Another feature of the N700A is a fixed-speed travel device that automatically speeds up or slows down the train taking into consideration changing land conditions ahead on the line. The device stores in itself all data about steepness, bends and tunnels waiting down the line, calculates their impact on the running of a train and generates signals giving proper speed instructions. In normal times, Shinkansen trains are driven manually without the fixed-speed travel device online. But when the timetable is disrupted in bad weather, the device is switched on, allowing recovery from train delays much faster than before.
The driver's seat of an N700A model
About 120,000 Shinkansen trains run on the Tokaido line every year, but they log an amazingly short delay of 36 seconds per train operated on average. The use of the new speed device will make Shinkansen train runs even more accurate.
The N700A is also an energy-saving train, consuming 19% less power than Shinkansen models introduced in 1999. It generates power rather than consuming it thanks to various technological improvements, including a motor that converts friction energy caused by braking into electricity, a system called “power regenerative braking.” The generated power is then supplied to other trains via overhead wires for use in acceleration.
Fastest Shinkansen at 320 km/h
The E5 series is the fastest Shinkansen model in Japan, running at 320 km/h. (Photo courtesy of East Japan Railway Co.)
The E5 series Shinkansen model, given nicknames such as Hayabusa (falcon), has been introduced to the Tohoku Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori since 2011. It travels at 320 km/h, the fastest train in Japan. It is complete with the latest state-of-the-art technological innovations, including a driver's seat-housing long nose, 15 meters in length, designed to curtail noise at high speed. Even the train's wheels are made invisible with covers to reduce air resistance. Moreover, the newest suspension system has been installed to shield passengers from vibration. The body is painted in two-tone colors, green and white, with a pink line in between extending from head to tail, giving it a visibly "speedy" effect.
The new E6 series model has a color scheme patterned after Namahage, a red-faced ogre depicted in the folklore of the Tohoku region. (Photo courtesy of East Japan Railway Co.)
Since March 2013, the E6 series train, nicknamed Super Komachi (lovely girl), has been introduced to the Akita Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Akita. The train's utmost feature is “speed,” traveling at a maximum 300 km/h initially and 320 km/h in the spring of 2014. It will have a long nose and characteristic red paint on the roof, giving it a somewhat different feel from previous Shinkansen models.
Japan's Shinkansen system will have not only new trains but also new lines. Technological research and development are always being conducted to ensure safety, riding comfort and environmental friendliness as well as higher speed.