Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Japan May Send Maglev Train Expertise To U.S., Without A Fee

The technology behind Japan's magnetically levitated train system, which whooshes passengers to their destinations at speeds topping 300 mph, could come to the U.S. without a traditional license fee, according to Japanese media outlets.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the idea with President Obama last February, officials say. Japan is also willing to include billions in loans to help underwrite what would be a very expensive project, a government source tells The Japan Times.

Here's more from the newspaper:

"Tokyo is considering the possibility in order to realize a maglev high-speed train service linking Washington and Baltimore, Maryland, the source said."Japan has also unofficially offered loans worth about ¥500 billion [nearly $5 billion] to help bring about the service, which is expected to require about ¥1 trillion [$9.8 billion] in investments."

An official offer of the technology to the U.S. could come when Obama visits Abe on April 24, the newspaper adds.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy joined Abe for a ride on a maglev test train this weekend, floating above the tracks as the train whisked along at more than 310 mph.

"It was wonderful," Kennedy said after the trip, "and I think that this technology is something that will bring great benefit to Japan, and hopefully the U.S. someday."

Other U.S. politicians tried out the maglev system last November, including former New York Gov. George Pataki, who's part of Northeast Maglev, a U.S. company that wants to create a route from Washington to New York City.

Slate's Future Tense blog discussed that project:

"The promise: New York to D.C. in an hour flat. That would be an hour and 40 minutes faster than today's 150-mph Amtrak Acela trains, which are (rather pathetically) the fastest in the United States. In most cases, it would also be significantly faster than flying."

But that article also noted the struggles faced by Amtrak here in the U.S., asking, "The real question is: Does this have a real chance of happening anytime soon?

Japan is still refining the maglev technology on a test track; the Central Japan Railway hopes to open a maglev route between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit