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News Update

By Anthony Robins

November 2016

New Faces                                                                     Chikuhō Electric Railway/ Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal/The Japan Times

1st March saw Chikuhō Electric Railway’s second 3-part light rail set enter service. Livery is green with metallic relief.

24th June saw JR West’s first 8-car (all motored) type 323 for its Ōsaka Loop Line unveiled at Kinki Sharyō’s Works. Eventually, there will be 21 of these sets which are unpainted with orange and black relief.

Ichibata Tetsudō in Shimane Prefecture is due to see a new type, rather than its typical second-hand types, with the introduction of its type 7000. Two single cars, based on JR Shikoku’s type 7000, are due to be delivered in the summer and January 2017 respectively, with entry into service in December and February respectively. With modern VVVF technology and a capacity of 129 (64 seated), 20 greater than the operator’s type 1000, the unpainted exteriors will feature vinyl ‘wrapping’.

Fukushima Kōtsū is introducing 14 cars of ex-Tokyū type 1000s to become its own type 1000. This more modern type will improve ‘barrier-free’ access to its services. Livery is planned to be unpainted with mostly brown relief. Transfer of the units takes place between 2016 and 2018, with the first entering service in Spring 2017.

JR Kyūshū’s BEC 819 is a 2-car hybrid set which is in test operation on four daytime services in each direction on the Chikuhō Line between Wakamatsu and Orio during the second half of October and throughout November. With capacity for 80 seated and a further 104 standing, livery is off white with blue relief including doors.

As reported in ‘News Update’ in issue 86, the new Tōkyō Metro Hibiya Line type 13000 will ease through workings onto Tōbu, by having the same door pattern as Tōbu’s type 70000. This will also facilitate platform doors being fitted on the Hibiya Line between 2020 and 2022. There will be 44 7-car unpainted all-motored sets delivered between 2016 and 2019. Total capacity of each set is 1,035, including 345 seated

Bullet Advances                    The Japan Times/ Kiyoshi Jinno/Nikkei Asian Review

The 2020 financial year sees the next step forward for the Tōkaidō/Sanyō Shinkansen’s rolling stock with the N700S. Featuring a nose which is designed to reduce air resistance, noise and vibration when the train enters tunnels, it will also feature lighter silicon carbide semiconductors which JR Tōkai has developed in association with Tōshiba, Hitachi, Fuji Electric and Mitsubishi Electric. One result is a projected 7% reduction in electricity consumption. The type will be the first to weigh less than 700 tons, making it about 300 tons lighter than the original Zero series. Each seat will be equipped with electrical sockets for recharging devices. The ‘S’ stands for ‘Supreme’ and the company’s aim is for it to spearhead overseas sales, including possibly to Taiwan, where series 700T sets are currently used.

Bowing Out                                                                                          Tetsudō Journal

Nose Railway’s type 1500, ex-Hankyū type 2100, saw its last operation on 22nd June. Sets 1550F plus 1560F operated a ‘Sayonara’ service on 29th May and the final set in operation, 1560F, carried a headboard from 10th June onwards.

26th June saw the withdrawal of Saitama Shin Kōtsū’s type 1000. Operating since the start of services in December 1983, they were refurbished between 1998 and 2001. Withdrawal of the type began back in 2010.

Hankyū’s type 3100, built between 1964 and 1967 and numbering 40 cars, saw its last service on the company’s Itami Line on 8th July. The type has been replaced by new type 1000 cars.

Comeback                                                        Tetsudō Journal/Asahi Shimbun/Tetsudō Fan

Four ex-Marunouchi cars built between 1958 and 1962 (cars 584, 734, 752 and 771), which operated in Buenos Aires from 1995, returned to Tōkyō in July. Taken by trailer to Nakano Depot, they are being restored for training and events.

