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News Update

By Anthony Robins

 July  2017

New Faces Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal/Chunichi Shimbun/JR Tōkai/ Kakihara

20th March saw the first operation of Nishitetsu’s new type 9000. Consisting of two 3-car sets (Tc+M+Tc) and two 2-car sets (Mc+Tc), livery is unpainted with some dark red relief. Capacity of all cars is 124 (40 seated), except the intermediate car in the 3-car set which has capacity for 138 (48 seated).

Entering operation on 8th April was 3rd-sector Akechi Tetsudō’s new ‘Akechi 100’ type, 101. With a capacity of 119 (50 seated longitudinally) and light pink livery with orange stripes, it replaces similarly liveried ‘Akechi 6’ (see article in this issue).

10th May saw the entry into service of the first five car type 320 set on Tōkyō City’s Nippori-Toneri Liner. Livery is a combination of green, black and unpainted. It follows the type 330 introduced in October 2015. As with that type, all seats are longitudinal.

19th May saw the unveiling of the first of Nankai’s type 8000 sets with a ‘Premium Car’ (car 6), which features 2+1 reclining seats, with a capacity of 40 seats. The service is being introduced from 20th August.

22nd May saw the second E235 set enter service on JR East’s Yamanote Line in Tōkyō. Fifteen 11-car sets are due in the 2017 financial year, with a total of fifty by the 2020 financial year.

Also entering service in May was Hakone Tozan’s two car type 3100 (KuMoHa 3101 + KuMoHa 3102). Based on the operator’s ‘Allegra’ type 3000 which was introduced in November 2014, it is in the same bright red livery. Capacity of each car is 82 (40 seated), compared with 75 (36 seated) for the 3000.

DD200-901 is the prototype for a new JR Freight diesel locomotive design. With testing due to begin in late June, this Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ locomotive features a typical long and short ‘bonnet’, current JR Freight red livery and a length of 15.9 metres (1.8 metres longer than the DE10).

Unveiled on 4th June were new ‘Retro’ carriages for the ‘SL Yamaguchi’ which will replace the existing type 12 carriages from 2nd September. They are five type 35s (ORoTe 35 4001 + SuHa 35 4001 + NaHa 35 4001 + OHa 35 4001 + SuHaTe 35 4001). With a top speed of 110 km/h, capacity is respectively 23, 64, 40, 72 and 46. Construction of these air-conditioned steel carriages has been by Niigata Transys.

JR Tōkai plans its next generation of trains for its ‘Hida’ and ‘Nanki’ limited expresses, currently operated by KiHa  85 DMUs to be hybrid trains which would allow a 15% reduction in fuel costs, with 4 car sets utilising one engine per car rather than two. Plans see testing from 2019 and entry into service in 2022.

More Themed Trains   Tetsudō Fan/JR East

From 1st July, JR East has been operating ‘High Rail 1375’, a two-car DMU set (KiHa 100 + KiHa 110) with observation friendly seating on JR East’s scenic Koumi Line between Kobuchizawa and Komoro. The line rises to a height of 1,375 metres, hence the train’s name. It is operating on four to six days a week during the summer.

15th July saw a renewed ‘Pokemon with You’ train in service between Ichinoseki and Kesennuma, running at weekends and holidays in July and September, as well as most days in August. The KiHa 100 set features a mainly yellow exterior and interior reflecting the key 'Pokemon' character, Pikachu. It replaces an earlier version which operated between December 2012 and May 2017.

Tram Matters Tetsudō Journal/The Japan Times

The Arakawa Line’s two surviving type 7000 trams were due to be withdrawn in late April (7001) and early June (7022). To commemorate the event, 24th March saw two Tōkyō City buses start operating in traditional yellow livery vinyls.

The Japan Times

26th March saw the first anniversary of the Hokkaidō Shinkansen celebrated at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Shin-Aomori stations. Speaking at the former station, Osamu Shimada, the JR Hokkaidō President, indicated that its true value will be tested in the second year and asked for support to extend it to Sapporo as early as  possible, with the present aim being by March 2031. In its first year, the Hokkaidō Shinkansen was used by about 2.3 million passengers, an average occupancy  rate of about 32%. Overall, average daily passengers have been 6,300, but there has been a sharp difference between summer (9,600 in August) and winter  (3,600 in February).

Back on Track  Mainichi Shimbun/The Japan Times/Tetsudō Fan

1st April saw a ceremony at Namie station (JR East’s Jōban Line) to mark the resumption of services over the 8.9 km between Namie and Odaka, both in Fukushima Prefecture. This took place just over six years after services were suspended following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Late March had seen an evacuation order for Namie partially lifted. The section of the 27.7 km of the Jōban Line between Namie and Tatsuta remains out of action.

