The Japanese Railway
By Anthony Robins
Contrasting Shinkansen Challenges The Japan Times/Asahi Shimbun/Mainichi Shimbun/Nikkei Asian Review/JR Kyushu
March saw the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen over the 148.8 kms
between Shin Aomori and Shin Hakodate Hokuto, with intermediate
stations at Okutsugaru Imabetsu on Honshu and Kikonai on Hokkaido. In
mid-April, JR Hokkaido President, Osamu Shimada, announced that average
occupancy in its first 16 days was just 27%, although actually 2% above
the company’s expectation, which would mean a 4.8 billion yen annual
loss over the next three years. This would be in addition to JR
Hokkaido’s existing 40 billion yen deficit. The first day of service
had seen occupancy reach 61% and even the average of 27% meant about
5,700 passengers per day, 2.2 times the number carried on corresponding
conventional services a year earlier.
The major earthquakes in
the Kumamoto area on 14th April (magnitude 6.5) and 16th April
(magnitude 7.3) led to rail disruption, including the Kyushu
Shinkansen. The earlier one led to the derailment of a type 800
‘Tsubame’ set which had been working empty to a depot south of
Kumamoto. Kyushu Shinkansen services were initially totally cancelled
from 15th April. However, the section between Shin Minamata and
Kagoshima Chuo was restored on the morning of 20th April, followed by
Hakata to Kumamoto on 23rd April, with operation of ’Tsubame’ stopping
services only. The aim was for the rest to be restored on 28th April,
in time for the key Golden Week holiday period which started the
Tetsudo Journal/Tetsudo Fan/Echigo Tokimeki Railway/Nankai/Kintetsu
in keeping the company’s red and cream livery, rather than going down
the usual current unpainted route, is Keikyu’s new variant 1000-1800.
Two 4-car all motored sets (1801-4 and 1805-8) entered service on 4th
27th April saw the start of operations by Sanyo Tetsudo
of its new three car type 6000 set (M+T+M), with two sets (6000 and
6001). They are its first new type since the 5030 in 1997. Livery is
unpainted with red doors and three horizontal stripes in different
shades of orange. Nearby Kobe Electric’s first type 6500 (M+T+M)
entered service with the company’s timetable change from 21st May.
Livery is unpainted with red and black stripes.
JR East’s type
E721-1000 is a four-car version of its two-car type E721. While the
latter was introduced in 2007, 19 E721-1000 sets will be introduced
between November 2016 and March 2017 on Sendai area Tohoku, Joban and
Senseki Line services.
3rd-sector Kashima Rinkai Tetsudo’s type
8000 is the first of this Niigata Transses type. In blue (upper) and
off white (lower) separated by a red stripe, with a capacity of 135 (44
The 3rd-sector Echigo Tokimeki Railway, which took over
Hokuriku Line and Shinetsu Line services after the start of the
Hokuriku Shinkansen in March 2015 introduced a resort type train from
23rd April. It is the type 122-1000 2-car ’Setsugekka’ set. Effectively
a hi-decker and featuring large picture windows, it has a red livery
and has upholstered seats, both box-type (facing) and outward facing
for good views. It operates at weekends and holidays from Joetsu Myoko
to Myoko Kogen before backtracking towards Naoetsu and onto Itoigawa in
the morning and back in the afternoon. Cost is 14,800 yen including
food and 6,000 yen without.
Similarly offering superior seating
and food is another 3rd-sector operator, the Nagaragawa Railway in Gifu
Prefecture. Operating from 27th April, the red liveried ’Nagara’ will
operate around 150 days a year. Prices range from 12,000 for a lunch
course plus 2 days’ ‘free’ ticket, through a sweets course plus 1 day
‘free’ ticket for 5,000 yen, to 500 yen for a ‘view’ plan without
Also following the trend is Nankai’s ‘Medetai
Densha’. As the name suggests, this pink two-car type 7100 set
celebrates ‘Medetai’, which means ‘happy’ or ‘auspicious’, as well as
representing a kind of ‘tai’ (sea bream), which is also seen as
auspicious. Featuring motifs and even strap hangers in the shape of
those fish, as well as wooden floors, it started operating on 29th
April between Wakayama-shi and Kada.
