The Class E956 (E956形), branded "ALFA-X", is a ten-car experimental Shinkansen train operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) in Japan to test technology to be incorporated into future trains operating at speeds of up to 360 km/h (220 mph). The name is an acronym for "Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail eXperimentation".[1] The first train was unveiled on May 9, 2019.[2] The Plarail (series of toy trains) "Ippai Tsunago" Shinkansen Test Train ALFA-X began to be sold on December 26, 2019. Its test run is mainly performed in sections between Sendai and Shin-Aomori of the Tohoku Shinkansen line, and in some cases, on the Hokkaido Shinkansen line.

Class E956 "ALFA-X"
ManufacturerHitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries
Entered serviceMay 9, 2019
Number built1 set (10 vehicles)
Formation10 cars
Fleet numbersS13
Operator(s)JR East
Line(s) servedTohoku Shinkansen
Car length24.5 m (80 ft 5 in) (intermediate cars)
26.25 m (86 ft 1 in) (end cars)
Width3.35 m (11 ft 0 in)
Height3.7 m (12 ft 2 in)
Maximum speed400 km/h (250 mph)
Electric system(s)25 kV AC,50 Hertz Overhead catenary
Current collection methodPantograph
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge


The experimental trainset is being tested at speeds of up to around 400 km/h (250 mph) to evaluate new technologies to be incorporated into new trains to operate in revenue service at speeds of up to 360 km/h (225 mph).[3] These technologies include dampers to reduce vibration and the likelihood of derailment in major earthquakes.[3] It also tests body designs that reduce snow adherence.[3]

The E956 train evaluates two different end car nose profiles, just like the earlier Fastech 360.[4] The nose of car 1 is 16 meters long, and is a brand new design, while the nose of car 10 is similar to the E5 Series Shinkansen and H5 Series Shinkansen, but is 22 meters long, with only 4.5 meters remaining for passengers with three rows of seating.[5] The E956 features eddy current brakes and an aerodynamic braking system attached to the car's roof, called air brakes or spoilers.[6]


JR East officially announced its plans to build a ten-car ALFA-X test train on 4 July 2017, to be delivered in spring 2019 for extensive testing and evaluation.[1] The finished train was unveiled on May 9, 2019.[2]

The train reached a speed of 320 km/h (200 mph) in May 2019, matching the top operating speed of the fastest services on the line.[7] By June that same year, the train was regularly measured to be running at 360 km/h (220 mph) by rail enthusiasts.[8]

The train was first observed running at the announced top planned test speed of 400 km/h (250 mph) on December 14, 2019.[9]

The train was observed in Hokkaido for cold weather testing on February 12, 2020[10] and February 3, 2021.[11]

The train reached a speed of 382 km/h (237 mph) on October 27, 2020, on the rail stretch between Sendai and Morioka.[12]


  1. ^ a b "JR East to build ALFA-X 360 km/h Shinkansen testbed". Railway Gazette. 7 July 2017. Archived from the original on 18 July 2017. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Geuss, Megan (10 May 2019). "Japanese railway company starts testing 249mph bullet train speeds". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Kusamachi, Yoshikazu (4 July 2017). JR東日本の新幹線試験車「ALFA-X」2019年春完成…「営業360km/h」を検証へ [New "ALFA-X" JR East experimental shinkansen train to be completed in spring 2019 - to test operations at 360 km/h]. Response (in Japanese). Japan: IID Inc. Archived from the original on 18 July 2017. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  4. ^ Ueshin, Daisuke (4 July 2017). JR東日本E956形"ALFA-X"新幹線試験車両を新造、360km/h運転の可能性も検証 [JR East to build "ALFA-X" experimental shinkansen train to evaluate feasibility of operations at 360 km/h]. Mynavi News (in Japanese). Japan: Mynavi Corporation. Archived from the original on 19 July 2017. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  5. ^ "ALFA-X nose is 22 m long". Railway Gazette. DVV Media International Ltd. 14 February 2019.
  6. ^ ALFA-X: The Next Generation Shinkansen Experimental Train In: Railvolution. nr. 1, 2019, p. 28
  7. ^ "JR East shinkansen ALFA-X prototype hits 320 km/h in test run in northeastern Japan". The Japan Times Online. 16 May 2019. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  8. ^ ALFA-X(E956) 360km/h走行へ- 2019.6.8-9, retrieved 22 September 2019
  9. ^ ALFA-X(E956) 400km/h走行へ 2019.12.14-15, retrieved 16 December 2019
  10. ^ 次世代新幹線、試験車両が道内初走行 新函館北斗で報道陣に公開 - Hokkaido Shinbun (02/15/2020)
  11. ^ "【4K】ALFA-X(E956) 北海道遠征まとめ 2021.2.3-11".
  12. ^

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