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News Update

By Anthony Robins

from 'Bullet-in' #51 July - September 2004

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New Releases The Japan Times/ Tetsudo Fan/ Tetsudo Journal/

Third-sector Aizu Tetsudo's new AT-500 and AT550 cars will comprise seven cars by the end of the 2005 financial year. The AT-500 has a capacity of 115 (52 seated) while the AT-550 has a capacity of 110 (47 seated). The lower capacity of the latter is the result of it including a wheelchair accessible toilet. The first two cars are in a light green livery liberally covered with 'hiragana' script and the branding 'furusato ressha' (hometown train). Similar but brighter is Hisatsu Orenji (orange) Tetsudo's HSOR-100-150 type 'event car'. The type started operation on 13th March for this company which took over the Kagoshima Main Line section after the opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen, capacity in cross-seat layout is 105 (37 seated).

Also starting operation on 13th March was a four-car Kiha 183-1000 set for JR Kyushu's 'Yufu Deluxe'. It is the fourth incarnation of a set which initially as a 3-car set has previously been the 'Oranda Miura Tokyuu' (Holland Village Limited Express)' from 1988, and as a 4-car set, the 'Yufuin no Mori II' (from 1992) and the 'Siebold' (from 1999). In a smart maroon livery, the set features widespread use of wood in the interior. Another new branding is a 2-car set 'Hayato no kaze' (Hayato Wind), formed of Kiha 140 2066 and Kiha 147 1045 in 'royal black' livery. Conversion work was carried out at Kokura Works.

Tokyu's type 5050 is a version of its 5000 type for Toyoko Line services. Odakyu has been testing one of its type 3000 sets, 3263, with noise reducing 'skirts'. Its formation is also different, Tc+M+M+T+M+Tc, rather than others of this type, which are Tc+M+M+M+M+Tc.

5th and 6th April saw the arrival of the first new stock for the third-sector Aonami Line (Blue Wave Line) serving the south west of Nagoya. Two 4-car type 1000 sets were hauled using a DE10 on each day (overnight stop at Inazawa) from Nippon Sharyo at Toyokawa to Nagoya freight terminal. The line opened on 6th October.

Meitetsu's new stock for the 2004 financial year sees ten 3-car type 2000 sets for services to the new offshore Chubu International Airport which opens in Spring 2005. The first were delivered in mid-May and are in white and blue livery with 'Centrair' logos. A similar external design but in limited-express white and red livery are six 4-car type 2200 sets. Completing the new orders is one 4-car type 3300 and four 2-car type 3150. Similar to the type 300 used on its Komaki Line, they will be the first unpainted types to operate on the Nagoya Main Line.

Fukuoka City's type 3000 for its new Nanakuma Line between Tenjin Minami and Hashimoto is an attractive four-car (all motored) type in light grey and light green livery. The Nanakuma Line uses a linear motor system and is physically isolated from Fukuoka's other two underground lines. While they feature an inner tunnel circumference of 6.1 metres, its small profile is 4.7 metres. The line is due to open in February 2005.

Izu Kyuko is now operating one of its 7-car type 2100 'Resort 21' sets in a mainly black livery, albeit with a narrow white and a broader red stripe around its lower edge. This 'Kurofune' (Black Ships) train commemorates the 150 years since the arrival of the US ships commanded by Admiral Perry. It is operating for a year until the end of March 2005.

On 25th May, the first set for the Taiwan Shinkansen arrived at Kaohsiung after being shipped from Kobe. The line between Taipei and Kaohsiung has cost 502 billion New Taiwan dollars (15 billion US dollars) and will be served by 30 train sets.

Media releases in late May showed the planned N700 Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen looking like an elongated 700. A prototype is due to enter service in March 2005 with series operation following in Spring 2007. With a top speed of 300 kms/hr, the N700 is aimed at increasing speeds on Tokaido Line curves from 250 to 270 kms/hr.

Into Service and Out of Service

Flash Magazine/JR East/The Japan Times/Tetsudo Fan/Yomiuri Shimbun

After a period of testing, JR Freight's M250 'Super Rail Cargo' freight EMU started regular operations from 13th March. The daily schedule involves a down departure from Tokyo Freight Terminal at 2314 arriving at Aji-Kawaguchi (Osaka) at 0526. The up working departs from Aji-Kawaguchi at 2309 and arrives at Tokyo Freight Terminal at 0520. Formation is an Mc250 and M251 at each end and six pairs of T260 and T261 container wagons in Sagawa (cargo company) livery. The train can carry the equivalent of 28 10-ton trucks.

