Japan has 500 km/h maglev train

While US infrastructure continues its slow but steady degeneration as politicians stay fixated on richer people paying less taxes and thus starving the government and making it unable to maintain even what we have now let alone make ambitious plans for improvements in the future, we have to look to other countries for the nice things that we cannot have.

One example is the new super-fast maglev train that Japan has unveiled that travels at more than 500 km/h. You can see a video of its journey as it breaks the 500 km/h mark. Japan has had experimental trains that run even faster (at 580 km/h) but those were on shorter test tracks. This run was still a test run but with regular people as passengers on a 42 km trip between two cities, so a lot closer to commercial use. Meanwhile China is building an entire network of high-speed trains that span that vast country and has commercial trains that routinely run at 300 km/h.

But what the US spends its money on is not on improving the lives of its people but on building warplanes, warships, bombs, and soldiers. The ability to wantonly destroy other nations is where we like to invest our resources.


  1. machintelligence says

    Actually, the USA spends it’s money on airports. Why clutter up the landscape with tracks when you can fly over it? True, trains can make more intermediate stops, but that seriously degrades the average speed. I took one of the Japanese bullet trains from Osaka to Tokyo, but we has the cheap passes, so we got a “local”. It stopped every 20 minutes or so and waited interminably while people boarded.

  2. astrosmash says

    I don’t know…Maybe we can start selling america as a ‘sweet little rusctic backwater whistle-stop’ in a few years

  3. astrosmash says


    We can and should do both. The kinds of transportation that planes are good for are largely different than for trains, even super fast ones. Plus, they’re somewhat prohibitively expensive for lots of folks. Super-trains would connect cities in unimaginably different and significant ways…

  4. md says

    I wonder how much less Japan would have to spend if the U.S. did not provide for its defense. Granted, Japan pays the U.S. for some of that cost, but if the U.S. didn’t provide any at all, would that be a net loss for Japan.

    Cuts to U.S. Defense ought to synchronize with a reduction in the U.S. Defense Mission. That mission currently includes a large presence in the Pacific. Reduce the mission in the Pacific, or Europe, and you will see other countries increase their share of spending on defense and perhaps reduce spending on nice things like trains.

  5. psweet says

    I seem to recall that one of the serious objections against high-speed rail here in the US isn’t the technology so much as it is right-of-way. Running a train at 500 km/hr past a bunch of traffic crossings sounds iffy at best, which means we’d probably have to buy up a bunch of new land to give them somewhere safe to run. (Or elevate them all — which would add to the time and expense as well.)

  6. lorn says

    The footprint of a train, high speed or not, is actually smaller than highways. The energy efficiency, which pays off in terms of lowered pollution and/or higher profits, keeps paying dividends for the life of the route.

  7. lpetrich says

    psweet #5, what you describe is standard practice for high-speed-rail lines the world over. They are all grade separate, just like freeways.

    machintelligence #1, the US already has plenty of railroad lines in addition to its flat-road lines. So the US landscape is already plenty cluttered up.

    High-speed trains are good for big cities a few hundred mi/km apart, even if not as good for transcontinental travel. But the cumulative effect of high-speed construction has been some impressively long lines, like Amsterdam – southern Spain and Beijing – Hong Kong. These are roughly comparable to the US East Coast or NYC – Chicago.

  8. says

    Taiwan already has a high speed rail system that reaches 300kmh, though only on the direct route (Taipei-Taichung-Kaohsiung). Most city-to-city journeys are shorter meaning the trains usually only reach 290kmh. It’s also affordable, NT$1630 (US$53) for regular reserved seats to go from Taipei to Kaohsiung in two hours, all while sitting comfortably and NOT breathing the “circulated air” of a plane.


    It’s a wonderful system. I can go from my city to Taipei in 30 minutes (a four hour car drive), and Taipei has a good subway, bus and rideshare bicycle system (or I can take my folding bicycle on the train). My own city has electric buses now, though I ride a bike everywhere (and live in the home country of Giant bicycles). I feel spoilt, and I know it’s going to suck if I ever return to Canada.

    British Columbia stupidly killed off BC Rail’s passenger service after I left Canada, though at least VIA rail still exists (cross Canada rail travel, about the same price as airfare).

  9. says

    psweet (#5) –

    I seem to recall that one of the serious objections against high-speed rail here in the US isn’t the technology so much as it is right-of-way. Running a train at 500 km/hr past a bunch of traffic crossings sounds iffy at best

    No, that’s one of the false claims used as propaganda against building high speed rail. The regular and high speed rail systems I’ve seen in Asia (Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong) as well as metro systems (e.g. Manila in the Philippines, Bangkok in Thailand) are underground, elevated or a combination of both. The railways that run at street level are those built decades ago when land wasn’t as scarce.


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