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News Update

By Anthony Robins

February 2017

New Faces       The Japan Times/Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal/Japan Today/Izukyū

Due to debut in March 2018 will be Odakyū’s new 70000 series ‘Romance Car’ set for operation on its classic route from Shinjuku to Hakone and Enoshima. Its 30000 is also being refurbished for service in Spring 2017 in a new silver and brown livery. Both types will feature a larger baggage storage area, larger toilets, security cameras and free wi-fi, as well as being more barrier-free. The 70000 will feature 1 metre high windows to enhance views en-route.

The second type 260 set (Mo262-Sa182-Ku162) for the 762 mm 3rd-sector Yokkaichi Asunaro Railway in Mie Prefecture featuring air-conditioning is in a white (upper) and green (lower) livery.

Entering service in February 2017 on the Semboku Rapid Railway in the southern suburbs of Ōsaka is its type 12000 ‘Semboku Liner’. Featuring a gold livery with blue wavy line reliefs and contrasting interior colours in each of its four cars, it is based on its parent company Nankai’s type 12000.

A month later in March 2017 Kagoshima City is introducing its new two part type 7500 tram in a bright yellow and green livery.

Booking for JR West’s new luxury ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ train began on 5th December for services beginning on 17th June. Basically, two-day tours will be from Kyoto or Ōsaka to Shimonoseki or vice-versa, either by the Sanyo Line or the Sanin Line, with four meals. The three-day tours will combine both routes, with seven meals. Sightseeing spots en route will include Miyajima, west of Hiroshima, and the Izumo Taisha Shrine in Shimane Prefecture. Two-day tours on the train with a total capacity of 34 will cost from 270,000 yen to 780,000 yen, while three-day tours will be priced at between 500,000 yen and 1.25 million yen.

Toei’s (Tōkyō City) type 5500 is the first new type for its Asakusa Line for twenty years. Entering service in 2018, one 8-car set is being delivered in the 2017 financial year and seven 8-car sets in the 2018 financial year.

Izukyū and Tōkyū will start its new ‘Royal Express’ from July 2017. In royal blue livery with a capacity of 100 passengers and featuring a dining car and a multipurpose car, it is converted from a Resort 21 set.

Winner Tetsudō Fan

The 2016 winner of the Japan Railfan Club’s Blue Ribbon is Hanshin’s type 5700.

Rival Routes The Japan Times/Chunichi Shimbun

Previous ‘News Updates’ have referred to the competition between areas to host the future extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen beyond Tsuruga, after the latter city is reached in the 2022 financial year. A government report in mid-November estimates cost:benefit rates for a route via Maibara to be 2.2 times, for a route via Obama (the favourite) to be 1.1 and via Maizuru to be 0.7 times. Total construction costs, fares and time taken (Tsuruga – Shin Ōsaka) are respectively 590 billion yen/6,560 yen/67 minutes, 2.07 trillion yen/5,380 yen/43 minutes and 2.5 trillion yen/6,460 yen/60 minutes. A decision to choose the route via Obama was made on 21st December and was celebrated by about 100 participants at Obama City Hall. However, construction is not expected to begin until the 2030 financial year, with completion in 2046 at the earliest.

Delivery and Testing  Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal

‘Red Bear’ DF200s have so far been limited to Hokkaido, but DF200-223 has been on trial based at Inazawa between Nagoya and Gifu. On 24th September it triple headed a train of 15 ‘TaKi’ oil tankers on a return trip to Yokkaichi with DD51 1804 and DD51 1825, while on 1st October it operated with DD51 1028 and DD51 853.

JR East’s new luxury ‘Train Suite Shikishima’ train has been on the move. Inazawa (Aichi) based DE10 1192 hauled it from Kawasaki Heavy Industry’s Hyōgo works to Suita, northeast of Ōsaka, on 6th September. On the same day it continued to Shin-Tsurumi, near Yokohama, behind Suita’s EF66 115. The following day, it was on to Higashi-Ōmiya behind EF65 2101, based at Shin-Tsurumi. Finally, on the same day, it continued to Oku in northern 
Tōkyō behind EF65 1105. On 14th September, it had a test run encompassing Oku - Ueno - Kandatsu (Jōban Line) - Ueno - Oku.

Moving Forward or Back Mainichi Shimbun/The Japan Times/Asahi Shimbun

JR Tōkai held a ceremony on 1st October to mark the start of construction of an 8.4 km section of the 25 km Minami Alps Tunnel in Nagano Prefecture on the route of the Linear Chūō Shinkansen due to open between 
Tōkyō and Nagoya in 2027. Work on a 7.7 km section on the Yamanashi side started in December 2016 and the tunnel is due to be completed around Spring 2023. Overburden, rock strata from the earth’s surface to the top of the tunnel, is estimated to be as thick as 1,400 metres, and local residents are concerned about effects on underground water sources and the disposal of excavated material. At the ceremony, Koei Tsuge, JR Tōkai President, stated that, “We want to ensure that the local living environment and natural environment will be maintained.”

