High Speed: The Global Race of Future Trains Starts from Japan

Not only Shinkansen: from Asia to Europe, high-speed trains are development accelerators

Traveling fast, traveling safely, traveling without polluting. The mantra of high-speed is making its way around the world, investments are increasing, and ambitious and futuristic projects are popping up aiming to transform the train into the transport of the future.

A future inhabited by billions of people covering distances once prohibitive, transforming the very concept of space into an absolute variable.

This is what is happening in Japan, where construction of the Chuo Shinkansen has been underway for years now, the latest offspring of the famous train with the elongated nose, ancestor of all high-speed trains. Unlike its parent, the Chuo Shinkansen will reach 550 km/h thanks to Maglev technology, which allows it to float above the rails without touching them, covering the distance between Tokyo and Osaka in just one hour.

A technology on which the Webuild Group is working in Italy, where, as part of a consortium of companies, it has been tasked by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies with studying the realization of the world’s first operational prototype of high-speed ground transportation using magnetic levitation, a new means capable of traveling at the speed of an airplane.

Maglev technology

The innovation that should push the new Shinkansen to run over 500 kilometers per hour did not originate today. The first experiments date back to 1964, right after the inauguration of the first high-speed trains. In those years, in Yamanashi Prefecture, a test area was built, with a prototype train and railway, to experiment with Maglev technology.

In 2013, that route was expanded from the initial 18.4 kilometers to 25 kilometers, precisely along the route identified for the future Chuo Shinkansen, and it was on this route that the world speed record for a train was achieved.

Currently, work continues on the first section of the line, which will go from Tokyo to Nagoya, while environmental assessments are underway for the second section. Once the first section is inaugurated (probably in 2027), work can also begin on the section that should extend the line to Osaka, another of Japan’s major cities.

Building the line is a complex undertaking from many perspectives, not just technological. The train will run under the Japanese Alps, and for this reason, a 25-kilometer railway tunnel is currently under construction, which, once completed, will become the deepest in the country, precisely due to the height of the mountains above it.

Once completed, the project will profoundly change the economic and social landscape of Japan, allowing people to reach the country’s two most important cities in less than an hour. This means effectively creating a huge urban conglomerate, increasing movements and exchanges, and accelerating the economic growth of the two cities.

The impact of high-speed rail around the world

From Japan to Italy, from England to Spain, high-speed rail is not only a modern and sustainable means of transport but also has a significant impact on the economy and development. A study conducted in 2022 in the United States in collaboration between the Mineta Transport Institute and San Jose State University estimates that in the UK, the construction of the HS2 high-speed line will contribute to the creation of 22,000 direct and indirect jobs in the next five years. In Spain, on the other hand, 100,000 jobs will be created in the coming years, while in France, the expansion of the existing line in the city of Bordeaux will create 14,000 new jobs with an 18% increase in regional GDP.

The same applies to Italy, where the high-speed rail network has been one of the country’s strategic infrastructures for years. In these months, Webuild Group is working on the expansion of many lines, such as the one from Naples to Bari in Puglia, the Verona-Padua line, or the Terzo Valico dei Giovi, the high-speed line that will connect Genoa with Milan.