The Chuo Shinkansen is a planned Japanese maglev line designed to ultimately connect Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. The line is intended to be built by extending and incorporating the existing Yamanashi test track. An initial extension of the track from its present length of 18.4 km to 42.8 km is currently under construction. The line is expected to connect Tokyo and Nagoya in the first stage in 40 minutes, and eventually Tokyo and Osaka in an hour, running at a maximum speed of 505 km/h. The Chuo Shinkansen is the culmination of Japanese maglev development since the 1970s, a government-funded project initiated by Japan Airlines and the former Japanese National Railways (JNR). JR Central now operates the facilities and research. The trainsets themselves are popularly known in Japan as Linear Motor Car, though there have been many technical variations.
Government permission to proceed with construction was granted on May 27, 2011. Construction of the line, which is expected to cost over ¥9 trillion, is expected to commence in 2014. JR Central aims to begin commercial service between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, with the Nagoya-Osaka section to be completed in 2045. JR Central is considering opening up partial maglev service between Kofu, Yamanashi and Sagamihara, Kanagawa around 2020.
In the 1970s, a test track for maglev research and development had been built in Miyazaki Prefecture. As desired results had been obtained at the –now former– Miyazaki test track, a new eighteen-kilometre test track with tunnels and bridges and slopes was built at a new site in Yamanashi Prefecture, between Otsuki and Tsuru.
Residents of Yamanashi Prefecture and government officials were eligible for free rides on the Yamanashi test track, and over 200,000 people took part. Trains on this test track have routinely achieved operating speeds of over 500 km/h (310 mph), making this embryonic part of the future Chūō Shinkansen the world's fastest railway. Work is currently under way to extend the track a further 25 kilometres along the future route of the Chuo Shinkansen, to initially bring the combined track length up to 42.8 kilometres. The work is expected to be completed by 2013, and will allow researchers to test sustained top speed over longer periods. The existing Yamanashi test track is presently being used to test its JR–Maglev trainsets for durability and cost reduction. JR Central intends to restart public train rides on the Yamanashi test track, this time for paying customers, likely on weekends and during the summer vacation period, from fiscal 2013 or later.