Another special set in
Kansai is Kintetsu’s ‘Blue Symphony’ (Ao Kokyokyoku). The 3-car type
16200 set is converted from a regular type 6200 set. As its name
suggests, the livery is (dark) blue but with some gold relief. From
10th September, it started to operate two return journeys from Thursday
to Tuesday between Abenobashi in Osaka and Yoshino to the south. Cars 1
and 3 have facing seats (2+2 plus 1+1) while car 2 has lounge seating
with a bar counter. The supplement for the journey (basic fare is 970
yen) is 720 yen (510 yen ltd. express and 210 yen special car fee).
reported in ’News Update’ in issue 84, JR Tokai’s type 371, which was
formerly used on joint services with Odakyu, had its last run on JR
Tokai in November 2014. Now resplendent in a tomato red livery with an
interior heavy on wood, the 3-car (T+M+M) type 8500 ‘Fujisan View
Express’ saw its reentry into service on 23rd April, this time on the
Fujikyu, with titles proclaiming that this is “The Railway closest to
New Light Rail Tetsudo Journal/Tetsudo Fan
introduced in the mid 1950s and previously rebodied, Tokyo City’s
Arakawa Line type 7000 cars are being modernised. Featuring the same
bogies as the recent type 8900 and wider doors (100 cms rather than 90
cms), the first (7701) is in a smart green livery with light brown
relief. One more in green livery is due, as well as three in blue and
three in cochineal red. Cost per car is 130 million yen.
Echizen Tetsudo’s L type (L 01A and B and L 02A and B) is a new two
part type for direct running between the Echizen and the Fukui Railway.
Livery is yellow and the type with a capacity of 100 (32 seated) has
the nickname ‘ki-bo’. The maker is Niigata Transses, with electrical
components by Toyo and Mitsubishi. Fukui Tetsudo also introduced its
third F1000 type ‘Fukuram’ in light green livery from 20th March.
New Tram, to the south of the city centre, has a new type, the 200. The
first seven sets are due to enter service in the 2016 financial year,
with all 20 arriving by the 2018 financial year to replace the existing
100A. While the first set, in operation from June, is in blue livery,
the remainder will be in six other colours comprising pink, red,
orange, yellow, green and purple, in a similar way to Shizuoka
Tetsudo’s new A3000 type.
New Stations Tetsudo Journal/JTB Timetable
stations to open with the 26th March timetable change were two JR East
stations at Ishinomaki Ayumino on the Senseki Line north east from
Sendai, 2.1 kms from Rikuzen Akai and 1.4 kms from Hebita and at
Odasakae on the Nanbu Line in Kanagawa Prefecture between Kawasaki
Shincho and its terminus at Hama Kawasaki. JR West also opened two new
stations at Maya, between Nada and Rokkomichi and at Higashi Himeji
(Sanyo Line). Just before successive earthquakes in the area, Nishi
Kumamoto opened on JR Kyushu’s Kagoshima Main Line, 3.2 kms from
Kumamoto towards Kagoshima.
January saw closure of the the Sanin Renraku (Connecting) Line between
Umekoji and Tanbaguchi in Kyoto. This was in connection with the
opening of a new station between Kyoto and Tanbaguchi in 2019, located
close to the new Kyoto Railway Museum.
18th and 19th June saw last
runs for the final type 485 in JNR era livery. A Sendai based 6-car set
operated a ‘Tokkyu Hibari Course’ to Koriyama and ‘Tokkyu Aizu Çourse’
onwards to Aizu Wakamatsu on 18th, followed by ‘Tokkyu Tsubasa Course’
from Fukushima to Yamagata and then back to Sendai.
