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Story highlights

Japanese maglev train sets new speed record: 603 kilometers per hour

The train is planned to begin service in 2027

(CNN) —  

It’s a bird – It’s a plane – It’s an insanely fast Japanese bullet train.

A Japan Railway maglev train hit 603 kilometers per hour (374 miles per hour) on an experimental track in Yamanashi Tuesday, setting a decisive new world record.

A spokesperson said the train spent 10.8 seconds traveling above 600 kilometers per hour, during which it covered 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles).

That’s nearly 20 football fields in the time it took you to read the last two sentences.

Takeo Ookanda, who runs an exhibition center next to the test track, said witnesses erupted with excitement and applause when the new record was set.

“I was moved just like many other visitors here today,” he told CNN. “This maglev project… (increases) the hope that Japan can have a good growth again in the future.”

Fastest in the world

The train broke its own record from last Thursday, when it ran at 590 kilometers per hour (366 miles per hour) on a test track.

That beat the old record of 581 kilometers per hour (361 miles per hour), which was set in 2003 during another Japanese maglev test.

Right now, China operates the world’s fastest commercial maglev, which has hit 431 kilometers per hour (268 miles per hour) on a route through Shanghai.

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.

Look ma, no tracks!

Unlike traditional trains, maglev trains work by using magnets to push the train away from the tracks and drive the train forward.

A Japanese maglev train during a test run.
PHOTO: toru yamanaka/afp/getty
A Japanese maglev train during a test run.

Japan’s maglevs don’t use metal tracks — instead, they float nearly 10 cm (4 inches) above special guideways, allowing for frictionless movement.

Japan Railways has been testing their train to figure out the best operational speed for a planned route between Tokyo and Nagoya, scheduled to begin service in 2027.

That trip can take nearly 5 hours by car. But in the future, a maglev train could finish the journey in 40 minutes.

READ MORE: The future of transportation will blow your hair back

CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki contributed reporting.