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

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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Written By

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


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