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2016 UPDATE

A Japanese magnetic levitation train has broken its own world speed record, hitting 603kph (374mph) in a test run near Mount Fuji.

The train beat the 590kph speed it had set last week in another test.

Maglev trains use electrically charged magnets to lift and move carriages above the rail tracks.

Central Japan Railway (JR Central), which owns the trains, wants to introduce the service between Tokyo and the central city of Nagoya by 2027.

The 280km journey would take only about 40 minutes, less than half the current time.

However, passengers will not get to experience the maglev’s record-breaking speeds because the company said its trains will operate at a maximum of 505kph.

In comparison, the fastest operating speed of a Japanese shinkansen, or “bullet train” is is 320kph.

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japans-maglev-train-with-600kmph-speed

2014 story: The first passengers have travelled at an incredible 500kph on a hovering bullet train in Japan. The 43km trip went by in a flash for the 100 passengers as the train, which “floats” above tracks using magnetic levitation, hit speeds of 500kph.

japans-floating-train-reaches-600kmph-speed

Maglev – short for magnetic levitation – rely on magnets rather than wheels, axles and bearings to carry vehicles and therefore require less maintenance and are less affected by the weather.

They are, however, more expensive to build, which has led opponents to accuse them of being white elephants.

Maglev trains are even faster than Japan’s famous bullet trains, which currently travel at about 320kph.

Japan’s reputation for high-speed rail started in 1964 with the unveiling of its first bullet train coinciding with the Summer Olympics.

The central line in the country – the Tokaido Shinkansen – is the world’s busiest high-speed rail, carrying 151 million passengers each year.

December 2016: China’s first self-made maglev train records 1.5 million passengers in Central China’s Hunan province. The 18.55km railway began construction in 2014. – People’s Daily, China

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Source: BBC report. Graphics from WSJ and BBC.

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