Transportation Deployment Casebook/2018/High Speed Rail Systems (Japan)

Mode DescriptionEdit

High speed rails are a type of train system which provides fast and quick access within a specific network infrastructure. High speed rail systems are significantly faster than traditional rail systems. The first working high-speed rail system, commonly known as the “bullet trains”, was introduced in Japan during 1964. The system has evolved from its predecessors to provide shorter travel times by attaining higher speeds. Conventional high-speed trains can attain speeds up to 400 km/hr but newly developed maglev (magnetic levitation) train systems can reach up to 600 km/hr.

The Shinkansen initiated in 1964. Only two trains were completely operational per hour between Japan’s major transportation hubs at the time, Tokyo and Osaka. Currently the Shinkansen system accommodates approximately 360,000 commuters within 285 high speed trains per day, operating at a maximum permissible speed of 270 km/hr having a total travel time of 2 hours and 30 minutes between the two cities. The Shinkansen is deemed as one of the safest modes of transportation in Japan and across the world, having zero direct fatalities over it 50-year service period. The implementation of such high-speed trains has eliminated the dependence for fossil fuels which has resulted reductions in overall carbon emission levels.

Technological CharacteristicsEdit

High speed rail systems utilise electricity to attain high speeds. The high-speed trains utilise the functionality of overhanging electric cables to power the system. Standard gauge tracks of welded rails along with large turning radii are implemented and designed to support the operation of high speed rails.


There are numerous incentives and disincentives regarding the utilisation of high speed rail systems. Table 1 below highlights such factors which influence the progression of high speed rail systems worldwide.

Table 1: Advantages & Disadvantages of High Speed Rail Systems.

Advantages Disadvantages
Reductions in vehicular traffic. This would reduce on road congestions. In some demographics, where there is little demand for rail systems, high speed rail systems would not be economically and technically justifiable or feasible.
Reductions in traffic emissions. Due to reductions in vehicular traffic, carbon emissions rates would also decline. Expensive to design and implement. Existing tracks, networks and signalling systems must be upgraded. Due to its complexity the high-speed trains are expensive to manufacture.
Increase employment accessibility. The shorter travel time would expansion of such systems will provide a connectiveness within an infrastructure which allows individuals to seek employment opportunities. Due to the costly nature of high speed rails, the passenger ticket prices will also increase. A conventional train ticket (day trip) in Japan costs approximately 2,000 Japanese yen ($25 AUD) but a ticket for a high-speed rail reaches up to 14,000 Japanese yen ($172 AUD)
High speed rail system infrastructure itself would create many job opportunities. Also due to the costly nature, passengers could opt out to other transportation systems which would defy the purpose of the newly implemented system.
Quicker intercity and interstate travel compared to conventional train systems. Significant reduction in travel times.
Increase in time value for commuters. This would impose economic benefits for the society or infrastructure.
Statistically, a safer travel mode compared to conventional rail systems.

Main Market or Target DemographicEdit

Currently, many countries have adopted the concept of high-speed train systems to connect cities, states and even countries. Market focus have been emphasised in major cities within Europe (such as; Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and etc.) and some parts in Asia. The biggest markets for high-speed rail resides within the Asian demographics such as China and Japan. The European high-speed rails are utilised to travel between international borders while Chine emphasises predominantly on local transportation within its own infrastructure.

Prior Transportation SystemsEdit

The Japanese transportation industry, prior to the implementation of high speed rails included the utilisation of automobiles, conventional fossil fuel-based trains, buses and waterway transportations. Due to lack of mines and minerals the importation of fossil fuels from foreign markets was popular within the Japanese infrastructure. Electric train systems were introduced, post WWII, to mitigate from conventional locomotive systems. Due to increased popularity of the automobile during the 1960s, Japanese transportation infrastructure noted significant shifts in passenger travel choices. This lead to increased traffic pollutions, as more people opted for automobiles, which resulted congestion and significant economic disincentives for the Japanese infrastructure. The concept of high-speed rails systems was derived as a solution for this problem. The high-speed rail system was able travel at much faster speeds, compared to its existing locomotive/steam counterpart, thus significantly reducing the commuter travel times whilst providing ecological benefits for society.

