The Japanese Railway
By Anthony Robins
New and partly new faces
Fujikyu's two 3
car (Kumoha + Moha + Kuha) type 6000 sets (6001+6101+6051 and 6501+
6601+6551) are former JR East 205s. Branded as 'Fujikyu Commuter
Train', with mainly mid-blue relief (stripes and doors), they are set
to be joined by two more sets. Interiors features new wooden
floors and new seat moquette.
February saw JR
Freight HD300-1 join prototype HD 300-901 and the debut of Nagasaki's
second type 5000, 5002. Also appearing in February were the first
two 8 car type 12-600 sets for Tokyo City's O-Edo Line. The
12-600 sets join 53 existing 12-000 sets.
1st April saw
3001, 3rd-sector Yuri Kogen Railway's new type YR-3000, enter
service. Planned to be the first of three, capacity is 114
passengers, including 41 seated, with some facing seats with small
tables. Livery is white with green doors and a pattern of squares
around the side windows in various shades of green and yellow.
Another 3rd-sector operator, Watarase, has introduced a WKT-550 type
car. In a smart brown, orange and yellow livery, with gold
stripe, it is semi-open with wooden tables and chairs, seating 52, as
well as a service counter. The line is famous as an autumn leaf
Kotsu Shimbunsha/The Mainichi
The 17th March
timetable saw expanded operations of JR East's E5. As well as three
return 'Hayabusa' workings (2 to and from Shin-Aomori, 1 to and from
Sendai), there are eight return 'Hayate' workings, including 2 short
Sendai or Morioka to Shin Aomori workings, as well as a slower
'Yamabiko' run each way between Tokyo and Sendai, and two 'Nasuno'
return runs between Tokyo and Nasu Kogen.
Railway resumed operations over the 24.3 kms of its North Rias Line
from Rikuchuu-Noda to Tanohata on 1st April. This means that a
total of 60.5 kms out of 71 kms on this line are now back in
service. The remaining section is planned to be reopened by April
The 17th March
timetable change saw seven 10 car E657 sets in service on Joban Line
limited express services, together with eight 7 car and four 4 car
'Fresh Hitachi' E653s and three 7 car and three 4 car 'Super Hitachi'
E651s. The latter 33 cars compare with 99 (9 sets of each length)
for the previous timetable.
The Japan Times/The Mainichi
Shimbun/Tetsudo Fan/Tetsudo Journal
The end of March
saw the finale of services on two private lines. The Towada
Sightseeing Railway over the 14.7 kms from Misawa to Towada-shi, which
had been a 762mm line until 1951, and the Nagano Electric Railway's
24.4 kms Yashiro Line branch from Suzaka to Yashiro.
Shinkansen type 300 sets carried the message ‘Arigato. Last Run 300
2012.3.16’ on their nose and sides from 17th February until the end of
service on 16th March. The last day of service was marked with
farewell ceremonies at Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, with 'last run' tickets
sold out in one minute when they went on sale one month before.
At a ceremony before the departure of the last service from Tokyo to
Shin-Osaka, Naotoshi Yoshikawa, the head of JR Tokai's bullet train
project headquarters said, "Today we end 20 years of operations, but we
want to further improve the technology we nurtured with the 300-series
and further develop bullet trains." The same day saw the end of
remaining type 100 operation on the Sanyo Shinkansen and trolley
service on 'Kodama' services on the Tokaido Shinkansen also ceased,
bringing an end to 'Kodama' trolley service, as it has also ceased on
the Sanyo Shinkansen.
types were retired with the March timetable change, encompassing
remaining 5000s and 10000s, as well as the hi-decker 20000, formerly
sharing the 'Asagiri' service with JR Tokai's type 371. The
latter are replaced by Odakyu's type 6000 (MSE).
JR Tokai's type
119, which operated many services on the Iida Line, as here at Toyokawa
in August 2011
replaced by newer cascaded units from the March timetable change.
Many units were subsequently stored out of service west of Hamamatsu.
Nanpoku Line last rubber tyred type 3000 set, 3105, had its last run on
25th March after more than 33 years of operation since being introduced
in November 1978.
withdrawals of 2006+2007 and 2008+2009, 2004+2005, albeit officially
out of use, remain the only examples of this Hiroshima tram type.
The Daily Yomiuri/The Mainichi
Shimbun/Asahi Shimbun/The Japan Times
events of 11th March 2011, increasing attention has turned to the
possibility of a major quake in the Tokyo area. JR East now plans
to spend approximately 52 billion yen on upgrading structures on nine
lines, including the Yamanote Line. About 200 structures
including bridges, bridge girders and 6,730 pillars supporting elevated
tracks will be reinforced over the next five years. Some structures
date back as far as the early 20th century but have so far been
considered strong enough, having survived the 1923 Great Kanto
Earthquake. However, before work can start, negotiations with
businesses located under tracks have to be completed.
