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Japan's JR East railway operator has started testing the world's fastest bullet train dubbed ALFA-X (Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail eXperimentation), which is capable of reaching 400km/h. The Alfa-X features an extremely long 22-metre (72-feet) nose section, the longest fitted to a Bullet train since the service was introduced in 1964.
The new 250-metre long, 10-car ALFA-X trainset starts testing today with test runs set to occur on the Tohoku Shinkansen line between the cities of Sendai and Aomori in northeastern Japan, which are around 280 kilometres apart. JR East will test the ALFA-X twice a week post midnight (the railway lines for Bullet Trains are shut between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. for maintainence).
The testing cycle for the new ALFA-X Bullet Train (officially Class E956) will continue for a period of three years with the train expected to hit speeds of 400km/h. However,when it does go into operation in 2030, the Class E956 Shinkansen will run at speeds of up to 360km/h. This would make the production ALFA-X trainset the fastest in the world operating on railway tracks. China's Fuxing train which has a similar top speed of 400km/h currently has an operational top speed of 350km/h.
To bring the ultra-fast bullet train to a halt quickly, JR East has fitted the train with electromagnetic rail brakes and roof-mounted aerodynamic brakes dubbed which are intended to bring the train to a rapid halt if an earthquake occurs. These aero brakes dubbed 'cat ears' can bring the train to a halt from its top speed in just four kilometers.
While the ALFA-X could claim the record for the fastest train on rails, it is still quite a way off from claiming the record for the fastest train in thw world, a record that is currently held by the Shanghai Maglev train that connects the Chinese city to its airport. Shanghai Maglev trains have a top speed of 430km/h.
However, experimental trains have gone faster than the Chinese Maglev before. The current record top speed on steel wheels was recorded on 3rd April, 2007 when a five car french TGV train hit a top speed of 574.8km/h. The outright speed record for a train is currently held by the L0 series magnetic levitation Shinkansen train which hit a top speed of 603km/h at the Yamanashi Test Track on the 21st of April 2015.