Invention & Growth of High Speed TrainsEdit

Hideo Shima was the inventor of the bullet train system. The Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka consisted a narrow gauge which was utilised by express and stopping train services. These gauges were later upgraded to wider gauges which supported high-speed trains. These gauges were levelled to precision continuously to reduce bumps and wobbles. To provide more comfort for the passenger, air conditioning systems were implemented alongside sealed windows (for thermal insulation). Electrical motorisation was utilised to power the train instead of being pulled by a single locomotive engine. The utilisation of electric brakes was deemed ‘safer’ than its mechanical counterpart as mechanical breaking systems would sustain damages if applied at high speeds. However, electric motorisation, gauge expansion and other technological advancements related to high speed trains seemed extremely costly. But since its advantages, as highlighted in section 1 above, outweighed its disincentives, the design and implementation of such systems became more favourable within Japanese transportation infrastructures. Over time the “bullet train” has undergone several design and specification changes, both in the hardware and software departments. Table 2 below highlights the current evolution of the Shinkansen system.

Table 2: Technical Modifications and Evolution of Shinkansen High-Speed Trains.

Model Year of Service Technical Alterations
Series 0 October 1964 – September 1999 Initial model of the bullet train series initiated in 1964. Series 0 was able to attain a maximum speed of 220 km/hr.  
Series 100 October 1985 – September 2003 Evolved from the series 0. Series 100 consisted refined passenger services and consisted first class carriages, private rooms and new amenities. The maximum speed remained at 220 km/hr.
Series 300 March 1992 – March 2012 Series 300 was evolved from Series 100 and was the 2ndgeneration of Shinkansen rolling stock. Series 300 consisted a maximum speed of 270 km/hr and utilised variable voltage variable frequency control units alongside an AC induction motor. The exterior body was comprised of aluminium alloy which made the train lighter than its predecessor.
Series 300X 1995 - 2002 The 300X was utilised to run tests to determine optimum high-speed train systems. The 300X attained a maximum speed of 443 km/hr, which was significantly higher than the series 300 at the time. Technical knowledge was acquired for the development of series 700 and 700A in the future.
Series 700 March 1999 – Present The series 700 was evolved from series 300 and technical knowledge that was acquired from test runs by series 300X was utilised. Series 700 provided more comfort for the commuter through upgraded air-conditioning and amenities. Maximum permissible speed of 285 km/hr as of March 2015, an increase of 15 km/hr from Series 300.
Series N700 & N700A July 2017 – Present   Evolved from the series 700. Increased comfort and efficiency to maximise environmental benefits by consuming 16% less energy compared to its series 700 counterpart which generates approximately 1/12 of CO2 emissions that of an airplane. The maximum permissible speed for 700A increased from 270km/hr to 285 km/hr as of March 2015. Some iterations (by Sanyo) of the 700A reached 300 km/hr.

Early Market DevelopmentEdit

Between 1910 and 1950, the utilisation of trams was the main form of transportation in Tokyo. Gradually the demand increased which opted the implementation of train systems and railroads. Tokyo was chosen as the main hub to construct and expand railroads. This cause Tokyo and its surrounding cities to consist adequate railroad networks while the remainder of Japan lagged behind. After WWII, a population growth was noted which lead to increased demand and the current railroad systems were inadequate to support such ridership. Hence functional enhancements were made by quadrupling rail tracks, overpasses and subway lines. By the early 1960s the demand for trains and subways declined due to advancements in automobile technology. Functional discoveries were made to invest in new technologies, such as high-speed trains, to reduce automobile congestion. The impact of this was great as demand for high-speed rail systems increased, refer to figure 1 below, due to its efficiency and affordability. This also boosted the Japanese economy on the long run.

