Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters after inspecting a maglev train system at the Yamanashi Experiment Center in Tsuru Saturday. Japan is reportedly willing to send the technology to the U.S. without a fee. Kazuhiro Nogi/AP
The technology behind Japan’s magnetically levitated train system, which whooshes passengers to their destinations at speeds topping 300 mph, could come to the U.S. without a traditional license fee, according to Japanese media outlets.
Japan is also willing to include billions in loans to help underwrite what would be a very expensive project, a government source tells The Japan Times.
Here’s more from the newspaper:
“Tokyo is considering the possibility in order to realize a maglev high-speed train service linking Washington and Baltimore, Maryland, the source said.
“Japan has also unofficially offered loans worth about ¥500 billion [nearly $5 billion] to help bring about the service, which is expected to require about ¥1 trillion [$9.8 billion] in investments.”
An official offer of the technology to the U.S. could come when President Obama visits Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 24, the newspaper adds. The two also discussed the technology last February, officials say.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy joined Abe for a ride on a maglev test train this weekend, floating above the tracks as the train whisked along at more than 310 mph.
“It was wonderful,” Kennedy said after the trip, “and I think that this technology is something that will bring great benefit to Japan, and hopefully the U.S. someday.”
Other U.S. politicians tried out the maglev system last November, including former New York Gov. George Pataki, who’s part of Northeast Maglev, a U.S. company that wants to create a route from Washington to New York City.
Slate’s Future Tense blog discussed that project:
“The promise: New York to D.C. in an hour flat. That would be an hour and 40 minutes faster than today’s 150-mph Amtrak Acela trains, which are (rather pathetically) the fastest in the United States. In most cases, it would also be significantly faster than flying.”
But that article also noted the struggles faced by Amtrak here in the U.S., asking, “The real question is: Does this have a real chance of happening anytime soon?
Japan is still refining the maglev technology on a test track; the Central Japan Railway hopes to open a maglev route between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027.