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The Shinkansen (新幹線) is a network of high speed rail lines in Japan, upon which the famous "Bullet Trains" run.

Shinkansen 0 Series at Fukuyama Station, April 2002

Shinkansen 500 Series at Kyoto Station, April 2002

The Shinkansen is run by Japan Railway, formerly a parastatal company (Japan National Railways) but now a private consortium.

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".

Table of contents
1 History
2 List of Shinkansen lines
3 System map
4 List of Shinkansen train models
5 List of types of Shinkansen services
6 External link


Japan is the first country that constructed dedicated railway lines for high speed travel. Due to the largely mountainous nature of the country, the pre-existing network consisted of 3'6" gauge (1067 mm) narrow gauge lines which generally took indirect routes and could not be adapted to higher speeds. There was, therefore, a greater need for new high speed lines than in most countries where the existing standard gauge rail system had more potential to be upgraded. In contrast to the existing lines, the Shinkansen lines are standard gauge, and use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles, rather than around them.

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.

The first Shinkansen trains ran at speeds of up to 200 km/h, later increased to 220 km/h. 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, putting them among the fastest trains running in the world, along with the French TGV and German ICE trains.

The prefix 'shin' means 'new' in Japanese. The prefix is used to distinguish the railway station serving Shinkansen trains in towns where it is in a different location to the regular station, as in Shin-Osaka station.

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 a tunnel.

The Kyushu Shinkansen from Kagoshima to Yatsushiro is scheduled to open in 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

Note: The above two lines are called "Mini-Shinkansen".

Note: The Hakata Minami Line is not treated as a Shinkansen line.

System map

List of Shinkansen train models

List of types of Shinkansen services

External link