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Japan’s maglev train sets second world record

The maglev train on experimental track in Tsuru, west of Tokyo, in 2010. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)
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A high-speed Japanese bullet train bested its previous world record for speed by traveling 374 mph on Tuesday, according to news reports.

The Central Japan Railway’s seven-car maglev — short for magnetic levitation — topped its 366 mph record (set last week) on a test track track near Mount Fuji, according to the Guardian.

The previous record of 268 mph stood since 2003, according to NBC.

Maglev trains use magnets to push the train 4 inches off the tracks and propel it forward, according to CNN.

With 49 railway employees on board, the train covered 1.1 miles in about 11 seconds, the company reported, according to the Guardian.

That, as CNN helpfully pointed out, "is nearly 20 football fields in the time it took you to read the last two sentences."

“The ride was comfortable and stable,” Yasukazu Endo, the head of the Maglev Test Center, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. “We would like to continue analyzing data and make use of it in designing the cars and other equipment.”

In the future, maglev trains, which are expected to run between Tokyo and Nagoya, will top off at 313 mph, according to the New York Post.

The trip — which takes five hours by car — will last 40 minutes, which is less than half the time the journey requires on current bullet trains, according to CNN.

Takeo Ookanda, who runs an exhibition center next to the test track, told CNN that witnesses erupted in applause when the record was announced.

"I was moved just like many other visitors here today," he said. "This maglev project... [increases] the hope that Japan can have a good growth again in the future."

There is talk of bringing the trains to the United States. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "is set to pitch the new technology to the American market, including for a Washington-New York train link" during a visit that begins next week, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"By contrast, the fastest train in the United States, Amtrak's Acela Express, is only capable of 241 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour), though it usually plods along at half that speed," CNN reported.

Were the trains exported abroad, the Guardian notes, they could revolutionize travel times, especially in countries where air travel is less common. Here are few examples the paper came up with:

New York to Los Angeles – 7 hours 45 minutes (currently a 68 hour trip)

Cape Town to Cairo – 17 hours 30 minutes

Sydney to Perth – 7 hours 20 minutes

Moscow to Vladivostock – 15 hours

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