Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The name "Bullet Train" is a Western translation of the Japanese term dangan ressha (弾丸列車), which was the name given to the project while it was initially being developed in the 1940s. Nowadays, the trains are known in Japan as Shinkansen trains. The name Shinkansen literally means "New Trunk Line", and thus should technically refer to the lines and not the trains, which are officially referred to as "Super Expresses". The prefix 'shin' means 'new' in Japanese and oftentimes when building the Shinkansen network, it was not feasible to build it to the already existing station, therefore a second station was built with the 'shin prefix'. For example, Osaka Station serves the Tokaido Line and the Osaka Loop Line, while Shin-Osaka Station also serves the Tokaido Line, but also serves the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Osaka Outer Loop Line currently under construction. Please note that a station name with 'shin' in the name does not necessarily mean that it serves the Shinkansen.
Japan was the first country to build dedicated railway lines for high speed travel. Due to the largely mountainous nature of the country, the pre-existing network consisted of 3 ft 6 in gauge (1067 mm) narrow gauge lines, which generally took indirect routes and could not be adapted to higher speeds. In consequence, Japan had a greater need for new high speed lines than countries where the existing standard gauge or broad gauge rail system had more upgrade potential. In contrast to the older lines, Shinkansen lines are standard gauge, and use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles, rather than around them.
Construction of the first segment of the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka started in 1959. The line opened on October 1, 1964, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The line was an immediate success, reaching the 100 million passenger mark in less than three years on July 13, 1967 and one billion passengers in 1976.
The first Shinkansen trains ran at speeds of up to 200 km/h (125 mph), later increased to 220 km/h (135 mph). Some of these trains, with their classic bullet-nosed appearance, are still in use for stopping services between Hakata and Osaka. A driving car from one of the original trains is now in the British National Railway Museum in York.
Many further models of train followed the first type, generally each with its own distinctive appearance. Shinkansen trains now run regularly at speeds of up to 300 km/h (185 mph), putting them among the fastest trains running in the world, along with the French TGV and German ICE trains.
Originally intended to carry passenger and freight trains by day and night, the Shinkansen lines carry only passenger trains. The system shuts down between midnight and 6:00 every day to allow maintenance to take place, including the running of Doctor Yellow test trains. The few overnight trains that still run in Japan run on the old narrow gauge network which the Shinkansen parallels.
In 2003, JR Tokai reported that the Shinkansen's average arrival time was within 0.1 minute or 6 seconds of the scheduled time. This includes all natural and human accidents and errors and is calculated from all of about 160,000 trips Shinkansen made. The previous record was from 1997 and was 0.3 minutes or 18 seconds.
The first derailment of a Shinkansen train in passenger service occurred during the Chuetsu Earthquake on October 23, 2004. 6 of the total of 8 cars of the train on the Joetsu Shinkansen derailed near Nagaoka Station in Nagaoka, Niigata. However, there were no injuries nor deaths among the passengers.
Although the idea that there have been no fatalities associated with operation of the Shinkansen is widely believed, there have been several incidents, some fatal, during Shinkansen operations. The majority of deaths and injuries have been due to hands or clothing getting caught in closing doors, and the train leaving the platform before anyone notices that a person is stuck. There have also been suicides. There have also been several derailments, but none have resulted in death.
Having said that, there have been no fatalities caused by operational accidents, such as collisions, and given the huge number of passengers (over 3.5 billion) over the decades that the Shinkansen has been in service, its safety record is still impressive.
In recent years, due to noise pollution, increasing speed is getting harder. Thus, the current research is rather aimed to reduce the noise, particularly when trains exit tunnels.
The Kyushu Shinkansen from Kagoshima to Yatsushiro opened in March 2004. Three more extensions are planned for opening by 2013: Hakata-Yatsushiro, Nagano-Kanazawa, and Hachinohe-Aomori. There are also long-term plans to extend the network to Sapporo (through the Seikan Tunnel) and Nagasaki, as well as complete a link from Kanazawa back to Osaka, although none of these are likely to be completed by 2020.
List of Shinkansen lines
The main Shinkansen lines are:
- Tokaido Shinkansen (Tokyo-Shin-Osaka)
- Sanyo Shinkansen (Shin-Osaka-Hakata)
- Tohoku Shinkansen (Tokyo-Hachinohe)
- Joetsu Shinkansen (Omiya-Niigata)
- Hokuriku Shinkansen or Nagano Shinkansen (Takasaki -Nagano )
- Kyushu Shinkansen (Shin-Yatsushiro -Kagoshima-Chuo )
Two further lines, known as Mini-Shinkansen (ミニ新幹線), have also been constructed by upgrading existing sections of line:
Another standard gauge line using Shinkansen trains is not considered to be a Shinkansen line:
The following lines are under development:
- Tohoku Shinkansen (under construction, Hachinohe-Shin-Aomori )
- Hokuriku Shinkansen (under construction, Nagano -Toyama & Isurugi-Kanazawa )
- Kyushu Shinkansen (under construction, Hakata-Shin-Yatsushiro )
- Chuo Shinkansen (maglev, under development)
- Taiwan High Speed Rail (under construction, a railway using Shinkansen technology in the Republic of China)
Most Shinkansen lines that were proposed during the boom of the early 1970s have been postponed indefinitely. These include a link to Shikoku by the Honshu-Shikoku bridge system, a link from Tokyo to New Tokyo International Airport, and a route covering the entire Sea of Japan coast of Honshu.
List of Shinkansen train models
- 0 Series
- 100 Series
- 200 Series
- 300 Series
- 400 Series
- 500 Series
- 700 Series
- 700T Series
- 800 Series
- E1 Series (Max)
- E2 Series
- E3 Series
- E4 Series (Max)
- E5 Series
List of types of Shinkansen services
- Tokaido Shinkansen and Sanyo Shinkansen
- Tohoku Shinkansen, Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen
- Joetsu Shinkansen
- Toki , Max Toki
- Tanigawa ,Max Tanigawa
- Asahi (disused), Max Asahi (disused)
- Hokuriku Shinkansen(Nagano Shinkansen)
- Asama, Max Asama
- Kyushu Shinkansen
- Byun Byun Shinkansen, a comprehensive guide by D.A.J. Fossett
- The Shinkansen Story
- East meets West, a story of how the Shinkansen brought Tokyo and Osaka closer together.
- Shinkansen Photos
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