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News Update

By Anthony Robins

April 2016

New Faces                          The Japan Times/Tetsudo Shimbun/Railway Gazette/Mainichi Shimbun/Tetsudo Hobidas/Tetsudo.Com

Ceremonies were held on 19th December to commemorate the long-awaited 449 metres’ link which allows a circular route for Sapporo trams. Linking Susukino with Nishi Yon Chome,
with one intermediate stop, services began operation the following day.

16th January to 27th March saw the Seibu Railway take advantage of the popular ‘Hello Kitty’ character, by operating a train which was basically in its normal livery (cream with blue,
red and green stripes) but with ‘wrapping’ (vinyls) showing characters. The train was launched at a ceremony at Hanno Station on 16th January.

The new type E235 for the Yamanote Line, which encountered teething problems in its initial testing on the route undertook further testing in public service between 27th and 30th December
followed by more between 6th and 9th January.

21st December saw the type 733-1000 rolled out by JR Hokkaido ready for its introduction on ‘Hakodate Liner’ shuttle services between Hakodate and the new Hokkaido Shinkansen station
at Shin Hakodate Hokuto from 26th March. Featuring all longitudinal seats, livery is unpainted with mauve and light green stripes. The 3-car configuration is KuHa 733-1000 +
MoHa 733-1000 + KuHa 733-2000.

Spring 2016 saw the start of operations of an express service on Tobu’s Urban Park Line (Former Noda Line) between Omiya and Kasukabe. It stops just once between those stations at Iwatsuki,
rather than the usual eight stops and enables a time saving of six minutes.

April 2016 saw the start of operations of Fuji Kyuko’s new ‘Fujisan View Express’, part of the company’s celebrations of its 90th anniversary. Ex Odakyu type 20000 cars will form a three car set
to replace the existing type 2000 set which was retired in February. It will alternate operation with the company’s type 8000 set. The new train is once again an Eiji Mitooka design and operates
between Otsuki (JR East Chuo line) and Kawaguchiko, taking about 45 minutes and involving a supplement of up to 300 yen.

Awards                                                                                           Japan Railfan Club

The 2015 Blue Ribbon from the Japan Railfan Club was awarded to JR East’s E7 and JR West’s W7 which are used on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Two Laurel prizes were awarded, to JR East’s
hybrid EV-E301 and Hakone Tozan’s ‘Allegra’ type 3000.

Flashback                                                                                                 Tobu

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Tobu Tojo line, Tobu introduced two sets (type 8000 set 8198 and type 50090 set 50092) in a purplish blue livery with yellow waistline stripe redolent
of its one time ’Flying Tojo’ train which operated from 1949 to 1967. Both sets were introduced from 28th November and are scheduled to operate for a year.

Updated                                                                                                  Tetsudo Fan

December saw JR Hokkaido unveil its new livery for its KiHa 261-1000 tilting type, as used on services such as the ‘Tokachi’ limited express. It features a mainly white front, yellow end door
and mauve and silver stripe which rises from the lower part of the end to waist level for the main unpainted section.

Adjusting                                                                                    Mainichi Shimbun/Tobu/Keikyu

Faced with an ageing population and declining ridership, Tokyo area railways are stressing increased comfort. JR East is budgeting no less than 75 billion yen to add two double-deck green cars
to Chuo Line suburban services, with the cost of platform extensions being a major component. This feature is already present on other lines with varying occupancy. According to a June 2015
survey, average daily usage was 19% (Joban), 35% (Tohoku and Yokosuka), more than 40% (Sobu and Takasaki) and 53% (Tokaido) services. Previously ‘Homeliner’ services featured
strongly on JR lines, often using limited express stock, but their lower supplements and limited capacity have made them less attractive financially. Other Tokyo area companies have
been enhancing services, including Tobu which has had an evening ‘Homeliner’ type service with its TJ Liner since June 2008, utilising type 50090 stock which has a 310 yen supplement
and provides a faster service than expresses. This Spring sees it being introduced for morning services, as well as a new branding ‘F Liner’ for half-hourly fast services from Seibu
and Tobu via Tokyo Metro’s Fukutoshin Line to the Tokyu Toyoko Line and Minato Mirai Line, with 'F' standing for fast, five (5 companies are involved) and Fukutoshin. Similarly, since
December, Keikyu has operated two morning ‘Wing’ services inbound from Miura Kaigan, involving a supplement of 300 yen or monthly pass costing 5,500 yen.

What’s in a name?                                                                         The Japan Times

Cash-strapped Choshi Electric Railway in Chiba Prefecture, whose income depends largely on its soy sauce ‘senbei’ (rice crackers), has gained another source of income. The 6.4 kms line with
24 employees, has agreed naming rights to seven of its nine stations, raising an annual 8.3 million yen. Most notable was Kasagami-Kurohae becoming Kaminoke-Kurohae, in reference to the
term used in Japanese to encourage growing black hair. Scalp care products’ company, Meso Care Plus, paid 1.5 million yen for the rights and this has already provided good media publicity.
Another company, Okinawa Tourist Service, renamed a station by using a slogan that involves a local hot spring.

To dispatch or not to dispatch                     Asahi Shimbun/JR East

The last ‘News Update’ (Bullet-In 87) referred to the planned high-speed line between Dallas and Houston. JR Tokai now plans to dispatch about 20 of its engineers to advise on specifications
for its railway traffic control system and engineering works for the project. According to Koei Tsuge, JR Tokai’s president, the company is considering setting up a local affiliate. If it does so,
it will do so by the first half of 2016.

Following security incidents in Europe, particularly terrorism in Paris, JR East cancelled a planned tour to meet potential suppliers in Düsseldorf, Lille and Milan which had been planned for

Boys will be boys                                                                            The Japan Times

Daiichi Life Insurance’s 2016 survey of children at elementary school or younger has revealed that the number of boys who want to have a job which involves being a train, bus or car driver is
the fourth highest among job aspirations, the highest position since the survey began in 1989. Behind being a soccer player, baseball player and police officer or detective, the popularity of this
kind of job has supposedly been boosted by the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen in 2015 and the Hokkaido Shinkansen’s imminent opening.

Slurping Variety                                                                            The Japan Times

Lovers of station noodle stands are being offered more variety, as the stands try to attract more younger and more female customers. Hankyu Hanshin restaurants began to sell noodles with french
fries at its stand at Hankyu’s Juso Station in February 2015 and sold 10 times more than expected. It is now selling this combination at three more stands. Nankai’s soba chain has been serving
‘Tower Soba’, noodles with fried fish sticks making a tower to commemorate the 59th anniversary of Osaka’s landmark Tsutenkaku Tower. Nankai, Hanshin and Sanyo have also joined forces
in a promotional noodle stand stamp rally.

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