Artist's impression of East Japan Railway Series E5 bullet train.

JAPAN: East Japan Railway unveiled the exterior and designs for its next generation of Shinkansen trains on February 3. A pre-production Series E5 trainset is due to be rolled out in June for testing, as a precursor for the fleet to operate between Tokyo and Shin Aomori following the opening of the extension from Hachinohe in December 2010.

JR-East's research programme launched in 2002 was looking at 360 km/h operation to bring the journey time for the 670 km Tokyo - Shin-Aomori trip below 3 h including intermediate stops, compared with 3 h 20 min with the current Series E2-1000 sets running at 275 km/h. After trials with the two Fastech 360 prototypes the railway announced that it was scaling back its ambitions and would build a pre-production trainset designed for a maximum of 320 km/h.

The railway subsequently ordered a fleet of 59 Series E5 trainsets, which are due to enter service in the spring of 2011. The 10-car sets will have eight powered vehicles and two trailers, and will feature a 'Super Green Car' with 2+1 seating for 18 passengers at the Aomori end. The trains will incorporate a number of technical advances from the Fastech 360 sets, including a lightweight pantograph, active suspensions and body tilting.