Japan's maglev train notches up new world speed record

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's state-of-the-art maglev train set a world speed record Tuesday in a test run near Mount Fuji, clocking more than 600 kilometres an hour.

The seven-car maglev - short for "magnetic levitation" - train, hit a top speed of 603 kilometres an hour, and managed nearly 11 seconds over 600kph Central Japan Railway said.

The new record came less than a week after the company clocked 590kph, by breaking its own 2003 record of 581 kph.

The maglev hovers 10 centimetres above the tracks and is propelled by electrically charged magnets.

-- Video from the Yamanashi Prefecture Maglev Exhibition Centre

JR Central wants to have a train in service in 2027 plying the route between Tokyo and the central city of Nagoya, a distance of 286 kilometres.

The service, which would run at a top speed of 500 kilometres per hour, is expected to connect the two cities in only 40 minutes, less than half the present journey time in the shinkansen bullet trains.

By 2045 maglev trains are expected to link Tokyo and Osaka in just one hour and seven minutes, slashing the journey time in half.

However, construction costs for the dedicated lines are astronomical - estimated at nearly US$100 billion just for the stretch to Nagoya, with more than 80 percent of the route expected to go through costly tunnels.

Japan is looking to sell its shinkansen bullet and magnetic train systems overseas with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acting as travelling salesman in chief in his bid to revive the Japanese economy partly through infrastructure exports.

He is due in the United States this weekend, where he will be touting the technology for a high speed rail link between New York and Washington.