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Shinkansen

The bullet train or Shinkansen (新幹線) is a network of high speed rail lines in Japan, upon which the famous "Bullet Trains" run.

The Shinkansen is run by Japan Railway, once public rail road corporation then private company.

The name "Bullet Train" is actually a Western invention, originating from the bullet-nosed appearance of the original trains. They are known in Japan as Shinkansen trains. The name Shinkansen literally means "New Trunk Line", and thus technically should refer to the lines and not the trains, which are officially referred to as "Super Expresses".

Japan is the first country that constructed dedicated railway lines for high speed travel. Due to the largely mountainous nature of the country, the pre-existing network consisted of narrow gauge lines which generally took indirect routes. There is thus greater need for new high speed lines than in most countries. In contrast to the existing lines, the Shinkansen lines are standard gauge, and use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles, rather than around them.

Originally intended to carry passenger and freight trains by day and night, the Shinkansen lines carry only passenger trains. The system shuts down between midnight and 6:00 every day to allow maintenance to take place. The few overnight trains that still run in Japan run on the old narrow gauge network which the Shinkansen parallels.

The first Shinkansen trains ran at speeds of up to 200 kph, later increased to 220 kph. Some of these trains, with their classic bullet-nosed appearance, are still in use for stopping services between Hakata[?] and Osaka. A power car from one of the original trains is now in the British National Railway Museum in York. Many models of train followed the first type, generally each with its own distinctive appearance. Shinkansen trains now run regularly at speeds of up to 300 kph, putting them among the fastest trains running in the world, along with the French TGV and German ICE trains.

The prefix 'shin' means 'new' in Japanese. The prefix is used to distinguish the railway station serving Shinkansen trains in towns where it is in a different location to the regular station, as in Shin-Osaka station.

In recent years, due to noise pollusion[?], increasing speed is getting harder. Thus, the current research is rather aimed to reduce the noice, particularly when trains exit the tunnel.

Note: The above two lines are called "Mini-Shinkansen".

Note: The Hakata Minami Line is not treated as a Shinkansen line.

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