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In 1964 the Japanese launched the worlds first high-speed rail line. With an operating speed of 210km/h, it would still put Australias "modern" train services to shame.More than half a century later, the island nation is eager to export its technology to other parts of the world, including Australia. And the key selling points of the Japanese fast train are a matter of great national pride.The Shinkansen also known as the “bullet trains” is a network of high speed railway lines in Japan. The shinkansen network consists of multiple lines, connecting most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, with construction of a link to the northern island of Hokkaido underway.Here are 7 interesting facts about the shinkansen:1.The Original Bullet Train Is The Japanese 0 Series ShinkansenThe nickname originated when the concept was first proposed in the 1930s, and when the high-speed train started operating in 1964 (shown above) it kind of resembled a bullet, so the name stuck. The fact that it could do 130 mph didn’t hurt, either.2.51 Years Accident FreeOver 10 billion passengers have ridden on Japan’s high-speed rails alone, and none of them have ever died in a crash. Worldwide, there have only ever been a handful of fatal crashes.No passenger has been killed in a Japanese bullet train crash since they first rolled out more than half a century ago. Type "Shinkansen crash" into Google and youll only find a few scraggly stories about a Japanese bullet train that hit a car, killing the driver, and some accounts of the not-uncommon cases of suicide by train. Elsewhere in the world hundreds of people have been killed in high-speed rail catastrophes. Germanys Intercity Express had an unblemished fatality record for just seven years before 101 people were killed when one of its trains derailed at 200km/h in 1998.3.How Fast Is It?The maximum operating speed is 320 km/h (200 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) in 2003.4.Who Invented Shinkansen?The shinkansen was invented by Japan’s chief railway engineer, Hideo Shima (? ??). He wanted to design the trains to “feel like an airplane” which he succeeded in creating. After retiring from the railway career, he became the head of the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), where he pushed the development of hydrogen engines to power rockets.5.Atom & Peace Were Considered As NamesShinkansens in operation between Tokyo and Osaka include the Kodama (Echo), the Hikari (Ray of Light) and Nozomi (Hope). Back in 1964, JR asked the public to submit name proposals and received nearly 560,000 replies. Some of the candidates included Atom, the popular animation character known as Astro Boy overseas, as well as Inazuma (Lightning), Heiwa (Peace) and Olympia.6.Most Bullet Trains Today Aren’t MaglevsMaglevs are much more energy-efficient at high speeds and therefore capable of much higher standard operating speeds. Despite the flashy tech however, the majority of bullet trains are actually much more closely related to normal trains, albeit on exceptionally smooth tracks.7.Shinkansen Theater (Shinkansen cleanup)Normally, notes Shukan Post (Dec 21-28), two to three workers are assigned to a first-class car, as opposed to one to clean up a regular car. In addition to checking for items left behind on the overhead racks and seats, they must flip the 100 seat backs in each car to make them face the front of the train, and while doing this, they scan the aisles and floor for any refuse, a task generally performed in roughly one minute, 30 seconds.They then proceed to wipe off the table tops in front of each seat and adjust the window blinds. If any of the white covers on seat backs appear begrimed, these are exchanged for clean ones.Currently, Tesseis work force numbers about 800, of whom 481 are full-timers. The average age of the work force is 51; about 40% are female.
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