an American? Bold assumption that you tre the elite in knowing what is good for the American Taxpayers because “those of us who have experienced high speed rail” know better.

        I KNOW THAT IS B -U -L -L -S -H -I -T!!!

        • A Real Libertarian

          Bob is American and has traveled on HSR during his travels.

          Altair lives in Japan.

          They’re both “elite” in the sense they know what they’re talking about.

          • James Johnson

            And I am not? LOL Got it.
            in that an all American Way I Say F -U -C -K You

          • Bob_Wallace

            That sort of behavior does not fly here, James.

            I’ll take this one down as your only warning.

          • James Johnson

            Great I am getting the WARNING. CONFORM NOW.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes it does.

          • James Johnson

            THIS SITE IS CONTROLLED BY THE COMMUNIST MAFIA and they Censor Americans Standing up for freedom of expression.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Read the First Amendment.

          • James Johnson

            I have… have you. gonna block this statement too?

          • A Real Libertarian
          • James Johnson

            i stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. your impeding all three and imposing your will on me.

          • A Real Libertarian

            You are demanding we sacrifice our labor to provide you with a platform.

            You should stop mooching off others.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, we are offering you the opportunity to engage in reasoned discussion about how we can best stop our use of fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy.

            Checking your record it looks like you have a history of not playing well with others.

            That being the case perhaps you can look on this as an opportunity to look deep within yourself and find the nice you.

            Or you can flame out….

          • A Real Libertarian


            Then what “right” are we violating?

          • Bob_Wallace

            This site does not allow name calling.

            It has no tolerance for climate change deniers.

            It has no room for people who make questionable claims they can’t back up.

            It does not permitting unpaid advertising or spamming in general.

            It frowns heavily on all cap shouting.

            And it suggests that you read the U S Constitution. Obviously you either haven’t or didn’t understand what you were reading.

          • James Johnson

            Great, I finally got you to show your true colors. No more needs to be said. Fly your flag tall for all Americans to see, no more hiding.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Why do you hate America, James?

          • James Johnson

            I love America 1776 brought on a whirlwind. God Bless the USA.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Then why are you wiping your ass with the constitution?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Cut the all caps stuff.

          Most HSR operates under 200 MPH but the Shanghai Maglev Train reaches 431 km/h (268 mph) during its daily service on its 30 km (19 mi) dedicated line, holding the speed record for commercial train service. (Wiki)

          By the time you add in the one to two hour early check in, boarding time, taxi and wait for a runway time, circle while waiting for a runway, wait for a jet way, and wait for your baggage a 200 MPH train can cover a lot miles. Add in the trip out to the airport and back and the extra speed of a jet on a moderate length trip gets nullified.

          But you’d rather spend the money on more highways and airports….

          “There is no such thing as non-polluting electricity.”

          There are electricity sources which are so much cleaner than coal and natural gas that they are essentially non-polluting. In fact, they produce no pollution while operating.

  • JamesWimberley

    Japan was the pioneer. But both China (10,453 km) and Spain (3,100 km) now have considerably more high-speed track.

    • Altair IV

      Both China and Spain have quite a lot more area to cover than Japan, after all. Most of the planned Japanese lines are complete, and there are only a few more relatively short spurs left to build, mostly to remoter locations on the Japan Sea side.

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