Also in the freight area, 'Red Thunder' EF510s based at Toyama started regular operation of trains along the Japan Sea coast with the start of the new
timetable from 13th March. Initial services being operated are 3097 and 4058 (Osaka/Suita-Niigata) and 3093 (Suita-Minami Nagaoka).

Ridership on the Minato-Mirai Line averaged 151,000 passengers in its first month after opening on 1st February. Although there has been much media criticism of the Kyushu Shinkansen, claiming a rapid decline after an nitial surge, figures released for the first ten days of operation showed a rise of 120% in passengers travelling between Kagoshima Chuo (former Nishi-Kagoshima) and Sendai (where the depot for the line is located). That was almost as great a rise as in the early days of the Hachinohe extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen. In particular, ticket sales at Kagoshima-Chuo (former Nishi Kagoshima) doubled to a value of around 20 million yen a day. However, some critics feel that the latter's longer-term success will not be replicated after initial interest declines. In the meantime though, tourist facilities including sand baths at Ibusuki are reporting more customers, and intensified competition between retail outlets in Fukuoka and Kagoshima. Seat occupancy for flights between the two cities dropped from 71% to 49%. However, there are also the predictable pictures of facilities such as Shin Yatsuhiro Station (northern terminus of the existing section) contrasting with bucolic agricultural scenes just ten minutes away. There is also criticism of the fact that the Hisatsu Orange Railway, which took over the section of Kagoshima Main Line between Yatsuhiro and Sendai, is
using DMUs in spite of the fact that the line is electrified.

Changes with the new timetable on 1st April on Sangi Railway's 2 feet 6 inch Hokusei Line saw three stations close and a new one open. The new one at Oizumi features free car and bicycle parking.

Cement trains between Moji-ko and Kaneda ceased on 31st March. Operated to serve Mitsui's Kozan's (Mitsui Mines') Ita-Tagawa works, operation usually consisted of two return journeys daily.

The end of June saw the end of JR's paging service on shinkansen services. First introduced in June 1965, a year after the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen, to alert passengers to incoming calls to public phones on the trains, a plethora of mobile phones has meant that whereas there were 46,000 calls made to or from bullet trains in 1994, that fell to 6,800 in 2003. Public phones for outgoing use will remain.

Amidst fears of terrorism, JR East introduced modified wastebins at stations from 11th May. They allow the usual separation of different kinds of rubbish but have large transparent windows.

Innovative Ads

Yomiuri Shimbun

May saw Kintetsu introduce a new kind of advertising on about 20 services a day operating between Namba (Osaka) and Nara. It features transparent pouches attached to the straphangers. They contain samples of products such as gum or lipcream as well as coupons. The advertising fee is 1.82 million yen per week. In contrast, June saw a veteran invention put to new use for the first time in Japan when zoetrope/flip book derived advertising was introduced between Tameike Sanno and Akasaka Mitsuke on Tokyo Metro's Ginza Line. The first advertisement was one 'lasting' 15 seconds for a soft drink and the system was developed by U.S.based Submedia which first introduced it in Atlanta in September 2001.

Rare Appearance
Tetsudo Fan

0-type T3 'Doctor Yellow' made perhaps its last daytime appearance on 1st March when it ran from Tokyo (1220) to Mishima and back to Tokyo (1500) in spite of its top speed of 210 kms/hr being below the present timetable which is based on operation at a maximum speed of 270 kms/hr.

Further into the Future
Japan Railway and Transport Review/Tetsudo Journal

26th October 2003 saw a groundbreaking ceremony held at Nagahama Station (Hokuriku Line) to mark the start of construction of the Lake Biwa loop line from there to the Kosei Line, to the west of the lake, between Nagahara and Omi Shiotsu.

On 24th March Toyama Light Rail K.K. was formed as a 3rd-sector company to develop plans to convert JR West's Toyama-ko Line to light rail operation.

On the way up

Asahi Shimbun/JR East

In March JR Freight saw its 17th consecutive month of year-on-year increase in container transportation. A particular highlight is the new M250 'Super Rail Cargo', but other developments include Matsushita Electric's plan to increase its use of containers to 20,000 units in the 2005 financial year, up from
12,000 in 2003. JR Freight has encouraged expansion by introducing 110 new container wagons in May and IC tags to allow real-time monitoring of cargo movements. A spur to increased railfreight use is for companies to cut emissions, with the cargo company, Sagawa, aiming to cut its CO2 emissions by 6% by 2012 from 370,000 tons in the 2002 financial year. Companies are also dealing with a recent top speed restriction of 90 kms/hr on large trucks.

