The Japanese Railway
By Anthony Robins
New and partly new
faces Tetsudo Fan
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 viewing route.
Workings 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.
Hard-hit Sanriku 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 2014.
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.
Two Tokaido 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
Three Odakyu 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
were fully replaced by newer cascaded units from the March
timetable change. Many units were subsequently stored out of
service west of Hamamatsu.
Sapporo City's 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
Following withdrawals of
2006+2007 and 2008+2009, 2004+2005, albeit officially out of use,
remain the only examples of this Hiroshima tram type.
Repercussions The Daily Yomiuri/The Mainichi
Shimbun/Asahi Shimbun/The Japan Times
Following the 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
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.
With recent '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 all trains.
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
Rivalry between 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.
Latest items 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.
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.
JR East's 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
Final attendance 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.
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