The highest speed attained by a manned superconducting magnetically levitated (maglev) train is 581 km/h (361 mph) by the MLX01, operated by the Central Japan Railway Company and Railway Technical Research Institute, on the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, on 2 December 2003.
Magnetically levitated ('Maglev') vehicles harness the power of magnetism to lift them off the ground and propel them forward, using elecromagnets made of superconductive metals. Instead of running on conventional metal tracks, they run on specially constructed 'guideways'. Because there is no contact between the maglev vehicle and its guideway when running, problems with friction and wear-and-tear faced by conventional trains are largely eliminated, allowing, in theory at least, higher operating speeds and greater reliability. Superconductors are created when metals are cooled to specific temperatures, causing their electrical resistance to vanish - in this case niobium-titanium alloy is cooled with liquid helium to –269ºC (- 452.2 ºF). Because superconductors display no resistance to electrical currents, coils made from these materials create magnetic fields dozens of times stronger than those of permanent magnets.