Superconducting Maglev – Development and Progress Toward Revenue Service

Naoyuki Ueno

Date & Time

Fri, August 15, 2014


The Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV) is a next-generation transportation system that levitates and accelerates by the magnetic force generated between the onboard superconducting magnets and the coils attached to the guideway, enabling stable ultra-high speed operation at a speed of 500 km/h (311 mph). This cutting-edge technology is currently developed by JR Central, a railway company in Japan operating the Tokaido Shinkansen and surrounding conventional lines. The SCMAGLEV uses linear synchronous motor (LSM) for propulsion and electro-dynamic suspension (EDS) for levitation and guidance. The key component of this system is the onboard superconducting magnet, which houses niobium-titanium alloy cooled by liquid helium at -269°C (-452°F). By adopting powerful and energy efficient superconducting magnet, SCMAGLEV can levitate with a large air gap of 10 cm (4 in) and thus can safely operate at an ultra-high speed in the earthquake-prone Japan. Research on a linear motor propulsion magnetically levitated railway system began in 1962 in Japan. From 1997, running tests are conducted on the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line (18.4 km or 11.4 miles), and implemented various tests including multiple train operation tests, high-speed passing tests, one-day continuous running tests, etc. On December 2003, the world speed record of 581 km/h (361 mph) is achieved with a manned vehicle. In July 2009, the Maglev Technological Practicality Evaluation Committee under the Japanese government has acknowledged that “the technologies of the Superconducting Maglev have been established comprehensively and systematically.”  JR Central is currently promoting a new high-speed line called Chuo Shinkansen with using SCMAGLEV system. As a bypass route to the current Tokaido Shinkansen, the Chuo Shinkansen will connect Japan’s principal metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. It is planned to start revenue operation between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 and further extension to Osaka in 2045, and the travel time between Tokyo to Osaka will be shortened to 67 minutes where current Tokaido Shinkansen takes 2 hours and 30 minutes. In 2011, MLIT designated JR Central as the operator and constructor of the Chuo Shinkansen and instructed to construct. JR Central is now promoting the assessment of environmental impact, and after completion of the assessment procedure, the actual construction will take place. Meanwhile, running tests on the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line were temporarily suspended from September 2011 for full renewal and extension to a length of 42.8 km (26.6 miles). From August 2013, running test has resumed with a new vehicle called Series L0 (L zero), which is the first generation SCMAGLEV rolling stock that is designed to meet the revenue service specifications. We will present the development of the SCMAGLEV and the recent progress on the Chuo Shinkansen development toward revenue service. 


Naoyuki Ueno

10 (Asia and Pacific)