Central Japan Railway Co (JR Tokai) has begun trials on a new series of “levitating” high-speed trains that will whisk passengers between Nagoya and Tokyo in under an hour.

The “LO series”, the world’s fastest linear train at 500 kph (310 mph), floats above a magnetic track platform using magnetic levitation, or maglev.

After trial runs of the five-car maglev trains on the 42.8 km-long test track in Yamanashi Prefecture on Thursday, JR Tokai said it would begin work on the 5.1 trillion yen ($52 billion) Nagoya-Tokyo line as early as April.

The maglev trains will traverse the 286-km journey in as little as 40 minutes – down from the 95 minutes it usually takes on the Shinkansen.

Test runs will take place until fiscal 2016, during which time JR Tokai plans to test 12-car maglev trains. Commercial operations will likely start in 2027.

But the trains will complement the Shinkansen bullet-train networks rather than replace them.

JR Tokai predicts the maglev service will help persuade people to fly less and reduce reliance on road transportation.

Plans to extend the network of “LO series” from Tokyo to Osaka by 2045 are also in the works.

“Tokyo is becoming more expensive and crowded, and so companies might move some operations to Osaka once it opens. It all depends on the frequency and capacity of the maglev trains,” Ryota Himeno, an analyst at Barclays Securities Japan Ltd, said.

by Maesie Bertumen

Image: sebra / Shutterstock.com