The Japanese Railway Society Homepage

News Update

By Anthony Robins

  April  2018

New Faces Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal/Asahi Shimbun/Chunichi Shimbun

A highlight of 2018 will certainly be the entry into service of Odakyū’s latest type 70000 ‘Romance Car’, with a GSE branding which means ‘Graceful Super Express’.

With a seven car configuration of KuHa+DeHa+DeHa+SaHa+DeHa+DeHa+KuHa, it has a passenger capacity of 400. The first set was en route from Nippon Sharyō’s Toyokawa plant on 3rd December, displaying its red livery which is akin to that of recent Hakone-Tozan types 3000 and 3100. Entry into service with Odakyū’s March schedule change is part of the enhancements described in ‘News Update’ in issue 95.

Starting service on 6th January was JR East’s ‘B.B. Base’. A six-car type 209 (KuHa+ MoHa+MoHa+MoHa+MoHa+KuHa), its full name is ‘Bōsō Bicycle Base’. This name indicates its uniqueness, with its aim of making it cyclist friendly. With weekend departures from Ryōgoku Station in Tōkyō, which with its slopes is also cyclist friendly, the set can carry up to 99 passengers in mostly facing seats in groups of four. Destinations in Chiba’s Bōsō Peninsula are reached by JR East’s Narita, Uchibō, Sōbu and Sotobō Lines.

11th February saw the debut of Sōtetsu (Sagami Railway)’s new ‘Yokohama navy blue’ liveried 10 car type 20000 (Tc+M+T+M+M+T+M+T+M+Tc). Initially running on the railway’s network, it will operate on through workings to JR East in 2019 and Tōkyū in 2022.

21st March saw the entry of Eizan Railway’s car 732 based ‘Hiei’ car. In an impressive dark green and gold livery with unusual vertical oval cab front, it operates 17 return runs on weekdays except Tuesday and 12 runs on weekends and holidays. The car was delivered from Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ Hyōgo Plant from 4th to 5th February.

Entering service in April is a refurbished type 205 car for JR East’s Nikkō Line. Branded as ‘Iha’, reflecting the scenic ‘Irohazaka’ road near Nikkō. It features brown and yellow relief as part of its livery with wooden flooring and ‘classic ruby brown’ seat moquette. Kyūshū based Nishitetsu has revealed details of its 2019 introduction of a 3 car train ‘The Rail Kitchen Chikugo’, featuring a large open kitchen in its middle car, based on a type 6050 set. Total capacity will be 52.

Kintetsu has announced its new limited express type for its key Nagoya to Namba (Ōsaka) service. Described as ‘High-Grade’, it will feature a red livery, in contrast to the current yellow-orange and off-white livery of the current ‘Urbanliner’, as well as free wireless connectivity. It is due to enter service in March 2020.

Prepared for Deployment  
International Railway Journal/Jiro Kakihara

Mitsubishi Electric has delivered wayside and onboard radio equipment for the first deployment of Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) on the Tōkyō Metro network.

The equipment will be used for trials on its Marunouchi Line Nakano Sakaue to Hōnanchō branch with a specially equipped type 02 train. If the trials are successful, Tōkyō Metro will deploy the system throughout the Marunouchi Line by 2023.

Special Tram The Guardian/Yomiuri Shimbun/CNN/ Shimbun

Late March saw Okayama Electric Railway introduce a two car set based on the ‘Chuggington’ children’s series which originated in Britain. The type 9200 set features ‘Wilson’ (red) and ‘Brewster’ (blue) character based cars. Each car carries 34 passengers and makes five to six runs a day.

Tetsudō Fan

The Chikuho Electric Railway in northern Kyūshū saw its fourth low-floor type 3-part 5000 car, 5004, enter service on 18th December. It is in a light blue livery, in contrast to 5001 and 5003 (pink) and 5002 (light blue).

Shizuoka Tetsudō has added two more A3000 sets which entered service in March, with their liveries (set 3 in natural green and set 4 in brilliant orange-yellow). They are seen before entering service on 28th January at the railway’s Naganuma Depot.

