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News Update

By Anthony Robins

March 2015

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New Faces     Tetsudō Fan

Latest light rail line to join the low-floor club is the Chikuh
ō Electric Railroad in northern Kyūshū with its type 5000 three-part set. In a smart pink and silver livery,  with a capacity of 87, it entered service in March 2015, replacing type 2000 car, 2005.  A further set will enter service in each of the next three years.

Looking further ahead, for three years from the 2016 financial year, JR West will introduce 168 type 323 sets (21 eight car sets) to replace the ageing mixture of  103s and 201s operating on the busy Ōsaka Loop Line.  With a stainless steel body, they are capable of 100 km/h operation.  Also from the 2016 financial year,  Shizuoka Tetsudō will introduce a new VVVF type to succeed the present type 1000s.  With the same top speed of 70 km/h but better acceleration, each two car set will seat 119, as opposed to the 140 of the 1000s due to better wheelchair provision.

‘Oikotto’ sees KiHa 110-235 converted with a new retro interior and windows divided by vertical and horizontal lines to give an image akin to an old building.  Livery is cream with dark red relief including doors. Together with a second car, converted from KiHa 110-236, it will operate as a sightseeing train between Nagano  and Tōkamachi on the Iiyama Line. 

JR Kyūshū’s green ‘Yufuin no Mori’ KiHa 72 set which operates between Hakata and Yufuin saw a fifth car added this Spring.

Latest Hiroshima ‘Green Mover Lex’ is 1006 which began test runs in the middle of last December.

Procurement   JR East

From 28th November to the 27th February deadline, JR East was inviting ‘an international tender’ for the design, manufacture and maintenance (for up to 40 years)  of 18 new diesel railcars for its Hachinohe Line. They would feature air-conditioning and barrier-free capability.

Changing Places  Tetsudo Journal/Tetsudo Fan

Last run for JR Tokai’s type 371 was an 8th anniversary Gotemba Line run, with operation from Matsuda to Hamamatsu on 30th  November. It is now due to join its erstwhile Odakyū type 20000 running mate on the Fujikyū.

In readiness for the opening of the new Kyōto Railway Museum at Umekōji, Type 100 shinkansen car (122-5003) and type shinkansen 500 car (521-1) were moved from Hakata (Fukuoka), leaving there on 11th December for Kōbe arriving the following day. Between 14th and 15th, they were moved by road to Kyōto.

On 1st March, JR Tokai’s 19.3 kms Obu to Taketoyo Line (SE of Nagoya) switched from diesel to electric operation with type 313 EMUs.

Overwhelmed        The Japan Times/Mainichi Shimbun

Commemorations for Tōkyō Station’s 100th anniversary have been reported in recent issues of ‘Bullet-In’. However, things got somewhat out of control when 15 000 special  2 000 yen ‘Suica’ IC cards (maximum 3 per customer) went on sale on 20th  December. As so many customers were lined up early, including some who had slept at the station overnight, the cards went on sale at 08.00, one hour earlier than planned. However, soon after 09.40 sales were suspended as crowds were swamping the station and affecting normal operations. This led to arguments between staff and dissatisfied customers. Later in the day, the cards started appearing at inflated prices on internet auction sites. JR East announced on 22nd  December that it planned to sell much larger numbers of the card in the future.

Flashbacks          Tetsudo Fan/Japan Today

A flashback to the past is provided at the south entrance of the new Itoigawa station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen, where preserved KiHa 52 156 provides an image of the past appearing from the entrance of the former iconic brick shed.

A survey of more than 450 readers of online news site ‘MyNavi Woman’ found that the second most overlooked memory from the Shōwa era (1926-89) was that ‘Toilets emptied onto the tracks’, cited by 22.8%, reminding us of the progress described by Hiroshi Naito in his article in issue 74 of  ‘Bullet-In’.

Back in Steam      Chūkyō TV

Following the return of its Sharp-Stewart locomotive in November 2012 to Meijimura, Nagoya Tetsudō’s collection of historic buildings, the second locomotive, 1912 built Baldwin Number 9, returned after overhaul in Ōsaka on 15th January. After testing, it returned to use on Meijimura’s short line in March.

Back in Action     JR East

The Ishinomaki Line between Urashuku and its terminus at Onagawa reopened on 21st March, the Senseki Line between Rikuzen Ono and Takagimachi is due to reopen in June, and the Jōban Line between Sōma and Hama Yoshida is due to follow in Spring 2017. The Jōban Line between Haranomachi and Tatsuta near to the Fukushima Number 1 plant will remain closed.

Timetable Changes           JR East/NHK

14th March was the opening day of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, which as a by-product saw Tōkyō-Nagano return services increase from 27 to 40. Five daily return ‘Shirayuki’ limited expresses (Niigata-Jōetsumyōkō), operated by former Jōban Line E653 sets were also introduced, which have an eight minutes connection there to ‘Hakutaka’ Hokuriku Shinkansen services from there to Kanazawa. The same day saw the start of through services from the Takasaki and Utsunomiya Lines to the Tōkaidō Line, plus Jōban Line services as far as Shinagawa. However, there were also cuts in some services, with the Joetsu Shinkansen seeing a cut of one return faster ‘Toki’ service and about 40% of slower ‘Tanigawa’ services. In addition, following a recent trend, trolley service disappeared from ‘Narita Express’, and ‘Tanigawa’, ‘Nasuno’ and Tsubasa (Yamagata-Shinjo section) shinkansen services. Services to the Bōsō Peninsula also saw cuts, with ‘Wakashio’ runs reduced by 2, ‘Sazanami’ by 4, ‘Shiosai’ by 3, and seasonal ‘Ayame’ services cut by 4.

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