18th November saw JR Hokkaidō President, Osamu Shimada, indicate that 13 sections of the company’s operations totalling 1,237 kilometres and about half of its total route length, are facing severe challenges. The company aims to close three more sections with fewer than 200 passengers per kilometre: Hokkaidō-Iryodaigaku to Shin Totsukawa (47.6 km), Furano to Shintoku (81.7 km) and Fukagawa to Rumoi (50.1 km). For eight sections with between 200 and 2,000 passengers per kilometre, including 183.2 km between Nayoro and Wakkanai, the company hopes to increasingly share costs with local municipalities. As for the other two with between 200 and 2,000 passengers, the 16.1 km between Shin-Yubari and Yubari is already set to close and the company will consult with local governments concerning the 116 km between Mukawa and Samani on the Hidaka Main Line, which is out of use after weather damage. 4th December saw the Rumoi to Mashike section of the Rumoi Line close. In the 2014 financial year, there were only three passengers per train on average. In contrast, the last train of three KiHa 40s, one orange (1758) plus two in JR Hokkaido white and green livery (833 and 1716), was packed with around 300 passengers and nearly 600 people saw it off.

10th December saw resumption of Jōban Line services between Hamayoshida in Miyagi Prefecture and Soma in Fukushima Prefecture. Damaged in the 2011 tsunami, the 14.6 km section has been moved as much as 1.1 km inland, with three newly located stations and elevated track. The reopening of this section, which cost 40 billion yen, means that all coastal railway sections in Miyagi Prefecture have now been restored.

22nd December saw the resumption of services including ‘Super Ozora’ limited expresses (Sapporo – Kushiro) after four months, following damage from typhoon 10.

Station Transformation Asahi Shimbun/Chunichi Shimbun

Stations recently or currently being transformed are Takayama in Gifu Prefecture and Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture. The previous station at Atami dated from 1925 with modernisation in 1951. Construction of the new building started in November 2014 and opened in late November two years later. It is 15 metres high, consisting of three storeys and is 140 metres in length. It features ‘Lusca’ shopping and eating amenities, as at nearby Odawara. Transformation is also underway at Nagoya, with a Shinto ceremony to mark the start of construction of the maglev station (at right angles) to the JR Nagoya station on 19th December.

Disruption and Avoidance The Japan Times/Fukuoka City Transport/Nishi Nippon Shimbun/Asahi Shimbun/Mainichi Shimbun

‘News Update’ in issue 90 referred to plans for ApplePay to be able to be used with Japanese IC systems such as Suica. Its debut came about on 25th October, but initial high demand to access the system caused problems on the first morning.

4th November saw major disruption after a damaged communications cable halted trains on JR East’s Takasaki Line between Tōkyō and Takasaki from the beginning of the day’s operations. The damage was first noticed at Kita-Ageo station at around 04:30 and has been attributed to the attentions of a small animal. Alternative transport was provided by bus and by shinkansen. Sh
ōnan Shinjuku Line services (Takasaki-Atami) were also affected. As with the Takasaki Line itself, they resumed later in the afternoon.

Around 05:15 on 8th November saw a large sinkhole open up near Hakata station in Fukuoka. It appeared to be connected to work on the extension of the city’s Nanakuma subway line and the subway operator posted a message apologising for the inconvenience caused, which included electricity blackouts and evacuations. The early time of the occurrence limited injuries and just one elderly lady was reported injured.

A major earthquake (rated at up to 7.4 on the Richter Scale) and tsunami warning on 22nd November saw JR East services disrupted through the morning, including Yamagata Shinkansen services.

Disruption to rural train services because of intrusions by deer has been referred to before in ‘News Update’. A Kintetsu employee has met success. After monitoring deer activity with cameras along Kintetsu tracks in Mie Prefecture and seeing deer families crossing tracks in search of food and water and licking rails in their taste for iron, his solution was to set up ‘deer crossings’ that repel the deer during the day by emitting ultrasonic waves, but allow them to cross through gaps in netting at night. While there were 50 cases of deer: train collisions in 2005 and an average of more than 200 annually since 2012, there have been none since this method was introduced.

10th December saw heavy snow hit central Hokkaidō, with 65 cms of accumulated snow by 15:00, the most in early December since 1987. A total of 135 JR Hokkaidō runs, including a number between Sapporo and Chitose Airport, were cancelled.

Celebrated Tetsudō Fan

The Ōigawa Railway ‘SL Festa’ at Shin-Kanaya on 22nd and 23rd October celebrated 40 years of steam, with locomotives C11 190, C11 227 and C10 8 side by side with commemorative headboards in contrasting colours.

The 23rd JR Freight festival at Hiroshima on 22nd October saw EF66 1 and EF 66 24 with no fewer than five round headboards each commemorating the former ‘Asakaze’ blue train.

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