The SCMaglev (superconducting maglev, formerly called the MLU) is a magnetic levitation (maglev) railway system developed by Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) and the Railway Technical Research Institute.[1][2][3]

L0 Series maglev train at Yamanashi test track

On 21 April 2015, a manned seven-car L0 Series SCMaglev train reached a speed of 603 km/h (375 mph), less than a week after the same train clocked 590 km/h (370 mph), breaking the previous land speed record for rail vehicles of 581 km/h (361 mph) set by a JR Central MLX01 maglev train in December 2003.[4]


Levitation system
Guidance system
Propulsion system
An illustration of the SCMaglev levitation and propulsion system
MLX01 maglev train Superconducting magnet bogie
Levitation and guidance coils

The SCMaglev system uses an electrodynamic suspension (EDS) system. The trains' bogies have superconducting magnets installed, and the guideways contain two sets of metal coils. The current levitation system utilizes a series of coils wound into a "figure 8" along both walls of the guideway. These coils are also cross-connected underneath the track.[3]

As the train accelerates, the magnetic fields of its superconducting magnets induce a current into these coils due to the magnetic field induction effect. If the train were centered with the coils, the electrical potential would be balanced and no currents would be induced. However, as the train runs on rubber wheels at relatively low speeds, the magnetic fields are positioned below the center of the coils, causing the electrical potential to no longer be balanced. This creates a reactive magnetic field opposing the superconducting magnet's pole (in accordance with Lenz's law), and a pole above that attracts it. Once the train reaches 150 km/h (93 mph), there is sufficient current flowing to lift the train 100 mm (4 in) above the guideway.[3]

These coils also generate guiding and stabilizing forces. Because they are cross-connected underneath the guideway, if the train moves off-center, currents are induced into the connections that correct its positioning.[3] SCMaglev also utilizes a linear synchronous motor (LSM) propulsion system, which powers a second set of coils in the guideway.


Japanese National Railways (JNR) began research on a linear propulsion railway system in 1962 with the goal of developing a train that could travel between Tokyo and Osaka in one hour.[5] Shortly after Brookhaven National Laboratory patented superconducting magnetic levitation technology in the United States in 1969, JNR announced development of its own superconducting maglev (SCMaglev) system. The railway made its first successful SCMaglev run on a short track at its Railway Technical Research Institute in 1972.[6] JR Central plans on exporting the technology, pitching it to potential buyers.[7]

Miyazaki test trackEdit

In 1977, SCMaglev testing moved to a new 7 km test track in Hyūga, Miyazaki. By 1980, the track was modified from a "reverse-T" shape to the "U" shape used today. In April 1987, JNR was privatized, and Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) took over SCMaglev development.

In 1989, JR Central decided to build a better testing facility with tunnels, steeper gradients, and curves.[6] After the company moved maglev tests to the new facility, the company's Railway Technical Research Institute began to allow testing of ground effect trains, an alternate technology based on aerodynamic interaction between the train and the ground, at the Miyazaki Test Track in 1999.[citation needed]

Yamanashi maglev test lineEdit

Construction of the Yamanashi maglev test line began in 1990. The 18.4 km (11.4 mi) "priority section" of the line in Tsuru, Yamanashi, opened in 1997. MLX01 trains were tested there from 1997 to fall 2011, when the facility was closed to extend the line to 42.8 km (26.6 mi) and to upgrade it to commercial specifications.[8]

Commercial useEdit


In 2009, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism decided that the SCMaglev system was ready for commercial operation. In 2011, the ministry gave JR Central permission to operate the SCMaglev system on their planned Chūō Shinkansen linking Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027, and to Osaka by 2037. Construction is currently underway.

United StatesEdit

Since 2010, JR Central has promoted the SCMaglev system in international markets, particularly the Northeast Corridor of the United States, as the Northeast Maglev.[1] In 2013, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe met with the 44th U.S. President Barack Obama and offered to provide the first portion of the SC Maglev track free, a distance of approximately 40 miles.[9] In 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded $27.8 million to the Maryland Department of Transportation to prepare preliminary engineering and NEPA analysis for an SCMaglev train between Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC.[10]


In late 2015, JR Central partnered with Mitsui and General Electric in Australia to form a joint venture named Consolidated Land and Rail Australia to provide a commercial funding model using private investors that could build the SC Maglev (linking Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne), create 8 new self-sustaining inland cities linked to the high speed connection, and contribute to the community.[11][12]


ML100 preserved at the RTRI facility in Kokubunji, Tokyo, October 2015
ML500 1979 world speed record holder of 517 km/h (321 mph) preserved at the RTRI facility in Kokubunji, Tokyo, October 2015. Similar model burned after a fire at Kyushu Test Track in 1979, leading to redesign as MLU series vehicles
MLU001's superconducting magnet and a liquid helium tank on top of it
JR–Maglev MLX01-1 at SCMaglev and Railway Park, Nagoya, April 2013
MLX01-3 preserved at the RTRI facility in Kokubunji, Tokyo, October 2015
  • 1972 – LSM200
  • 1972 – ML100
  • 1975 – ML100A
  • 1977 – ML500
  • 1979 – ML500R (remodeled ML500)
  • 1980 – MLU001
  • 1987 – MLU002
  • 1993 – MLU002N
  • 1995 – MLX01 (MLX01-1, 11, 2)
  • 1997 – MLX01 (MLX01-3, 21, 12, 4)
  • 2002 – MLX01 (MLX01-901, 22)
  • 2009 – MLX01 (MLX01-901A, 22A: remodeled 901 and 22)
  • 2013 – L0 Series Shinkansen
  • 2020 – Revised L0 Series Shinkansen
No. Type Note Built
MLX01-1 Kōfu-end car with double-cusp head Displayed at the SCMaglev and Railway Park 1995
MLX01-11 Standard intermediate car
MLX01-2 Tokyo-end car with aero-wedge head
MLX01-3 Kōfu-end car with aero-wedge head Displayed at the Railway Technical Research Institute 1997
MLX01-21 Long intermediate car
MLX01-12 Standard intermediate car
MLX01-4 Tokyo-end car with double-cusp head
MLX01-901A Kōfu-end car with long head Remodeled and renamed from MLX01-901 in 2009 2002
MLX01-22A Long intermediate car Remodeled and renamed from MLX01-22 in 2009