New Stations JTB

17th March saw a new station open at Kizuri-Kamikita, on the Ōsaka Higashi Line used by JR West services 1.4 km from Shinkami and 1.3 km from JR Nagase. Also opening that day was JR Sōjiji on JR West’s Kyōto Line, 2 km from Ibaraki and 1.7 km from Settsu Tonda. Meanwhile on 1st April, Ashikaga Flower Park opened on JR East’s Ryōmō Line, 0.9 km from Tomita and 6.2 km from Ashikaga.

Changeovers Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal

As indicated in this issue and the previous issue, March sees major changes to Odakyū’s schedule. Facilitating this will be the completion of four tracking from Umegaoka to Yoyogi Uehara including two levels of tunnels. Until now, the lower level tunnels have been in use, with all services using or passing through platforms 1 and 2 at Shimo-Kitazawa.

From 3rd to 16th March, stopping trains started to use the higher level tunnels, with platforms 3 and 4. From the timetable change on 17th March, down trains were divided between the higher level platform 3 (stopping and semi-fast) and the lower platform 1 (rapid express and express). All up trains running through to Tōkyō Metro’s Chiyoda Line, plus stopping trains to Shinjuku all used the higher level platform 4 and others to Shinjuku used the lower level platform 2. In addition, the four times’ daily ‘Asagiri’ limited express (Shinjuku-Gotemba), operated in collaboration with JR Tōkai, saw its name change to ‘Fujisan’ and changes to departure times.

The 17th March JR timetable change saw a speed-up on JR Hokkaido services between Hakodate and Sapporo with the replacement of KiHa 183 ‘Hokuto’ services by new KiHa 261 ‘Super Hokuto’ services.

1st April saw the Ōsaka City Underground change its name to Ōsaka Metro (in a similar way to Tōkyō in the past). Its full Japanese name is ‘Ōsaka-shi Kosoku Denki Kido’.

To commemorate the launch, one four-car type 200 set operating on its Nanko Port Town Line appeared in gold. 50 people were offered the chance to take part on its inaugural run.

Keeping Moving and Connected 
Chunichi Shimbun/The Japan Times/ Shimbun

The next generation N700S, (see issues 90, 94 and 95), now branded ‘N700 Supreme’, which was due to start testing on 20th March, will feature a lithium-ion battery system, developed by JR Tōkai in collaboration with Toshiba Infrastructure Systems and Solution Corporation. With the type’s more compact motors, space is available for this innovation. This will enable the type to move at slow speed (30 kms/hr) following a power cut, to allow movement out of tunnels, for example.

The last issue of ‘News Update’ referred to the introduction of free Wi-Fi services on shinkansen services. JR East planned to launch the service on its Tōhoku, Hokuriku and Akita Shinkansen lines in May, with the aim of completing installation by May 2019.. 

Commemorations Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal/The Japan Times

100 years of completion of the Banetsuto (Banetsu East) Line was commemorated by a double headed DE10 (1649 and 1760) run with four steam era brown carriages from Kōriyama to Iwaki and back on 8th October. A month later on 3rd November it was also a 100 years for the Rikuu-tō Line when Kōriyama based DE10 1651 and Sendai based DE10 1180 topped and tailed three type 12 cars (SuHaFu 12 162+OHa 12 367+SuHaFu 12 161) over the route between Kogota and Shinjō.

It was 120 years for the Shinetsu Line between Naoetsu and Kitajō and from Higashi-Sanjō to Kami-Nuttari (near Niigata). The anniversary was marked on 23rd November by the 3rd-sector Echigo Tokimeki Railway’s type ET122-1000 ‘Setsubekka’ resort train, which ran on a special from Jōetsumyōkō to Niigata.

The 90th anniversary of Tōkyō Metro’s Ginza Line was referred to in issue 95. It serves Ueno, where the 60th anniversary of the Ueno Zoo Monorail which was opened on 17th December 1957 was commemorated, making it the oldest monorail in Japan. Just 330 metres and with only two stations, it costs 150 yen for those above junior high school age and 80 yen for those below. Although it has faced the danger of closure in the past, it remains popular with about 1 million annual riders.

The 130th anniversary of the Tōhoku Main Line on 15th December was commemorated by a run of JR East’s ‘Nagomi’ (five cars without the emperor’s car) the following day from Sendai to Kōriyama.

2018 is the thirtieth anniversary of both the Seikan Tunnel between Honshū and Hokkaidō and the Seto Ohashi bridge between Honshu and Shikoku. The latter was marked by a run between Okayama and Matsuyama using JR West’s Ōsaka based ‘Salon Car Naniwa’ set of carriages on 10th April with return on the following day organized by Nippon Travel Agency.

