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story.lead_photo.caption An East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) E5 series Shinkansen bullet train departs from Tokyo Station in Tokyo in 2015. Bloomberg photo by Kiyoshi Ota

Japan is pushing the limits of rail travel as it begins testing the fastest-ever shinkansen ("new trunk line") bullet train, capable of speeds of as much as 250 miles per hour.

Called the Alfa-X, the train is scheduled to go into service in 2030. East Japan Railway Co. plans to operate it at 220 miles per hour. That would make it 6 mph faster than China's Fuxing Hao, which links Beijing and Shanghai and has the same top speed.

To cope with heavy wind resistance when entering tunnels, the Alfa-X's first car will mostly be a sleek nose, measuring 72 feet. With just three windows, there looks to be hardly any space, if at all, for passengers in the front. Painted in metallic silver with green stripes, the 10-car bullet train began test runs Friday between the cities of Aomori and Sendai, to be conducted over three years.

Japan's bullet trains, which made their debut in the same year as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, have become a symbol of the country's focus on efficiency and reliability. Shinkansens are rarely late, even though they depart Tokyo Station every few minutes for Osaka, Kyoto and other destinations across the archipelago, making them a viable alternative to air travel. The Alfa-X is a key part of a plan to offer faster services to Sapporo, the biggest city on the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

"The development of the next-generation shinkansen is based on the key concepts of superior performance, a high level of comfort, a superior operating environment and innovative maintenance," East Japan Railway said in a statement.

Business on 05/11/2019

Print Headline: Japan starts testing fastest bullet train

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