Magnetic levitation -- "maglev” for short -- removes friction to propel (floating!) trains faster than they can run on wheels. The technology has been around for several decades already, with test runs in places like Birmingham in the UK and on a short track in Berlin where it was dubbed the “M-Bahn,” short for “Magnet Bahn.” But East Asia is where the concept has really hit full speed -- no, literally full speed. Most recently in 2004, a maglev track was opened in Shanghai to connect Pudong Airport to a major metro terminal outside the city. The 19-mile journey takes about 7 minutes to complete at speeds of 268 MPH.
The Shanghai maglev is currently the fastest commercially operated electric train in the world, but there’s an evolution on the horizon that has the potential to leave it in the dust: The Chuo Shinkansen. This new maglev bullet train is poised to hit a maximum speed of 314 MPH, finishing the 178-mile trip between Tokyo and Nagoya in a paltry 40 minutes. We’re still almost a decade away from its commercial deployment -- officials are targeting a 2027 debut -- but once this new bullet train starts floating its way through Japan, expect plenty of other routes to open soon after.
Why we should get it: This country has huge swaths of pristine, gorgeous terrain just begging for a train line that doesn’t cost twice the price of a plane ticket and take two weeks to arrive. By rocketing people around at airplane speeds, we’ll clear a ton of traffic off the highway, while making the journey as gorgeous and fun as the destination -- something flying just can’t do.