CENTRAL JAPAN Railway has announced a ’technical development plan’ for its superconducting maglev test line near Ohtsuki in Yamanashi prefecture. JR Central says that the Maglev Technological Practicality Evaluation Committee concluded in March that ’the Superconducting Maglev technology has the practicality for an ultra-high-speed mass transport system’, but it is clear that much remains to be done before the transition is made from a full-scale experiment to a mature technology suitable for commercial application.

JR Central has identified two main areas for further development. First, reliability and durability are to be verified by a programme of intensive trials on the Yamanashi test line lasting until March 31 2005. This will include ’continuous running tests and repeated operation of moving parts’. Second, JR Central engineers will seek to reduce the cost of building and operating a maglev line through further technical development.

Four ways of reducing capital costs are to be examined: