A new high-speed train capable of traveling at speeds up to 285 km/h (177 mph) will enter service in Japan next month, maintaining the country's standing as a world leader in fast rail travel.
The first eight N700 Shinkansen trains will run on the Tokaido high-speed rail line, linking Tokyo and Osaka, July 1, with 46 more trains to hit the rails by 2009.
The maximum service speed of 270 km/h will let the N700 cover the distance between Japan's two biggest cities in 145 minutes, an improvement of five minutes on the previous model and one that has taken some 15 years to achieve, designers said.
Reduced journey times are partly due to new air suspension technology, which makes the 16-car N700 train tilt 1 degree when passing curves, which means no loss of momentum.
The train's increased capacity is also down to an increase in the number of engines, which have made the new model less power-consuming, and to an extended "aero double wedge" end styling, which is a modification of the previous model's "aero stream" style.
Improvements to the train's interior include an increased number of power sockets for recharging mobile phones and laptop computers, as well as soundproof booths near carriage doors to enable passengers to talk on their mobiles without disturbing other travelers.
Six segregated smoking compartments have been added as part of a plan to make all seating non-smoking.
The first Shinkansen train was built in 1964 and had a top speed of 220 km/h.
The world speed record for a conventional wheeled train - 574.8 km/h (357 mph) - was set by a French TGV on April 3, 2007.
The current unofficial world speed record for a train of any type, 581 km/h (361 mph), was reached by the experimental Japanese JR-Maglev MLX01 magnetic levitation train.