Manned recordsEdit

Speed [km/h (mph)] Train Type Location Date Comments
60 (37) ML100 Maglev RTRI of JNR 1972
400.8 (249.0) MLU001 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track February 1987 Two-car train set. Former world speed record for maglev trains.
394.3 (245.0) MLU002 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track November 1989 Single-car
411 (255) MLU002N Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track February 1995 Single-car
531 (330) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, Japan 12 December 1997 Three-car train set. Former world speed record for maglev trains.
552 (343) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 14 April 1999 Five-car train set. Former world speed record for maglev trains.
581 (361) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 2 December 2003 Three-car train set. Former world speed record for all trains.
590 (367) L0 series Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 16 April 2015 Seven-car train set.[13] Former world speed record for all trains.
603 (375) L0 series Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 21 April 2015 Seven-car train set. Current world speed record for all trains.[4]

Unmanned recordsEdit

Speed [km/h (mph)] Train Type Location Date Comments
504 (313.2) ML-500 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track 12 December 1979
517 (321.2) ML-500 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track 21 December 1979
352.4 (219.0) MLU001 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track January 1986 Three-car train set
405.3 (251.8) MLU001 Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track January 1987 Two-car train set
431 (267.8) MLU002N Maglev Miyazaki Maglev Test Track February 1994 Single-car
550 (341.8) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 24 December 1997 Three-car train set
548 (340.5) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 18 March 1999 Five-car train set

Relative passing speed recordsEdit

Speed [km/h (mph)] Train Type Location Date Comments
966 (600) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line December 1998 Former world relative passing speed record
1,003 (623) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line November 1999 Former world relative passing speed record
1,026 (638) MLX01 Maglev Yamanashi Maglev Test Line 16 November 2004 Current world relative passing speed record

See alsoEdit


  • Hood, Christopher P. (2006). Shinkansen – From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32052-6.
  1. ^ a b Central Japan Railway Company (11 May 2010). Test Ride of Superconducting Maglev by the US Secretary of Transportation, Mr. Ray LaHood.
  2. ^ Central Japan Railway Company (2012). "Central Japan Railway Company Annual Report 2012" (PDF). pp. 23–25. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d He, J.L.; Rote, D.M.; Coffey, H.T. (1994). "Study of Japanese Electrodynamic-Suspension Maglev Systems". NASA Sti/Recon Technical Report N. Argonne National Laboratory. 94: 37515. Bibcode:1994STIN...9437515H. doi:10.2172/10150166. OSTI 10150166.
  4. ^ a b McCurry, Justin (21 April 2015). "Japan's Maglev Train Breaks World Speed Record with 600 km/h Test Run". The Guardian (U.S. ed.). New York.
  5. ^ The airline distance between Tokyo and Osaka is 397 kilometres (247 mi). To achieve an average speed of 397 km/h, such a train would need to be capable of speeds in excess of 500 km/h to allow for acceleration and deceleration times, intermediate stops, and additional distance incurred by a land route.
  6. ^ a b U.S.-Japan Maglev (2012). "History". USJMAGLEV. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Japanese rail company eyes exports to cover maglev costs". Nikkei Asian Review.
  8. ^ Central Japan Railway Company (2012). "The Chuo Shinkansen Using the Superconducting Maglev System" (PDF). Data Book 2012. pp. 24–25.
  9. ^ Pfanner, Eric (19 November 2013). "Japan Pitches Its High-Speed Train With an Offer to Finance". The New York Times (New York ed.). p. B8.
  10. ^ "Baltimore-Washington Superconducting Maglev Project - Background".
  11. ^ "General Electric, Japan Rail and Mitsui all aboard high-speed rail proposal". Financial Review. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Consolidated Land and Rail Australia Pty Ltd". Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  13. ^ リニアが世界最速590キロ 長距離走行記録も更新 [Maglev sets new world record of 590 km/h - Also sets new distance record]. Sankei News (in Japanese). Japan: The Sankei Shimbun & Sankei Digital. 16 April 2015. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Heller, Arnie (June 1998). "A New Approach for Magnetically Levitating Trains—and Rockets". Science & Technology Review.
  • Henry H. Kolm; Richard D. Thornton (October 1973). "Electromagnetic Flight". Scientific American. Springer Nature. 229 (4): 17–25. Bibcode:1973SciAm.229d..17K. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1073-17.

External linksEdit

  • SCMAGLEV Website
  • Central Japan Railway Company SCMAGLEV Official Website
  • Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI)
  • RTRI Maglev website
  • The Northeast Maglev
  • SCMaglev trains
  • U.S.-Japan MAGLEV
  • Project information by The International Maglev Board

Coordinates: 35°35′N 138°56′E / 35.583°N 138.933°E / 35.583; 138.933