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A Japanese train just broke the world's speed record

A previous model of JR Central's maglev train, which was capable of traveling at 361 miles per hour.
A previous model of JR Central's maglev train, which was capable of traveling at 361 miles per hour.
(Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

A Japanese bullet train just broke the all-time speed record for rail vehicles — with JR Central, the company that owns the train, saying it traveled at 366 miles per hour.

The feat, accomplished on Thursday on a test track in Yamanashi prefecture, was reported by Jun Hongo of the Wall Street Journal. The previous record, set by a French train in 2007, was 357 mph.

The Japanese train is able to travel so fast partly because it hovers over the tracks, with powerful magnets lifting it and cutting down on friction. Here's a clip of the same train being tested earlier this year:

Company officials say the train can go even faster, and predict it could hit 372 mph during another test next week. It should eventually be used for a new line that will connect Tokyo and Nagoya, with trains routinely traveling as fast as 313 mph, cutting the travel time to 40 minutes.

By comparison, the fastest currently operating train in the US is Amtrak's Acela, which runs at 150 mph for very brief segments of track in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. However, the majority of the Northeast line runs at 110 mph or slower, and most other parts of Amtrak's network run at decidedly lower speeds.

There are lots of proposals for high-speed lines in the Northeast and elsewhere, but very few have gotten off the ground. California's high-speed rail network, now under construction, will have peak speeds of 200 miles per hour, but its San Francisco–to–Los Angeles segment isn't scheduled to open until 2029.

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