Japanese“New Trunk Line”

      pioneer Japanese (Japan) high-speed passenger rail system, with lines on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Originally built and operated by the government-owned Japanese National Railways, it has been part of the private Japan Railways Group since 1987.

      The first section of the original line, a 320-mile (515-km) stretch between Tokyo and Ōsaka known as the New Tōkaidō Line, was opened in 1964. Many innovations, such as the use of prestressed concrete ties and mile-long welded sections of track, were introduced in its construction. A 100-mile (160-km) extension of that line westward from Ōsaka to Okayama was completed in 1972, and its final segment, a 244-mile (393-km) stretch between Okayama and the Hakata station in Fukuoka, northern Kyushu, opened in 1975. Other lines radiating northward from Tokyo were completed in 1982 to the cities of Niigata and Morioka, the Morioka line subsequently being extended northward to Hachinohe in 2002. Branches from the Morioka line to Yamagata opened in 1992 and to Akita in 1997; a branch from the Niigata line to Nagano also opened in 1997. In addition, a line was completed between Yatsushiro and Kagoshima in southwestern Kyushu in 2004; work has been underway since the late 1990s to extend the line northward from Yatsushiro to Hakata.

      Much of the system's track runs through tunnels, including one under Shimonoseki Strait between Honshu and Kyushu, and another on the Tokyo-Niigata line, which is 14 miles (23 km) long. Several hundred trains operate daily on the Shinkansen system. The most frequent service is between Tokyo and Ōsaka, especially during the morning and evening rush hours, when trains depart at intervals of 10 minutes or less. The fastest trains can make the trip from Tokyo to Hakata in about 5 hours. The electric, multiple-unit trains, which can seat 1,000 passengers or more, derive their power from an overhead wire system. Trains originally reached top speeds of 130 miles (210 km) per hour, but improvements in track, train cars, and other components have made possible maximum speeds of between 150 and 185 miles (240 and 300 km) per hour. Such high speeds made it necessary to develop elaborate safety features. Each car, for example, is equipped with brakes consisting of cast-iron disks and metallic pad linings specially designed not to distort under emergency braking. Moreover, all movements of the trains are monitored and controlled by a central computerized facility in Tokyo.

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Universalium. 2010.

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