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News Update

By Anthony Robins

July 2016

Contrasting Shinkansen Challenges                 The Japan Times/Asahi Shimbun/Mainichi Shimbun/Nikkei Asian Review/JR Kyushu

26th 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 following day.

New Faces                                                                     Tetsudo Journal/Tetsudo Fan/Echigo Tokimeki Railway/Nankai/Kintetsu

Welcome 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 March.

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 seated).

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 refreshments.

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).

As 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 Mt. Fuji”.

New Light Rail                                                                  Tetsudo Journal/Tetsudo Fan

First 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.

3rd-sector 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.

Osaka’s 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

New 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.

Bowing Out                                                                          Tetsudo Journal

28th 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                                                                     Tetsudo Journal

Tobu 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.

Private Matters                                                                     Meitetsu/Seibu/Tetsudo Fan                                                                        

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

The 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

On 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                                                              Japan Today

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

The 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 system.

Not so Smart                                                                             The Japan Times/Japan Today/NHK

According 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.

Another 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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