As indicated in ‘News Update’ in issue 86, in 2017 Tōbu aims to start steam operations after a gap of more than fifty years, using JR Hokkaidō’s C11 207 between Shimo-Imaichi and Kinugawa Onsen. To gain experience of steam operations, since January the company has sent 18 employees to companies with experience of steam operation: Chichibu, JR Hokkaidō, Mooka and Oigawa. In addition, Shimo-Imaichi will be renovated in Showa era style and expanded in size by about 50%. A Shinto ceremony was held at Kuki in Saitama Prefecture on 12th September to pray for the safety of the locomotive.

Ex-Hankai tram 168 (in blue skies and white clouds livery) is now an Italian restaurant located in Kaizuka, Ōsaka, near to Nagose Station on the Mizuma Railway.

Hokkaidō Issues                            Tetsudō Journal/JR Hokkaidō

Following the planned abandonment of its 16.7 km Rumoi Line section between Rumoi and Mashike, JR Hokkaidō plans to close its 16.1 km branch from Shin-Yūbari to Yūbari, the historical mining location. Recently, ridership has dropped to an average of only 118 passengers and the line had a deficit of more than 100 million yen in 2014.

Airport Bound                                                   The Japan Times                                                               

Keisei’s current more direct ‘Skyliner’ service from Ueno to Narita airport which was launched in July 2010, reached a total passenger count of 20 million on 13th September. As it took three years and five months to reach the first 10 million, it can be seen that the number of passengers has subsequently increased with the recent rise in inbound tourists to Japan.

Colour Changes                            Tetsudō Fan/Colin Brown

Ohmi Railway, a Seibu subsidiary in Shiga Prefecture, held a ceremony on 16th June to mark the entry into service of its type 820 set (822). In classic Seibu red and beige livery, it marks the 120th anniversary of the railway’s establishment.

Donan Isaribi Tetsudō (South Hokkaidō Railway), which took over operation of local services after the opening of the Hokkaidō Shinkansen, has repainted veteran KiHa 40 1814 in a light orange livery with a blue mountain shaped stripe.

Tōkyō City’s Arakawa Line car 7001 is now in retro yellow livery with red waistline, recalling the 1960’s era.

Long Line-up                                  Tetsudō Journal

As mentioned in his article about the Hokkaidō Shinkansen in ‘Bullet-In 89’, the end of overnight trains to Hokkaidō has led to the withdrawal of the ‘Hokutosei’ liveried DD51s. Between 3rd and 4th July, eight were pulled by a ‘Red Bear’ DF200 on the first stage of the journey to their eventual destination, Myanmar.

Evacuation Delays                         The Japan Times

30th June saw the Japan Transport Safety Board urge railway companies to raise public awareness of the need to evacuate rapidly in case of an emergency. It suggested that more security cameras should be provided and more measures taken to allow crew to monitor developments. This follows an incident one year ago when a 71 year old set himself on fire, leading to another 52 year old passenger dying from respiratory failure. The organisation found that passengers evacuated too slowly, but that the driver correctly initially braked and then accelerated to exit a tunnel. In addition, non-inflammable materials helped  retard the spread of fire.

Inflation                             Chōshi Electric Railway

Faced with financial challenges, last 1st October saw Chōshi Electric Railway in southern Chiba raise fares by a uniform 30 yen, meaning a rise from 150 yen to 180 yen for its lowest fare and from 310 yen to  340 yen for its highest fare. Season fares were also raised at the same time.

Going Public                            The Japan Times/Rail Journal

On 30th June JR Kyūshū filed to list on the stock market and aims to go public on the Tōkyō Stock Exchange on 25th October and the Fukuoka Exchange on the following day. An expected market capitalisation of 400 to 500 billion yen would make it one of the largest public offerings this year and it is the first JR company outside of Honshu to do this. Approximately 60% of the company’s revenues and all of its profits  come from non-rail activities.

Late July was expected to see the Japanese government extend funding assistance to JR Tōkai to bring forward the completion of the maglev Chūō Shinkansen to Ōsaka to 2037 rather than the intended date of 2045, following completion to Nagoya scheduled for 2027. The government intends to use its Fiscal Investment and Loan Program to lend 3 trillion yen over three years at just 0.3 percent interest. This would be financed by government bonds and paid back over twenty to thirty years.