Initial Policy Implementations (During the Birthing Phase)Edit

The JRTT (Japanese Railway Construction, Transport, Technology Agency) implemented policies to ensure environmental sustainability and preservation. Other policies which were implemented during the birthing phase of high-speed rail systems included; Harmful substance control, private railroad construction, noise pollution.

Growth of ModeEdit

The rail transportation network in Japan showed remarkable development on its infrastructure. Upon the opening of Japans first railway line in 1872, the Japanese government lacked required capital. Simultaneously private sectors were eager to invest on the development and implementation of new and advance technologies. Due to this the Japanese government changed its policies (because the initial policies only permitted public sectors to run the railway system) to also permit private institutions to build and operate railroads. The private railroads expanded to 4674 km by the early 1900s, which was approximately 3.5 times higher than the government railway lines.

Mature Phase DevelopmentEdit

Though the market for high speed rail within Japan is still growing, there’re plans to further develop the existing train technologies. Currently the bullet trains in Japan are driven by electrical counterparts. Due to the technological progresses in magnetic levitation, numerous test models have been implemented. Maglev systems utilises magnetic levitation to propel the train without any contact with the ground below. Due to this there’s a lack of friction which enables the train to gain faster speeds. Consequently, this reduces overall maintenance costs. Manufacturing of maglev trains are currently very costly and the market for it is quite small. Maglev trains are considered the future of high speed rail systems due to its high efficiency and complexity

High-Speed Rail System Life cycle AnalysisEdit

A quantitative analysis for the shinkansen high speed rail system to establish the current life cycle status of high-speed trains.

Mathematical Methodology UsedEdit

Statistical methodologies were utilised to construct a model for high speed trail passenger ridership (in Japan) to observe trends within its birthing, growing and mature phases. A logistic function was utilised to predict a general trend within the high-speed rail market. The results obtained indicated that the market for high-speed rail systems are still growing and increasing at a linear rate. Data prior to 1987 was unable to attain as indicated in figure 1 above.

Three variable logistic functionEdit

S(t) = K/[1+exp(-b(t-t0)]


S(t);Passenger Ridership per year.

T= Time in years

T0;the inflection period where 0.5K is achieved.

K; Saturation of the Ridership

b; is a constant

Single variable linear regression modelEdit

Linear regression model was derived from the logistic function stated above to estimate coefficients ‘c’ and ‘b’ shown in the model below.

Y = bX + c  

By manipulating the logistic function, the following parameters for the linear model was derived.

Y= ln[Passenger Ridership/K – Passenger Ridership]

b= gradient/coefficient

X= T, time in years

c= constant, b*t0

Life Cycle ModelEdit

Figure 1: Life Cycle Model for the Japanese High-Speed Rail Systems.

[Graph was unable to be imported due to technical reasons, a hyperlink was created above instead. Please click the link above to view the lifecycle model].

Model Computations & AccuracyEdit

The logistic model was manipulated to derive a linear expression to determine system saturation and coefficient ‘b’.

Given,S(t) = K/[1+exp(-b(t-t0)]

b(t - t0) = ln[s(t)/K – s(t)]

Where, y= ln[s(t)/K – s(t)], X= t, c= bt0, and b represented the gradient of the linear regression model.

Through the aid of “solver” function in excel, necessary statistical and mathematical manipulations and computations were done to estimate values for the following variables.

Table 3: Logistic Parameter Values.

Parameter Value
K (saturation of system) 293.8 (in million passengers/year)
b (coefficient) 0.017

Simultaneously, an R2 value of approximately 0.73 was attained for the 29 datasets (passenger ridership per year) which was utilised. The data above analyse the lifecycle of the shinkansen series 0 (initial model) from 1987. Early passenger data during the 1970s was unable to attain due to track work between 1971 - 1985. Hence accurate and reliable data analyse was unable to conduct during its birthing phase. The lifecycle analysis of the shinkansen system was carried out from 1987 - 2016 since there were no data losses or gaps. Initial birthing data from 1965 - 1970 was incorporated with the modeling but its corresponding R squared value was significantly lower (approximately 0.53) hence deemed to be an unreliable analysis.


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