Japan wants levitating trains by 2025

Feel the force

Japan says it is going to roll out (or possibly levitate out) a network of "maglev" trains by 2025. It will be the first commercial magnetic levitation line anywhere in the world outside of China, which has one line running in its Shanghai province.

The trains will have a top speed of 310mph and will run between Tokyo and Nagoya, the BBC reports. Eventually, authorities plan to extent the line to run to Osaka. This route is currently served by the famous "Bullet Trains", which have a top speed of 186mph.

The Chinese track cost around £63m per mile, according to reports.

Maglev tracks, for anyone who has fallen behind on their science fiction reading, hold their trains aloft thanks to powerful electromagnets. Because the trains don't actually touch the rails, there is considerably less friction, meaning they can run much faster.

Inevitably, there will be questions over the safety and reliability of the technolgy, after a fatal crash last year at a test track in Germany. Both Japan and Germany have test lines running.

The UK, which ran the first ever commercial magnetic levitation service, has no plans to reprise the technology*, since it would be too expensive to install. But for 11 years, the UK ran a low speed shuttle between Birmingham airport and its railway station. The system was swapped for a pulley-based shuttle in 1995, after it was hit by reliability issues. ®

*Not in England anyway. The Scots are doing it for themselves, apparently. Thanks to Vulture-eyed Adrian Jones for the tip.

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