Holding On
Yomiuri Shimbun

In spite of the renaissance in tram and light-rail operation in Europe, the situation in Japan remains tougher. While Meitetsu (Nagoya Railroad) has proposed the abandonment of its remaining operations in Gifu, Hankai has also proposed a similar abandonment of its southern 7.3 kms section through Sakai City. Annual ridership at its peak was more than 20 million in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but fell to 3.35 million (about one-third of Hankai's total passengers) in 2002. Hankai sees the decline continuing for three main reasons - a population decrease in the line's area, greater car use and competition from Nankai and JR's Hanwa Line. Locals are not giving up without a fight. Yoshihide Horihata, vice-chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce and vice-president of a packaging company, heads the 'Sakai Streetcar Lovers'. In return for a fee of 3,000 yen, members receive a book of 22 one-ride tickets, a one-day pass, a membership card and a twice yearly newsletter. More than 4,000 people have applied to be members. The local government is also supportive. It has offered to pay Hankai's share of costs involved in improving safety after the Keifuku collisions in Fukui Prefecture and actually supports expansion with a new east-west tram line. It is also actively promoting more special events to draw in passengers.

Tightening the Screws
Mainichi Shimbun

Four senior Seibu Railway employees, an executive, the head of the company's public relations and the head and a senior official of the real estate division were arrested on 1st March in connection with dealings with 'sokaiya'. Sokaiya are extortionists who typically receive money in return for not disrupting businesses. In this case, they sold land at undervalued prices in return for not blocking the company's shareholders' meeting in June 2001. Land in Kamakura sold for 82 million yen was later resold for 120 million yen, while land in Yokosuka sold for 30 million yen was later resold for 80 million yen.

JR East was planning to start alcohol checks of all its 7,000 drivers and 6,000 conductors before starting their duties. Following a much publicized incident with its JR Kanto Bus subsidary, any driver or conductor will be banned from their duties for a day if more than 0.1 milligrams of alcohol are detected on their breath. JR East is the second transportation organisation to introduce such tests following Yokohama City.

'Train Fanatics' were in the news in early March when six of them, ranging from a 41-year old company executive to three junior high school boys, were charged with stealing signs from the sides of trains. The specific case in which they were charged concerned a sign stolen in July 2003 from the 'Moonlight Echigo' rapid running from Shinjuku to Niigata. The six are suspected of stealing 80 signs, of which they sold 45 to other 'fans'.

Although it has by no means reached the levels of other countries such as Germany, graffiti including 'tagging' has become more prevalent in Japan in recent years. How is it dealt with? 5th April saw a court in Takasaki give four people, including three university students, prison sentences of between 14 months and two years, suspended for three years. Together with another person, who had previously been given a similar sentence, they had sprayed graffiti on shops and a diesel locomotive and ticket-vending machines in the city on 15th January. With the assistance of their parents, they paid damages amounting to about 4.88 million yen and their parents visited shops to apologize to their owners.

Winners all round at Shinagawa
Yomiuri Shimbun

With results in six months after the opening of the new shinkansen station at Shinagawa Station on 1st October 2003, a combination of factors has seen success all round. Tokaido Shinkansen passengers between Tokyo and Osaka rose by 5% and the daily number of shinkansen passengers using Tokyo and Shinagawa jumped 6% to 216,000. A publicity push by Japan Airlines and ANA persuaded some companies to use air for business travel who had not previously used it. ANA reported an increase of 4% on the Tokyo-Osaka route while Japan Airlines saw an increase of 10% between Tokyo and Okayama. Hotels in the area have lower vacancy rates and between 7,000 and 8,000 new apartments are expected to be built in Minato Ward in 2004.

Competition hots up in Tokyo and at Osaka's 'depachikas'

Asahi Shimbun/Yomiuri Shimbun

Eidan's successor, Tokyo Metro, is keen to boost its non-rail earnings which were 21% for JR East in 2002 but only 3.4% for Eidan in that year. Among its projects are renovation at stylish Omotesando which handles 120,000 passengers a day. Work lasting a year will include a 1,300 square metres shopping mall with several restaurants. Kiyoaki Murakami of Mitsubishi Research suggests going further, wishing for 'in-car English conversation lessons and deploying dining cars'. Tokyo Metro has long-term debts of about 950 billion yen and its shares are currently owned by the central government (53%) and Tokyo metropolitan government (47%). Future aims include offering these shares for sale and integration with the municipal Toei lines. However, operations of the latter are 400 billion yen in debt, with annual losses of more than 20 billion yen. In addition, there is a need for costly investment in improving evacuation routes, particularly spurred by the February 2003 tragedy in Taegu in South Korea.