Cruise Connection Tetsudō Journal

April 2018 saw the start of a link from Akita Port to the city itself, using the freight branch from Tsuchzaki. Akita City, Akita Prefecture, JR East, JR Freight and Akita Coastal Railway have cooperated to allow up to 12 daily services to and from the city when ships are at the port.Tetsudō Journal

On Display  Mainichi Shimbun/Tetsudō Fan

28th October’s festival at JR East’s Chūō Line’s Toyoda Depot saw a line-up which included commuter train types 211 and E233, as well as a range of limited expresses with latest type E353 represented by set S102, E257 set M101, as well as classic JNR era type 189 sets M50 and N102. ..

On the way in and out  The Japan Times 

The five carriages previously used on JR West’s ‘SL Yamaguchi’ service until their replacement by new ‘retro’ barrier-free carriages arrived on 28th February at the Ōigawa Railway for future use. Introduced in 1971, their main benefit compared with the Ōigawa’s historic fleet, built between 1939 and 1954, is air conditioning for Japan’s humid summers.

Up to mid March JR East’s Takasaki area was saying goodbye with ‘Arigato 115 kei’ stickers, to its classic JNR era type 115s, which were first introduced to the area in 1964.

Because of their green and orange livery, they have been known as ‘kabocha densha’ (pumpkin EMUs) and ‘mikan densha’ (tangerine EMUs). As of December 2017, there were 10 three-car sets (T1022, T1032, T1036-1041, T1043 and T1046).

JR East’s ‘NO.DO.KA’ sightseeing set, based on a type 485 and introduced in 2001 operated ‘sayonara’ services in the Niigata area on 6th and 7th January. It was also seen passing through Shinjuku en route to Nagano on 10th January.

Tie-up  Tetsudō Journal

10th October saw the start of operation of an Ōsaka Monorail type 1000 four-car set in vinyls emulating Keikyu’s type 2100, in connection with publicizing the latter’s potential use by Tōkyō bound passengers from Ōsaka.

Mind the Doors Tetsudō Journal/Yomiuri Shimbun

Installation of platform doors continues with work at Ueno on Platform 1 (Keihin Tōhoku), where doors arrived by rail early in the morning on 23rd November for instant installation.

The aim is to cover 26 stations on the Keihin Tōhoku and Negishi Lines between Ōmiya and Sakuragichō stations by the end of the 2019 financial year.

Innovative methods to reduce the expense of installing such doors continues, as previously reported in issue 92. A new method being used on Tōkyō City’s (Toei’s) Asakusa Line is to utilise a system developed by Aichi-based Denso Wave, which uses cameras to read a QR-like code on the sides of the varied (Keikyū, Keisei, Hokusō and Shibayama) through-running services, with differences both in numbers of cars and doors. Trials began on 24th November and it is due to be installed at four of the busiest stations on the line, Shimbashi, Daimon, Mita and Sengakuji, before the 2020 Tōkyō Olympics. Meanwhile, trials of another system which allows platform doors to be used for trains with differing numbers of doors at Keikyū’s Miurakaigan Station have shown issues with sensor reaction speeds and time to open and close the doors.

 Winter Disruptions Mainichi Shimbun/Japan Today/The Japan Times/Asahi Shimbun

Northern Japan experienced heavy snow and blizzards from 25th December. At around 11:45 on 26th, a snowplough train derailed at Minami-Wakkanai on JR Hokkaidō’s Soya Main Line, attributed to the snowplough hitting accumulated snow at a level crossing. Services were disrupted, including by low visibility, on many JR Hokkaidō services, as well as JR East’s Gono, Ominato and Ou Lines and its shinkansen services. Services on JR Hokkaidō’s Hakodate Line were disrupted on 25th after a roof blew onto tracks between Asari and Zenibako.

More snow in mid-January caused disruption, with the greatest media focus being on around 430 passengers stranded overnight on 11th January. They were on a four-car E129 operated Nagaoka bound train from Niigata which was halted between Tōkōji and Obiori stations on the Shinetsu Line at around 18:55. Snowfall had reached about 77 centimetres.

