Japan launches 300km/h bullet train

2011-03-05 16:50

Tokyo - Japan's latest bullet train, the thin-nosed "Hayabusa" or Falcon, made its 300km/h debut on Saturday, boasting a luxury carriage modelled on airline business class.

Japan has built up a network of cutting-edge Shinkansen train lines since the 1960s that criss-cross the island nation and now hopes to sell the infrastructure technology abroad, including to the United States.

The latest ultra-fast tech-marvel will make two trips a day from Tokyo to Aomori, a scenic rural backwater on the northern tip of the main Honshu island that has until now been off Japan's bullet train map. It will also make one more trip a day to Sendai, located between Tokyo and Aomori.

Mutsutake Otsuka stressed the engineering sophistication of the new ride.

"To the best of our ability, we will strive to improve Hayabusa's passenger comfort, safety and environmental friendliness, not just its speed," he told hundreds of people who came to Tokyo station to see the futuristic train.

The mood at the launch was dampened slightly by a seven minute delay to the first service after a passenger fell from the platform at Tokyo station, where more than 1 000 train hobbyists rushed to take pictures.

The train was not moving at the time, and the man climbed back up to the platform unaided.

The green-and-silver E5 series Hayabusa travels at up to 300km/h to make the 675km trip to Aomori in three hours and 10 minutes. From next year, it will push its top speed to 320km/h per hour to become Japan's fastest train.

Those willing to pay ¥26 360 for a one-way trip can enjoy the comfort of a "GranClass" car, where a cabin attendant will serve them drinks and food in their deeply reclining leather seats on thick woollen carpets.

Japan has also been developing a magnetic levitation or maglev train that, its operator says, reached a world record speed of 581km/h in 2003 on a test track near Mount Fuji in Tsuru, west of Tokyo.