Shinkansen Bullet Train system is world’s first 320 Kmph High Speed train system

Japan Prime Minister Abe pitches for Shinkansen bullet train system for India

The Shinkansen is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group companies. Starting with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (515.4 km) in 1964, the network has expanded to currently consist of 2,387.7 km (1,483.6 mi) of lines with maximum speeds of 240–320 km/h (150–200 mph), 283.5 km (176.2 mi) of Mini-shinkansen lines with a maximum speed of 130 km/h (81 mph), and 10.3 km (6.4 mi) of spur lines with Shinkansen services. The network presently links most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, with construction of a link to the northern island of Hokkaido underway.

The maximum operating speed is 320 km/h (200 mph) (on a 387.5 km section of the Tōhoku Shinkansen). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets in 2003.

Shinkansen literally means new trunk line, referring to the high-speed rail line network. The name Superexpress, initially used for Hikari trains, was retired in 1972 but is still used in English-language announcements and signage.

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 151 million passengers per year (March 2008), it has transported more passengers (over 5 billion, entire network over 10 billion) than any other high-speed line in the world. Between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, up to thirteen trains per hour with sixteen cars each (1,323-seat capacity) run in each direction with a minimum headway of three minutes between trains. Though largely a long-distance transport system, the Shinkansen also serves commuters who travel to work in metropolitan areas from outlying cities. Japan’s Shinkansen network had the highest annual passenger ridership (a maximum of 353 million in 2007) of any high-speed rail network until 2011, when China’s high-speed rail network surpassed it at 370 million passengers annually.

Technology: To enable high-speed operation, Shinkansen uses advanced technologies compared with conventional rail, and it achieved not only high speed but also a high standard of safety and comfort. Its success has influenced other railways in the world and the importance and advantage of high-speed rail has consequently been revalued.

Routing: Shinkansen routes are completely separate from conventional rail lines (except Mini-shinkansen which goes through to conventional lines). Consequently, Shinkansen is not affected by slower local or freight trains and has the capacity to operate many high-speed trains punctually. The lines have been built without road crossings at grade. Tracks are strictly off-limits with penalties against trespassing strictly regulated by law. It uses tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles rather than around them, with a minimum curve radius of 4,000 meters (2,500 meters on the oldest Tōkaidō Shinkansen).

Track: The Shinkansen uses 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge in contrast to the 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge of older lines. Continuous welded rail and Swingnose crossing points are employed, eliminating gaps at turnouts and crossings. Long rails are used, joined by expansion joints to minimize gauge fluctuation due to thermal elongation and shrinkage.

A combination of ballasted and slab track are used, with slab track exclusively employed on concrete bed sections such as viaducts and tunnels. Slab track is significantly more cost-effective in tunnel sections, since the lower track height reduces the cross-sectional area of the tunnel, thereby reducing construction costs by up to 30%. However, the smaller diameter of Shinkansen tunnels compared to some other high-speed lines has resulted in the issue of tunnel boom becoming a concern for residents living close to tunnel portals.

Signal system: The Shinkansen employs an ATC (Automatic Train Control) system, eliminating the need for trackside signals. It uses a comprehensive system of Automatic Train Protection. Centralized traffic control manages all train operations, and all tasks relating to train movement, track, station and schedule are networked and computerized.

Power: Shinkansen uses a 25,000 V AC overhead power supply (20,000 V AC on Mini-shinkansen lines), to overcome the limitations of the 1,500 V direct current used on the existing electrified narrow-gauge system. Power is distributed along the axles of the train to reduce the heavy axle loads under single power cars.

Trains: Shinkansen trains are electric multiple unit style, offering high acceleration and deceleration, and reduced damage to the track because of lighter vehicles. The coaches are air-sealed to ensure stable air pressure when entering tunnels at high speed.