There are three big department stores within a 100 metre radius adjacent to JR West's Osaka Station and Hankyu and Hanshin's stations at Umeda and they have a potential market of 600,000 daily customers. While Hanshin may to some extent at some disadvantage to the others railway-wise, it is the leader among 'depachikas' (made up of 'depaato' (department store) and 'chika' (underground). They sell food and Hanshin's frequent remodelling and combination of new items with traditional favourites means that sales reached 38.2 billion yen in 2003, more than a third of its stores total sales compared with a typical 20 percent. It is helped by the largest floor area of the three at 8,000 square metres.

Have your cake and beat it!
Mainichi Shimbun

A drunk 41 year old was arrested after crossing Sanyo Shinkansen tracks to reach a shop on another platform and returning the same way. He claimed to have had an urgent desire to buy cakes.

Two favourites come together
Tetsudo Journal

22nd February saw one of enthusiasts' favourite types, the 583 (6-car formation) on a special rapid service leaving Sendai for Kitakata (Ban-etsu Line) via Koriyama. Aimed at visitors to Kitakata's 'Ramen Festa', celebrating perhaps Japan's favourite food, the train left Sendai at 0820 and arrived back there at 1858.

Relatively well-off
Chunichi Shimbun

Railway companies can breathe a sigh of relief according to research carried out by the Nippon Seishonen Kenkyuujo (Japan Youth Research Centre). Research on attitudes among senior high school students (1000-1300 students in each of four countries) found that 53% of Japanese students were critical of using mobile phones on trains and 76% were critical of speaking loudly on trains. In the former case, it was the highest figure among the countries. In the latter case, it was equalled only in Korea. However, in the areas of defiance towards parents and teachers and truancy from school, the Japanese high school students were least critical. For example, only 27% had a critical attitude towards truancy, compared with 40% in the U.S., 75% in Korea, and 79% in China.

A museum and station on the move
Mainichi Shimbun/Tetsudo Fan

It is planned that the new transport museum in Omiya will have access from a stop on the New Shuttle system. and that the main hall on the ground floor will feature a turntable with exhibits on lines leading to it. There will be around 30 full-size exhibits, including EF58 89, 'kuhane 583' and type 200 shinkansen car. There will be two smaller upper floors and outside will be a miniature railway.

11th May saw the start of a four day project to move the historic station building dating from 1934 at Nara (JR West). The move northwards over a distance of 18 metres was carried out by supporting the station building weighing 3,500 tons on 600 rollers.

Cheaper country air
Mainichi Shimbun

Following problems attracting incomers to new housing in Izumizaki, Fukushima Prefecture, the village is now offering to subsidize commuting to Tokyo by Tohoku Shinkansen from Shin-Shirakawa, three stops away on the Tohoku Line. The local government is offering to pay up to 1 million yen a year (about 60% of the total cost) for three years.

Open Up!
Mainichi Shimbun/The Japan Times

The extent to which railways are always under media scrutiny is shown again by a story from late March when no less than 19 passengers failed to get on an early Tokyo-bound Yamagata Shinkansen at Sakuranbo Higashine Station, between Yamagata and Shinj˘. The only access from the east side of the station is through the city owned Sakuranbo Higashine Building and a dozy security guard had failed in his usual task of opening the door at 0400. JR East ferried passengers by taxi to Yamagata Station to catch the next bullet train. Outdoing that was news of a similar incident at on 17th May when 4 passengers briefly prevented from entering the station at Tagajo on the Senseki Line delayed a train's departing at 0526 by just six minutes.

Items in previous 'News Updates' have focussed on JR East's contactless 'Suica' IC card. The company is now touting its use as a company identity card. So far, it is just in use at its own head office in Tokyo, where it was installed at a cost of 120 million yen. Costs of installing a system for a 30 story building are estimated at 100 million yen. Obviously, JR East benefits in two ways, both by selling the system and by further widening the use of the 'Suica' card.

In operation from 31st July were platform doors on Tokyo Metro's Marunouchi Line branch between Nakano Sakaue and Honan-cho to facilitate one-man operation. They are of the same design as on Chiyoda Line branch stations at Ayase and Kita Ayase

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