Expanding Abroad past and future                The Japan Times/Bloomberg/Asahi Shimbun/Rail Professional/Gordon Bannister

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which already receives 25% of its revenue from the U.S., its largest market outside Japan, is considering spending “several billion yen” to buy a train maintenance company there.

As Yoshinori Kanehana, the company’s president, indicated in July, “The costs for maintenance are largely fixed. By bringing that in-house, we can cut costs and increase profit.” The company is targeting a 36% increase in rolling stock sales to 200 billion yen by the 2018 financial year, compared with 147 billion yen in the 2015 financial year. It is also aiming for a 52% increase in operating profit to 14 billion yen by that time. In the 2015 financial year, rolling stock accounted for 9.3% of operating profits and 9.5% of sales.

On 24th August Japanese ambassador to the U.S., Kenichiro Sasae, signed a memorandum of cooperation between Japan and Maryland with its governor, Larry Hogan, and said that the Japanese government has authorised 2 million dollars to support a feasibility study on building a high-speed maglev line between Washington and Baltimore, which is being promoted by JR Tōkai. The U.S. federal government has already  awarded 28 million dollars in seed money and the 2 million dollars helps towards achieving the 20% match in funds which is needed.

July saw Malaysia and Singapore sign a memorandum of understanding for a high-speed link between the two countries and they aimed to call for tenders from joint development partners in August, with the aim of completion by 2026. Transport ministers from Japan and Singapore met on 22nd July, with the former stressing the shinkansen’s safety, reliability and low lifetime cost. Yuji Fukasawa, executive vice president of JR East told a symposium in Singapore that commercial operations could start in seven years.

Work to replace rails and sleepers ready for regauging has been completed on more than 70 percent of Sakhalin’s 806 km network and the aim is to complete the project by 2020. Japan developed a 1067 mm gauge system after annexing the southern half of Sakhalin following the Russo-Japanese War. In the past, Japanese built equipment, including 30 D51 locomotives and later 28 two-car sets of donated  KiHa 50 cars, was operated. Initially new rails remain in the 1067 mm gauge, but space is available for a total gauge changeover in the future to Russian 1520 mm gauge when rail operations will be suspended for three months to allow it.

To prepare for India’s first section of bullet train line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, construction of which is scheduled to begin in 2018 for completion in 2023, 400 employees of Indian Railways are to be sent to Japan for training concerning engineering, operational and safety aspects. Costs will be shouldered by the Japanese government.

Pokemon - Please Go!                        Mainichi Shimbun

26th July saw railway operators in Japan joining nuclear power plant operators in requesting Niantic, the developer of the ‘Pokemon Go’ game, to make sure that its characters do not appear in dangerous or inappropriate areas. The railway operators include JR Group companies as well as the Japan Subway Association.

Case Study                            Mainichi Shimbun

From this autumn, 900 students at Harvard Business School will discuss the success of JR East’s Tessei company, which employs shinkansen cleaners who have become famous for their ‘seven-minute miracle’ on trains turning around at Tōkyō station. Led by Teruo Yabe, who had previously been in charge of safety policy, previous low morale was raised from 2005 onwards, with improvements in the workplace environment, new uniforms, and incentives and penalties. Students have already been studying the company as an option since May. Ethan Bernstein, assistant professor of leadership and organisational behaviour, feels that the study will be an antidote to students who think of leadership simply in terms of control and who believe that problems can be solved just with financial incentives.

News Flashback                            The Japan Times

75 years ago in June 1941 saw ‘The Japan Times’ report that ‘Shoho’, a publication of the then Board of Information had explained plans by the then Tōkyō Rapid Transit Operating Syndicate and Railways Ministry. They indicated that the 1940 population of Tōkyō was about 6.8 million and had grown 900,000 in the previous five years. The population was then expected to reach 10 million in a little more than ten years. Therefore, a necessity was seen for transportation facilities to be increased two or three times.

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