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Japan OKs maglev high-speed rail line between Tokyo, Osaka

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Japanese officials have approved the construction of a maglev train line between Tokyo and Osaka.

Japanese officials have approved the construction of a high-speed maglev train line between Tokyo and Osaka, Environment News Service reports.

Transport minister Akihiro Ohata gave Central Japan Railway the green light last week, setting in motion a 9 trillion yen (approx. $111.4 billion) project that began in the 1970s.

The superconducting maglev train -- "maglev" is short for magnetic levitation, allowing the trains to avoid touching ground -- would cover the 320-mile span between the two cities in just 67 minutes, topping out at 313 miles per hour. Employing the opposing forces of superconducting magnets and coils to avoid rail friction, maglev trains are considered among the fastest in the world.

The 14 new Series L0 trains are expected to begin operation between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 -- a 40-minute commute -- and Tokyo and Osaka in 2045.

For now, the trains are undergoing testing on an 11-mile test track in Yamanashi, which is currently under construction to be extended to more than 26 miles.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was certainly impressed on a visit to the test track last May. He wrote on the department's Fast Lane blog:

I have to say, those trains are fast. Very fast....those of us who saw the Japanese trains are impressed with the railroad system in Japan. And we do look forward to opportunities to partner in America with experienced rail companies from abroad. But we're only interested in partnerships that use American workers in American facilities.

Here's hoping to see maglev Stateside.

[via Planetizen]

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure