2007/03/27

Have Bullets, Will Travel

The new "Series N700" bullet trains are now in production in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture. They will enter service on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line in July. Using a pre-production trainset, JR Central has been trying out the new N700 since 2005. I first reported about these in July of 2005 when they were first unveiled. I find it exciting that they are finally going into service.

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23 of the trains are scheduled for production in fiscal 2007, increasing to 54 in fiscal 2009. How fast are they? Shinkansen trains are already fast and these are only a little more so on the slower runs. Reaching 270 kph, which thanks to tilting in turns can be maintained even on curves, they will shave 5 minutes off the Tokaido section between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. West of Shin-Osaka they open up and reach top speeds of 300 kph (186 mph) as they head for Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. The fastest Shinkansen trains have been running at up to 300 kph since 1997, so speed is not the story with the new train.

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Inside a 700 Series - click to enlarge.

The new N700 features aerodynamics which make it even quieter for the passengers and the surroundings (and help to hold it to the track at high speeds). They claim it will offer "an even more comfortable interior space". K and I have taken various Shikansen trains over the years and they all offer amazingly smooth, quiet rides, so it's hard to imagine an improvement. The seating is 5 across with aircraft style reclining seats but with lots of leg room. (Seat pitch is 41 inches compared to most US airlines at 32 inches). Green cars, an upgrade, have 4 across seating and business class style seats. The new seats will be wider.


I took this picture of the current 700 Series which K and I took from Nagoya to Tokyo in 2004.


Tray tables will be larger to accomodate computers, outlets for mobile devices will be provided for all green car seats and all window seats in regular cars. High speed internet will be provided as well. All seats will be non-smoking.

Speed and comfort aren't the only games in town on a resource scarce planet. These trains will use 20 percent less power than the present 700 series trains - an amazing leap in efficiency, and that is the really big news.

We're planning a trip to Hiroshima for later in the year and with the N700s entering service this summer, I'm hoping we'll get lucky and be able to check it out first hand.

Take an early morning ride in the cab of an "old" Series 500 train (manufactured 1996-1998) as it accelerates to 300 kph going from Hakata then comes to a stop at Kokura. Not terribly exciting, perhaps, but then it isn't supposed to be, is it? This video has English subtitles - sort of.

11 comments:

Lrong said...

Travel quite a bit on the shinkansen... you are right about the comfort compared to the EY seats in the airplane... The 700 series do look really sleek...

Swinebread said...

Wow looks great and like fun... are the seats still too low to the ground? :D

Pandabonium said...

Lrong - hey, thought we'd lost you in Melbourne :P

Swinebread - Depends on how tall you are. :O Both K and I are 175 cm, and have always been comfortable - my first ride was in 1987.

QUASAR9 said...

I guess the near view will be a bit of a blur at 300 kph
Best focus on the distant view.

But I thought they could go faster

Pandabonium said...

Quasar9 - 300kph (top speed) is the fastest scheduled train service in the world. They have and are testing faster trains. There is one being tested that goes 360 kph.

Japan's maglev has been tested at over 581 kph. A maglev is even more efficient in its operating cost, but since it would require its own special track it would cost over US$85 billion to construct a line between Osaka and Tokyo - not feasible. 300kph is plenty fast compared to any other means. Trains leave Tokyo every 3 to 7 minutes and can carry up to 1200 passengers each. Stations are in the heart of the cities, so "door to door" they are much faster that airlines for medium distances even though planes fly faster.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I've heard there are high-speed trains in Germany and France that travel faster than 400 kph in segments. It's said to be the fastest regularly-scheduled train service in the world. I don't know if that's actually the case or not (since I've never been to either of those countries). I heard the shinkansen was limited to 300 kph because of noise considerations, but since the new designs are quieter, they are able to make them faster.

That's just what I've heard. It might be worth looking into.

Pandabonium said...

Moody - yes, the TGV in France goes up to 320 kph and like japan's trains has tested much faster. TGV holds the speed record for non maglev trains (in tests). In practice, it shares some track with slower trains and so the average speed is lower than in Japan. They each claim to have the fastest scheduled service. German ICE trains run 250 to 280 kph. All are plenty fast for me!

YD said...

Apart from the speed, i noticed a stark difference between trains in Japan and UK.

In Japan, when the doors open, there goes the cute "Ding Dong"; in UK, there goes the screeching alarm sound...

^_^!!!

Pandabonium said...

YD - Japan has an alarm on the platform when a train comes in or when doors close, but it isn't irritating. On the bullet train, they also play some music - a traditional Japanese melody - just before announcing the next stop in order to gently awaken snoozing passengers.

L. Riofrio said...

Japan spends twice as much on Public Works as the US, in a much smaller country. that payoff has kept the LDP in power, and led to those great trains. I've been on Shinkansen to Tokyo and loved it.

Pandabonium said...

L. Riofrio - while there is always room for improvement, Japan's public transportation system is truly amazing. IMHO they need to stop spending so much on highways for cars and put those funds to work on more public transport to lower fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions. But compared to many industrialized countries, Japan is still way ahead.