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Japan goes for comfort, ecology in new bullet train

Source:  Copyright 2007, Agence France Presse
Date:  May 25, 2007
Original URL: Status DEAD


Japan is adding environmental awareness and a bit more comfort in the latest version of its celebrated bullet train which comes into service in July.

The new N700 model will be gradually rolled out through 2010 on the line between Tokyo and western Japan, the world's busiest passenger track.

The N700, which cost 260 billion yen (2.1 billion dollars) to develop and build, travels no faster than current bullet trains, reaching a top speed of 300 kilometres per hour (185 miles per hour).

Instead of trying to beat France's TGV in speed, the N700's joint designers -- private companies Central Japan Railway and West Japan Railway -- have invested in improving comfort levels and the environmental performance.

The N700 -- which will stop in Kyoto, namesake of the pioneering environmenal treaty -- will use 19 per cent less electricity than earlier models, the designers said as they showed the train to the press this week.

"The substantial reduction in power consumpion and CO2 emissions," a statement said, "contributes significantly to the effort to counter global warming."

The N700 features a first-class section approaching the comfort level of business class on an airplane, with large chairs that can recline back 120 degrees, adjustable foot-rests and 15-centimetre (six-inch) wide arm-rests.

Knowing the importance of technology for Japanese customers, the train companies installed an electric plug at every seat -- two in first-class -- along with a jack to plug in headphones to listen to a music selection.

While the new bullet trains will lack current models' smoking sections, some of the cars will have sealed, ventilated rooms for passengers to light up in.

Japan inaugurated the bullet trains in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics which symbolised the nation's rebirth from the ashes of World War II into a major economic power.

The bullet train debuted 17 years before France started its TGV, which currently holds the record for the fastest rail service. The latest TGV launched in March goes at an average 320 kph between Paris and the eastern city of Strasbourg.

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