Back in Steam
will operate steam services with JR Hokkaido's C11 207 plus five
carriages (two type 12 and three type 14) from JR Shikoku plus two
brake vans (ex JR Freight and JR West) over the 12.4 kms between Shimo
Imaichi to Kinugawa on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays running 3 times
a day from Summer 2017.
The 2016 financial year saw Meitetsu (Nagoya Railroad)
introduce two further 4-car type 3300 sets and one further 2-car type
3150 set, as well as an additional 6-car type 2200 limited express set.
Perhaps fitting in with the aimed for inflation of ‘Abenomics’,
Seibu amended its limited express supplements from 2nd July. The change
saw the first increases since 1991. As well as increases, some
supplements were reduced. New limited express trains are promised for
2018. In addition, Seibu’s eight Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ built type
40000 due in Spring 2017 will offer reserved seats on Seibu Ikebukuro -
Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line services on weekdays and from its Chichibu
Line to Tokyo Metro’s Fukutoshin Line at weekends. Seibu has also
recently introduced its ’52 Seats of Happiness’ dining train (4 car
type 1000 set) with a three hours’ brunch costing 10,000 yen and a two
and half hours’ dinner costing 15,000 yen. Furthermore, its pink KPP
Train (type 9000 set), launched on 4th June, celebrates fashion idol,
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (Kiriko Takemura).
Hokuriku Shinkansen Benefits The Japan Times/Mainichi Shimbun
opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Nagano and Kanazawa in March
2015 has proved beneficial. According to Nippon Travel Agency, tourists
from the Tokyo metropolitan area quadrupled between June and December
2015, compared with the previous year. Within a year, 10 million
passengers were carried according to JR West. Local train passengers
have also increased, with the 3rd-sector Ishikawa Railway carrying
26,000 passengers between April and September, up about 4,000 from the
comparable JR West route in the same period in 2012. Tokyo area
universities are also using the improved link to encourage Hokuriku
area students to study there.
Opposition Mainichi Shimbun
12th May, a citizens’ group made up of 740 people from six prefectures
plus Tokyo announced that they would file a lawsuit on 20th May aiming
to stop the building of the Chuo Shinkansen maglev line between Tokyo
and Nagoya which is underway and due to open in 2027, with an expected
cost of about 5.5 trillion yen. They aim to reverse the transport
ministry’s approval, claiming that environmental issues have not been
adequately addressed, including affects on watercourses and the volume
of excavated material. They also claim that it fails to meet transport
safety and business viability standards.
Dealing with Energy
JR East has
ordered Toshiba’s H2One stand-alone hydrogen energy supply system to be
installed at Musashi Mizonokuchi station on its Nanbu Line, SW of
Tokyo. The system consists of solar panels to generate electricity
combined with a storage battery and hydrogen production equipment which
produces hydrogen which can be stored in a hydrogen tank. A fuel cell
can then be used to generate power when regular power is not available.
Dealing with Dementia The Japan Times
Japanese Supreme Court recently exempted the family of a 91 year old
man with dementia from paying damages to JR Tokai after he was hit by a
train in 2007. The ruling LDP and Komeito coalition are now considering
a system where the government compensates families who suffer financial
losses as a result of family members with dementia. This could involve
the idea of using money from the existing public nursing care premium
Not so Smart The Japan Times/Japan Today/NHK
to a survey undertaken by JR East, of 229 train delays caused by
objects falling onto tracks in Tokyo and six prefectures in eastern
Japan, 54 (23%) were caused by passengers dropping their smartphones.
Passengers often drop them while boarding or leaving trains and JR East
plans to step up its campaign about using these devices carefully.
survey, this time by 16 major Japanese railway companies, found that
there were 225 attacks on conductors and other staff in the 2015
financial year. That was the 8th consecutive year with more than 200
assaults and is three times the figure for 2000 when the survey began.
35% of incidents were seen as occurring suddenly with no reason, 21%
involved someone who was drunk and 13% involved warning someone who had
been causing ‘a nuisance’.
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