Tuesday, April 13
The Shinkansen also known as "the bullet train" is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group companies. Starting with the 210 km/h (130 mph) Tōkaidō Shinkansen in 1964, the now 2,459 km (1,528 mi) long network has expanded to link most major cities on the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets in 2003.
Shinkansen literally means "New Trunk Line", referring to the tracks, but the name is widely used inside and outside Japan to refer to the trains as well as the system as a whole. The name "Superexpress", initially used for Hikari trains, was retired in 1972 but is still used in English-language announcements and signage.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world's busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 151 million passengers a year (March 2008). it has transported more passengers (over 6 billion) than any other high speed line in the world. Between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, up to ten trains per hour with 16 cars each (1,300 seats capacity) run in each direction with a minimum of 3 minutes between trains. Though largely a long-distance transport system, the Shinkansen also serves commuters who travel to work in metropolitan areas from outlying cities.