Punctuality: The Shinkansen is very reliable thanks to several factors, including its near-total separation from slower traffic. In 2012, JR Central reported that the Shinkansen’s average delay from schedule per train was 36 seconds. This includes delays due to uncontrollable causes, such as natural disasters. The record, in 1997, was 18 seconds.

Traction: The Shinkansen has used the electric multiple unit configuration from the outset, with the 0 Series Shinkansen having all axles powered. Other railway manufacturers have traditionally been reluctant, or unable to use distributed traction configurations (e.g. Talgo utilised the locomotive configuration with the AVE Class 102 and plans to continue with it for the Talgo AVRIL on account of the fact that it is not possible to utilise powered bogies as part of the Talgo Pendular system). In Japan significant engineering desirability exists for the electric multiple unit configuration. A greater proportion of motored axles results in higher acceleration, meaning that the Shinkansen does not lose so much time if stopping frequently. Shinkansen lines have more stops in proportion to their lengths than high-speed lines elsewhere in the world.

Safety record: Over the Shinkansen’s 49 year history, carrying nearly 10 billion passengers, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions, despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons. Injuries and a single fatality have been caused by doors closing on passengers or their belongings; attendants are employed at platforms to prevent such accidents. There have, however, been suicides by passengers jumping both from and in front of moving trains.

There have been two derailments of Shinkansen trains in passenger service. The first one occurred during the Chūetsu Earthquake on 23 October 2004. Eight of ten cars of the Toki No. 325 train on the Jōetsu Shinkansen derailed near Nagaoka Station in Nagaoka, Niigata. There were no casualties among the 154 passengers.

Another derailment happened on 2 March 2013 on the Akita Shinkansen when the Komachi No. 25 train derailed in blizzard conditions in Daisen, Akita. No passengers were injured.

In the event of an earthquake, an earthquake detection system can bring the train to a stop very quickly. A new anti-derailment device was installed after detailed analysis of the Jōetsu derailment.

Economics: The Shinkansen has had a significant effect on Japan’s business, economy, society, environment and culture. The time savings alone from switching from a conventional to a high-speed network have been estimated at 400 million hours, an economic impact of ¥500 billion per year. Shinkansen connectivity has rejuvenated rural towns such as Kakegawa that would otherwise be too distant from major cities.

However, the vast construction costs of the Shinkansen network, particularly the later, less profitable lines often driven more by political considerations than actual demand, imposed vast debt servicing costs on JNR that, by 1971, made JNR unprofitable even before depreciation. JNR’s Shinkansen-fueled debt eventually ballooned to ¥28 trillion and was an instrumental factor in the company’s eventual privatization and breakup. The privatized JRs eventually paid a total of only ¥9.2 trillion to acquire JNR’s Shinkansen network.

Environmental impact: Traveling the Tokyo-Osaka line by Shinkansen produces only around 16% of the carbon dioxide of the equivalent journey by car, a saving of 15,000 tons of CO
2 per year.

Challenges encountered

Noise pollution: Noise pollution concerns mean that increasing speed is becoming more difficult. In Japan, the population density is high and there have been severe protests against noise pollution of Shinkansen, and now Shinkansen noise is regulated to less than 70 dB in residential areas. Hence, improvement and reduction of pantograph, weight saving of cars, and construction of noise barriers and other measures have been implemented. Current research is primarily aimed at reducing operational noise, particularly the tunnel boom phenomenon caused when trains transit tunnels at high speed.

Earthquake: Because of the risk of earthquakes, the Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System (UrEDAS) (earthquake warning system) was introduced in 1992. It enables automatic braking of bullet trains in the case of large earthquakes.

Shinkansen technology outside Japan:

Railways using Shinkansen technology are not limited to those in Japan.

Taiwan: Taiwan High Speed Rail operates 700T Series sets built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

China: The China Railways CRH2, built by CSR Sifang Loco & Rolling stocks corporation, with the license purchased from a consortium formed of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Hitachi, is based on the E2-1000 series design.

