How The Japanese Bullet Train Won Over This Aggie

Brandon SwearningenGUEST BLOGGER

Brandon Swearingen from Bellville, TX, is a Mechanical Engineering student at Texas A&M University. He recently completed a summer internship with Central Japan Railway, the technology partner for the Texas Bullet Train project.

Howdy,

My name is Brandon Swearingen and I’m from a small town west of Houston called Bellville. I study Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. At the end of the spring 2017 semester I was searching for a summer opportunity to go abroad when I found an amazing opportunity to intern for Central Japan Railway. After a full application process, I was given the opportunity to represent my school and learn about Japanese high-speed rail.

My internship with Central Japan Railway exceeded my expectations. I rode the Shinkansen Bullet Train to work every day and the local rail for my weekend adventures. The small rural Texas town that I was raised in never exposed me to the large density of people that travel throughout Tokyo on a daily basis. In College Station where I attend Texas A&M University, there is daily vehicle traffic despite our vastly larger expansion abilities. Alternatively, Tokyo, the most populous city in the world, had significantly less traffic due to the trains and the large usage of it among citizens. Initially, my lack of understanding and cultural point of view prevented me from realizing that the U.S. can benefit from transportation methods from around the world. My experience allowed me to understand that American transportation and my daily commute could be greatly enhanced by the Japanese Bullet Train system.

Japan is a mountainous island country relatively smaller than the U.S. There, citizens are valued equally and the Japanese crime rate is a fourth of that of the United States. Japanese business and social culture is a major contributor to the success of the Central Japan Railway. The existing ancient culture promotes the current Japanese desire to make their family proud through a successful career. Every worker I came across displayed this mentality. Whether it be the Chairman of CJR or a cashier at a Seven Eleven, the best was expected out of themselves.

The entirety of the Shinkansen high speed rail system was my focus for the two months interning with the company. Having the 3rd largest economy in the world allowed Japan to invest proficiently in efficient mass-transportation despite the nation’s obstacles of terrain and size. Every department of the company knows their specific tasks and the general purpose of the company; to provide the best service possible and to contribute to the development of the main Japanese transportation artery and social infrastructure.

Central Japan Railway’s operational domain is just 24% of the country’s area, but contains 60% of the population.

Despite this large ridership, the company only experiences an average train delay of 0.2 minutes PER YEAR. Witnessing this firsthand was amazing and pleasantly surprising as I and all other passengers were able to reach our desired destinations on time everyday. Central Japan Railway also understands that in order for their high speed rai systeml to be profitable enough, high ridership has to occur. This is only possible in a capitalist society, with the best transportation technology available. Additionally, their train system boasts a safety record of ZERO injuries or deaths caused by train operation since the start of the company. This is possible because Japanese passenger rail uses the crash avoidance principle, which includes 3 important aspects that are the key to the safety, reliability, and comfort of the service.

  1. Dedicated passenger rail. the dedicated rail is one of the most important aspects of Japanese rail. Yes the bullet trains are fast, but without the dedicated rail the high-speed passenger trains can only go as fast as the freight trains go. Also, without the possibility of collision with the massive freight trains the high-speed passenger trains can exclude the heavy crash protection and be lighter.
  2. Automatic Train Control (ATC). Automatic Train Control slows the train when the speed reaches the braking curve regarding the next train, eliminating human error and collision possibility.
  3. Total System Approach. The Bullet Train is a total high-speed rail system, not just a fast train. The safety/reliability/comfort of the Shinkansen is enabled by the integration of company hardware and software.

The biggest mistake I made coming into my internship with Central Japan Railway was assuming commonalities with U.S. railroad companies. I soon realized that the many defining aspects that are individual to Japanese high-speed rail are what make their system the most efficient in the world.

Central Japan Railway has efficiently created a high-speed rail system and nearly perfected the entire process. Nations throughout the world could benefit from seeking consultation from CJR. The United States, and specifically Texas, have begun this consulting process and are beginning to advance passenger travel from Dallas to Houston. Texas Central, the company heading this advancement, is swiftly becoming the influential company in the movement toward high-speed rail travel in the United States.

I’m excited to see the Shinkansen connect Dallas and Houston and bring relief to the existing traffic. From a first-hand experience I witnessed the effectiveness and ability of the Japanese high-speed rail to enhance the way of life. In addition to the obvious benefits, the shinkansen brought an economic boost to Japan by connecting viable city pairs. With these cities connected in just over an hour as Dallas to Houston will be, the two economies were combined and expanded. This combination influenced exponential growth and diversified the economy to allow Japan to grow into the world power that it is today. This same growth will be brought to Texas with the Texas Central Project.

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