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FLYING ALONG: Japan's prototype Maglev passenger train claimed a world speed record for unmanned rail travel of 550km/h on Christmas Eve at its Yamanashi test track north of Tokyo. And a week earlier it recorded the world's fastest manned journey of 513km/h. The achievement marks the culmination of 36 years of troubled research into the principle of levitated travel using linear magnetic motors. The Central Japan Railway Company hopes to compete research early next year allowing decisions to be taken on whether to build an operational 500km passenger line between Tokyo and Osaka.

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