JR East has
decided to relocate an 18.2 kms section of its Joban Line between
Hamayoshida (Miyagi) and Komagamine (Fukushima) up to 1 km inland to
reduce damage from a future tsunami. Purchase of land and
construction work will take around three years, with local communities
divided on this plan. While Yamato (Miyagi) supports the
relocation, Soma and Minamisoma (Fukushima) have voiced opposition
because of the delay in the resumption of service.
'worst-case' scenarios raising the extent of possible future tsunamis,
JR companies are establishing better emergency routes for passengers
and strengthening communications. Projections even before the
latest ones indicated that at least 653 kms of route on 31 lines are at
risk. 17th March saw 31 kms of the 37 kms of the Hachinohe Line
affected by the 11th March tsunami reopen and 72 escape routes are
provided. For example, near Uge station in Hirono, Iwate
Prefecture, there is an 18 metres staircase and a 128 metres gravel
road to reach higher ground. 11th March also showed the need for
better communications and the Ministry of Transport has called on
operators to equip crews with multiple means of communication. JR
Tokai has installed portable radios with power generating functions in
5th May saw a
period begin when Japan was nuclear powerless, when the last operating
Japanese nuclear power installation went offline. Faced with a
desire to avoid power supply disruption, rail operators have
contrasting approaches. While other Kanto area railway companies
have indicated that they are considering moving away from reliance on
TEPCO (Tokyo Electric), JR East intends to use a variety of
strategies. While it sees itself as continuing to buy power from
TEPCO and Tohoku Electric, citing their extensive power transmission
infrastructure, it is also planning to beef up its own generating
capacity. The latter already provides 60% of its needs from
thermal and hydroelectric facilities and it is considering expanding
its thermal generating capacity in Kawasaki. In addition, it is
planning to use power from regenerative braking more efficiently,
particularly by harnessing such power from bullet train lines to
provide power for other non bullet train services.
The Japan Times
former capitals is heating up to host a stop on the second stage of the
maglev line, between Nagoya and Osaka, due to open in 2045. Plans
to route the line through Nara date back as far as 1973, but recently
Kyoto has been pushing for a change of route, citing its greater number
of visitors, conventions, passengers, and better existing train
connections. Kyoto Governor, Keiji Yamada, is looking for the support
of the recently formed Union of Kansai Governments, which
includes seven prefectures and two cities, but not Nara
Prefecture. While the cost of building via Kyoto would be
greater, central government estimates indicate 69 billion yen in
economic benefits, greater than those gained from building via Nara.
A Second Life
of Japanese rolling stock to be exported to other Asian countries
have been 15 ex JR West 'KiHa 181' DMU cars built between 1969 and 1972
and in use between Osaka and Tottori (San-In Line). They were
bound for Myanmar and arrived for shipment at Shimonoseki on 7th
February. They followed other JR West cars which went to Myanmar
in 2004 and were originally destined for scrapping.
Mainichi Shimbun/Asahi Shimbun
As the main
company promoting the new Tokyo Sky Tree which opened on 22nd May, Tobu
Railways has been keen to maximize the benefits it gains.
Therefore, 17th March saw it rename nearby Narihirabashi Station as
Tokyo Sky Tree Station. The company's line between Asakusa and
Oshiage in Tokyo and Tobu Dobutsu Koen (Tobu Zoo) in the suburbs has
also been renamed the Tobu Sky Tree Line. Another change, but in
a reverse direction, is a return to its original 1931 appearance at
Tobu's rather cramped Asakusa terminus, rolling back changes made when
its exterior was covered with aluminum cladding. This terminus
was the first in the Kanto area to be directly connected to a
department store when it was opened.
subsidiary 'Lumine', featured at 14 station locations such as Shinjuku
station and now at the former Seibu department store in Yurakucho, has
targeted working women with limited time. Of its 1 million card
members, 90% are female and nearly 70% are in their twenties or
thirties. In contrast to luxury brands at department stores, it
sells its own ranges of products. Except for a brief downturn
during 2008, sales have risen constantly since 1998. Recent
challengers include Isetan Mitsukoshi, which opened its first Isetan
Mirror store in Shinjuku Station on 6th March and Point, an apparel
maker, which has opened outlets in eight stations including Tokyo and
Ueno since 2010.
The Japan Times
figures for the JR Tokai Linear Kan railway museum in Nagoya for its
first year from 14th March 2011 were 1.09 million, with an average of
5,000 at weekends and holidays and 2,600 on weekdays. The figure
compared with an initial aim of 600,000 annual visitors.
The prototype JR
Tokai 300X is one of the exhibits.