Steam locomotive D51 827, which spent many years preserved in a confined shed in Jimokuji, west of Nagoya, and was one of very few plinthed locomotives to escape roving JRS member, Alan Absalom, has now been moved to Aridagawa in Wakayama Prefecture. Bought by specialist Kansai train transporting company, Achiha, it is due to run along a 400 metres’ stretch of track there at the Aridagawa Train Park from later this summer.

Refurbished at Wakasa Railway’s Hayabusa Station is preserved ex Hokuriku Tetsudō ED 301, which dates from 1954.

On the Way Out The Japan Times

As planned, the end of double-deck Shinkansen operation is looming. Late March saw JR East announcing that its remaining double-deck type, the E4, still operating on the Joetsu Shinkansen, will be replaced by E7s from the 2018 financial year. Introduced in 1997, the E4 is the highest capacity high-speed train in the world, with a seating capacity of 1,634. Following the replacement of E4s, remaining E2 sets operating on the Jōetsu Shinkansen will also be replaced by E7s.

International Connections 
Tetsudō Journal/Asahi Shimbun/Yomiuri Shimbun/ The Japan Times/Railway Gazette/Jiro Kakihara

Mid-June saw an announcement from the Indian Ministry of Railways that Indian Railways is expected to order 25 ten-car high-speed sets which are a variant of JR East’s E5. With an expected cost of 50 billion Rupees, they will operate at a maximum speed of 350 km/h and have seating for 698 standard class passengers and 55 business class passengers. They are for the largely Japanese financed 508 km Mumbai to Ahmedabad high speed line, construction of which is due to begin in 2018, with completion projected for 2023.

To celebrate the one year anniversary of JR Shikoku’s relationship with the Taiwan Railway Administration, its type 8000 set S6 is in a white, yellow and blue livery which represents the latter’s type 800 from 30th March until the end of next February. An 8-car Taiwan type 800 set will reciprocate in JR Shikoku livery from 2nd June until the end of next June.

Japan is not famous for importing rail equipment, but the situation is more positive when it comes to more specialised equipment. A 16 metre long defect inspection car produced by Italy’s Mermec will begin test operations on the Sanyo Shinkansen from September. The cost is projected to be approximately 700 million yen, with full operation in five years which aims to reduce the need for labour intensive visual inspections. Future plans see use of such equipment on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and local lines.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister, Keichi Ishii, told some 600 participants on 3rd May at a third symposium in Kuala Lumpur that Japan wanted to share 52 years of shinkansen experience in relation to a planned Kuala Lumpur to Singapore high-speed link. With an aim of a journey time of 90 minutes and a launch date of 2026, bidding is due to be held between October and December, with competition from China and South Korea.

Launched on 5th June was a prayer room at Tōkyō Station. Open from 08:30 to 19:00 on weekdays and to 17:00 on weekends and holidays, it is mainly for the increasing number of Muslim tourists, but is available for visitors from other religions. Some airports already have such facilities and JR West and Nankai provide spaces near stations, but this is the first prayer room at a station. It is however, only 8 square metres, with a capacity for just two people.

Unveilings  Chunichi Shimbun

JR West unveiled check-in facilities for its luxury ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ at its Granvia Hotel in Kyōto on 31st May, ahead of the launch of the train on 17th June. Passengers can proceed directly to the platform by using an elevator.

A new uniform for JR Tōkai train crew was marked by a ceremony on a platform at Nagoya Station on 1st June, with a member of crew in the former and new uniforms. The latter features a ‘Cool Biz’ style shirt with no tie. 

Female Friendly Asahi Shimbun

On 30th May, Iyo Tetsudō, operating in Matsuyama, became the latest company to introduce female drivers, with two ladies being the first since the Second World War.

Disability Friendly  Mainichi Shimbun

With the upcoming 2020 Tōkyō Olympics and Paralympics, support groups are campaigning for improved facilities for people with disabilities on shinkansen services. Currently, operators are required to provide at least one wheelchair location per car, with either seating for those in wheelchairs created by removing aisle seats or a multipurpose room. Limitations include having to book more expensive reserved tickets and not always being able to travel with companions. DPI-Japan, The Japan National Assembly of Disabled Peoples’ International aims to campaign for six to ten wheelchair users per car and companies have expressed their desire to improve the situation.

Under Surveillance  The Japan Times 

‘News Update’ in the last issue referred to the future introduction of surveillance cameras on Tōkyō Metro trains. Between Spring 2018 and 2020, at a cost of around 2 billion yen, cameras will be placed near display panels above doors on 550 Yamanote Line cars. JR East’s president, Tetsuro Tomita, stated that “Crimes and nuisance are become noticeable on trains. (Cameras) are necessary to prevent terrorism as well.” Footage will be stored for about a week and access will be restricted to a limited number of employees. 

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