Although Tōkōji station was just 300 metres from the point where the train was halted, it was judged to be too difficult for the train to return there and for passengers to leave the train at that unmanned station, local roads were considered difficult to access for bus or taxi access, and snowploughs dispatched soon after failed to reach the location until the following morning. As a result, passengers were stranded for fifteen and a half hours, including many standing, as the train had been particularly crowded due to previous cancellations and delays. About half the passengers were picked up by car before the train continued and passengers from two other stranded trains were transported by bus.

The first week of February saw unusually heavy snow on the Japan Sea coast of Honshū, especially around Fukui and Kanazawa. By 6th February, snow had reached a depth of 136 cm in Fukui. On that day Hokuriku Shinkansen services between Kanazawa and Itoigawa were delayed as much as 39 minutes as speeds were reduced, while on 7th and 8th February JR West cancelled 94 and 88 trains respectively, including ‘Thunderbird’ and ‘Shirasagi’ limited express bound to or from Kanazawa. Car drivers were also trapped overnight. With the heaviest snow in Fukui for 37 years, it provided a good opportunity for Fukutetsu’s 1923 DeKi snowplough, shown above on 6th May 2017, to make an appearance.

High winds and snow caused further problems on 1st and 2nd March, at the same time as the so called cold ‘Beast from the East’ weather in Britain. On 1st, Jōetsu Shinkansen Services were suspended for about two hours after winds of over 126 km/h, exceededing safety limits. Akita Shinkansen and local lines were also affected. As at 07:55, on 2nd, 293 trains, including 37 limited expresses, connecting Sapporo with other parts of Hokkaidō were cancelled.

Falling Down Mainichi Shimbun

Nobody was injured when a waterlogged gypsum ceiling board weighing about 16 kilometres fell 2.4 metres onto stairs at entrance 4 of the subway Midōsuji Line’s Namba Station at around 14:15 on 25th February. The board had been there since August 1971, but appears to have been damaged by a water leak in late January. 

Station Changes Asahi Shimbun

Major stations in Japan are not always famous for their longevity, as they are torn down to be replaced by something more modern and convenient, although particularly historic buildings are sometimes moved, as in the case of JR West’s Nara Station or, as indicated in the last ‘News Update’, Nankai’s Hamadera-Kōen. In the case of Odakyū’s Katase-Enoshima though, it is replacement, with the current building dating from 1929 suffering from rain penetration and general aging. That building is popular with tourists, as its image is of a ‘ryugujo’ (an undersea palace) from Japanese folklore. The new building, which is aiming to be constructed in time for the 2020 Tōkyō Olympics with completion scheduled for May 2020, will carry on this image, with the use of ‘ryugu-zukuri’ methods, which are used at shrines and temples. The new station will have an arch-shaped, two-storey, entrance, similar to Enoshimajinja Shrine. It will have a steel structure with traditional wooden cladding and will be 9.95 metres in height, about 2 metres higher than the present station building.

Commemorations Yomiuri Shimbun/Chunichi Shimbun/JR West

On 25th and 26th November, commemorations were held for the 50th anniversary of a ‘train library’ which has existed at a housing complex in Misumicho, Higashimurayama, west of Tōkyō. The first car to house it was donated by local operator, Seibu, but was removed in 1991 during rebuilding at the complex. Seibu donated another car, built in 1971, and it reopened in 2001. It houses approximately 5,000 books and is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with the help of 25 volunteers. The city provides books, but the volunteers face challenges in the upkeep of the now 47 year old car.

Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the third-sector Aichi Kanjō Tetsudō (Aichi Loop Railway) was a 2-car train with 30 year headboard operating from Kitano-Masuzaka to Setoguchi on 3rd February. The 45.3km line links JR Tōkai lines at Okazaki (Tōkaido Line) and Kōzōji (Chuo Line) and its catchment area includes Toyota City, making it one of the more successful third-sector railways. It is planned to join the IC ticketing network in Spring 2019. Trains sported anniversary stickers from 18th January to 7th March.

C56 ‘Pony’ C56 160 will bow out of service on JR West’s Yamaguchi Line with a double-header with newly overhauled D51 200 on 5th May and a final run on 6th May. This year sees the latter operate steam services on the line in March, April, May and December. Other months will see C57 1 operate services, with a double header with D51 200 on 25th November.