United Kingdom: Class 395 EMUs were built by Hitachi based on Shinkansen technology for use on high-speed commuter services in Britain on the High Speed 1 line.

Brazil: Japan is currently promoting its Shinkansen technology to the Government of Brazil for use on the planned high-speed rail set to link Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Campinas. On 14 November 2008, Japanese Prime Minister Tarō Asō and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva talked about this rail project. President Lula asked a consortium of Japanese companies to participate in the bidding process. Prime Minister Aso concurred on the bilateral cooperation to improve rail infrastructure in Brazil, including the Rio-São Paulo-Campinas high-speed rail line. The Japanese consortium includes the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Mitsui & Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Toshiba.

United States and Canada: The U.S.Federal Railroad Administration is in talks with a number of countries with high-speed rail, notably Japan, France and Spain. On 16 May 2009, FRA Deputy Chief Karen Rae expressed hope that Japan would offer its technical expertise to Canada and the United States. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood indicated interest in test riding the Japanese Shinkansen in 2009.

On 1 June 2009, JR Central Chairman, Yoshiyuki Kasai, announced plans to export both the N700 Series Shinkansen high-speed train system and the SCMaglev to international export markets, including the United States and Canada.

Vietnam: Vietnam Railways was considering the use of Shinkansen technology for high-speed rail between the capital Hanoi and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, citing an interview with Chief Executive Officer Nguyen Huu Bang. The Vietnamese government had already given basic approval for the Shinkansen system, although it still requires financing and formal consent from the prime minister. Vietnam rejected a funding proposal in 2010, so funding for the $56 billion project is uncertain. Hanoi was exploring additional Japanese funding Official Development Assistance as well as funds from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The 1,560-kilometre (970 mi) line would replace the current colonial-era rail line. Vietnam hopes to launch high-speed trains by 2020 and plans to start by building three sections, including a 90-kilometre stretch between the central coastal cities of Da Nang and Huế, seen as potentially most profitable. Vietnam Railways had sent engineers to Central Japan Railway Company for technical training.

India: India and Japan are conducting feasibility studies on high-speed rail and dedicated freight corridors. The Indian Ministry of Railways’ white-paper Vision 2020 submitted to Indian Parliament by the then Railway Minister Ms.Mamata Banerjee on 18 December 2009 envisages the implementation of regional high-speed rail projects to provide services at 250–350 km/h.

During Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tokyo in December 2006, Japan assured cooperation with India in creating a high-speed link between New Delhi and Mumbai. In January 2009, the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad rode a bullet train travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto.

In December 2013 a Japanese consortium was appointed to undertake a feasibility study of a ~500 km high-speed line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad by July 2015. A total of 7 high-speed lines are in planning stages in India, and Japanese firms have now succeeded in winning contracts to prepare feasibility studies for three of the lines.

In recent visit of India’s Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed hope that India will adopt the Japan model for bullet trains for its upcoming Mumbai-Ahmadabad route. The Shinkansen bullet train system which literally means the ‘new trunk line’ is world’s first system for high speed trains running up to 320 kilometer per hour.

Abe expressed readiness to provide financial, technical and operational support to introduce Shinkansen system. A joint feasibility study by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is underway for high speed train project for the Mumbai-Ahmadabad route. Key multilateral funding agencies like JICA, World Banka and French Rail operator SNCF have expressed interest to participate in the first high speed rail project of India. In the recent rail budget, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda allocated Rs 100 crore for the high speed rail project.

Key senior Railway officials from the High Speed Rail Corporation have also accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his Japan visit. Railways had also conducted a pilot between Delhi-Agra for semi high-speed up to 160 kilometer per hour.

JICA is also funding key infrastructure projects like Western Dedicated Freight Corridor between Mumbai and Delhi and the Delhi Mumbai industrial corridor planned at the along the Western dedicated freight corridor and Chennai Bengaluru industrial corridor.

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