RIFU, Miyagi -- A long-nosed prototype of the next-generation Tohoku and Hokkaido shinkansen bullet trains, which are set to have the world's fastest regular operation speed of 360 kilometers per hour, was unveiled to the press here on May 9.
The prototype, named "ALFA-X," will be tested between Sendai and Shin-Aomori stations on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line after the last train service on May 10. Operators will attempt to run the bullet train at its maximum speed of 400 kilometers per hour.
Test runs of the train, currently stationed at East Japan Railway Co. (JR East)'s Shinkansen General Rolling Stock Center in Rifu, are due to be conducted about twice a week at night.
The current E5 series shinkansen train runs at a maximum speed of 320 kilometers per hour. It has a 15-meter-long nose both at the front and the rearmost cars to reduce noise when entering a tunnel. The existing model is used for the superexpress service "Hayabusa," meaning falcon in Japanese. It runs between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto stations along the Tohoku and Hokkaido Shinkansen lines.
ALFA-X is being tested with 16-meter-long and 22-meter-long noses to examine which type is better at reducing noise. Operators hope to offer a quicker, quieter service between Tokyo and Sapporo stations after the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line is extended to Sapporo by 2031.
Ichiro Ogawa, the head of JR East's research and development center, said, "We want to improve not only speed, but also safety and comfort."
(Japanese original by Issei Takizawa, Sendai Bureau)