Intrusions Asahi Shimbun/Gordon Bannister/JR Tōkai/Mainichi Shimbun

Various contrasting measures to reduce delays caused by intrusions from animals, especially deer, have been referred to in ‘News Updates’ in the past, including issue 95.

A new one is a train which, “snorts like a deer (and) yelps like a dog.” Thought up by the RTRI (Railway Technical Research Institute) based to the west of Tōkyō, that organization says that the system has successfully repelled deer, with more than 40% fewer animals sighted from trains. It uses a combination of a three seconds’ deer snort, which alerts any deer, followed by a twenty seconds’ burst of dogs yapping to scare off the deer. The institute hopes to put it into full practical use by the end of the 2018 financial year.

An intrusion by a person, rather than a deer, at Okayama Station led to an 80 minutes’ suspension of services on the Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Ōsaka and Higashi Hiroshima in the afternoon of 20th January. The intruder turned out to be an elementary school age boy, who managed to walk eastwards for about 4 km. As a result, into the evening, services were running out of sequence, including those running through to the Tōkaido Shinkansen. Tōkyō bound ‘Kodama 682’, which had been running on time, was held at Nagoya for an extra ten minutes, waiting for ‘Nozomi 42’, which left over 90 minutes behind schedule.

Barrier Freer Mainichi Shimbun

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is moving forward with a new ordinance to mandate two or more wheelchair spaces on trains of more than three cars, increasing the number from the ‘one or more’ of the current ordinance, which dates from 2006. It also calls for railway companies to make further efforts, including making shinkansen green cars accessible.

Overseas Forays Japan Today

NEC Corporation and its Thai subsidiary have been awarded a contract to supply data transmission, CCTV security, public address and master clock systems for Bangkok’s new Red Line, being constructed by a consortium combining Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Hitachi and Sumitomo. The 26.4 km line will link the city’s North and West Lines and is due to be completed in 2020.

Standardisation Mainichi Shimbun

As part of preparations for the 2020 Tōkyō Olympics and Paralympics, standardisation of signs at Tōkyō’s Shinjuku Station is underway. To reduce confusion at this busy hub where six companies operate twelve lines, approximately 400 signs are being replaced or newly installed. The aim is to  replace signs with arrows indicating directions and names of buildings with a combination of signs to specific lines and to specific exits, with information at those exits giving information about nearby buildings and local transport.

Signs in English will also be standardized, with, for example, ‘Subway Oedo Line’ and ‘Toei Oedo Line’ replaced by a uniform ‘Oedo Line’. Installation of new signs is expected to be completed by 2019.

In Tune The Japan Times

29th January saw Tōkyō Metro introduce background music on some of its Hibiya Line services, with the company claiming that this is the first time that a Japanese railway company has played music on its trains. It has been introduced on its type 13000 trains, which were introduced last spring and which feature a high-quality stereo system.

This development has come out of a conductor playing classical music usually used for speaker tests in error and the company mostly receiving positive feedback. Although the focus is on ‘relaxing’ music, as Mejiro University, Professor Emeritus Shozo Shibuya, indicated, such music may act as “a galvanizing force”, but also stress for passengers who are “in different emotional states”.

Olympic Flows Mainichi Shimbun

The Tōkyō Metropolitan Government and the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Committee are considering using the data of ticket buyers to manage transport flows. Tickets will be on sale about one year before the events and buyers will have to provide information for security reasons and to avoid improper resales. Officials believe that, “there are no legal issues with tapping ticket-holder data to ease congestion, providing that the information is handled appropriately and their names are not used.” In addition, planners would like to focus on where visitors from out of Tōkyō are staying, continue to make use of social networking and apps updates, and encourage more flexible working including ‘telecommuting’.

Driver Training Asahi Shimbun/Kurobe Gorge Railway

Following other railways in Japan and around the world, the Kurobe Gorge Railway, which has featured in JRS related tours including the ‘veterans’, has started a driver experience activity. From 19th January to 18th March, during its winter operational respite, there has been the opportunity to drive diesel locomotives DD24 or DD25 on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Taking place at its Unazuki Station, at the hot springs resort of the same name, for 8,000 yen, the one hour activity has given the chance for a maximum of eight people per day (older than 10) to learn the basic operation before two round trips on a 150 metre section of track, preceded by a breathalyzer test.

News Update Archive

[Home Page]