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News Update

By Anthony Robins

October 2014

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New Faces     Tetsudō Journal/Tetsudō Fan/Rail Magazine

Ahead of the extension of the shinkansen from Nagano to Kanazawa in 2015, 19th April saw the new E7/W7 type enter service by taking over from E2 sets on four services each way between Tōkyō and Nagano.

Operating from July 2014 to March 2015 is the inclusion of a ‘Plarail’ car with play zone and diorama as the first car in the type 500 set operating ‘Kodama 730’ (Hakata-Shin Ōsaka) and ‘Kodama 741’ (Shin Ōsaka-Hakata).

To commemorate the type’s 20th anniversary, the Nankai Railway operated from 26
th April to 30th June was a ‘Gundam’ anime influenced red liveried ‘Rapi:t’ set 50502.

30th March saw Hankyū introduce its latest type 1300 featuring eight cars and lower energy use. A month later, on 28th April, the Kita-Ōsaka Kyūkō (North Ōsaka Express) Railway introduced its first ‘Polestar II’ type 9000 set.  Unpainted, but with a brown, white and red stripe at waist level, the set’s formation is M+T+T+ T+M+M+T+T+T+M.

July saw Tōkyō Monorail’s first new type for 17 years with its type 10000. Featuring 2 driving trailer cars plus 4 intermediate motor cars, capacity is 456 (226 seated). It has been even longer (32 years) since the first new type on Jōshin Electric Railways in Gunma Prefecture.  Its two car type 7000 EMU is a VVVF type in a cream livery with a brick design relief. With a capacity of 282 passengers, it was introduced on 17th March.

Rolled out at its Iriuda depot on 14th April was 3001, the first of two new type 3000 cars for the Hakone Tozan. In mainly ‘Vermillion Hakone’ livery, this Kawasaki Heavy Industries built car can carry 75 (36 seated). 3002 is expected to join it in August and from November the cars will either be used together, or with one coupled to two earlier type 2000 cars.

Fuji Kyūkō’s type 8000 started operation from 12
th July. Utilising two end cars and one intermediate car from Odakyū’s type 20000, the formation is M+T+M.  Livery is white with many cartoon like images of Mount Fuji.

Another sightseeing set which started operation at weekends and holidays from 26th May was JR Shikoku’s ‘Iyo Nada Monogatari’.  Formed of remodeled veteran cars KiRo 47 1401 and KiRo 47 1402 in a red and yellow livery with gold stripes. With many seats giving good window views, it operates on the Yosan Line between Matsuyama, Iyo Ōzu and Yawatahama.

Tōhoku Progress  Tetsudō Fan/Chunichi Shimbun

As reported in Bullet-in 81, Sanriku Tetsudō restarted all services on 5th and 6th April.  Five type 36 cars were introduced.  Three feature a standard layout and regular white, blue and red livery, while 36-Z1 in two-tone brown livery features tatami based seating for 48 people.  36-R3 in maroon livery is the first of the type for the Minami Rias Line, joining two earlier examples on the Kita Rias Line. It features comfortable retro style Western seating with tables.

Test runs with a type 415 EMU took place on 10
th May along an 8.5 kilometre section of the Jōban Line damaged by the 2011 tsunami between Hirono and Tatsuta, with a target reopening in mid June. North of Tatsuta, the line will remain closed because of the Fukushima nuclear plants.

Yamagata Shinkansen Developments  Tetsudō Journal

Between late April 2014 and 2016, Yamagata Shinkansen type E3s are being updated to a new livery featuring white with purple, yellow and red, mainly above window level. From July, a ‘Toreiyu’ E3 set was introduced with the novelty of hot-springs style footbaths in car 16, as well as 2+1 seating with tables in cars 12, 13 and 14 and Japanese style seating with a bar counter in car 15. With a capacity of 143, it will operate 120 days a year between Fukushima and Shinjō. Livery is white with two shades of green plus a greenish blue.

More Luxury        Asahi Shimbun

JR West intends to follow in JR Kyūshū’s ‘Seven Stars’ footsteps, with a luxury train to enter service in Spring 2017. Still in the design phase, the plan is for a ten-car train. These will consist of five cars with three compartments, one given over to a luxury suite, as well as a lounge car, dining car, and observation cars at each end. Livery is planned to be green and the menu will be produced by a leading food writer. The train’s routes are still to be decided.

Gauge-changing Progress         Asahi Shimbun/Tetsudō Fan

The latest (3rd generation) FGT (Free Gauge Train) was introduced on 19th April before beginning testing the following day. More stylish than its predecessors, in a red and gold livery, the four-car set (FGT-9001-9004) is planned to be run for three years and cover 600,000 kilometres. The aim is to operate it between Hakata (Fukuoka) and Nagasaki after that, shortening the trip by 28 minutes.  The J.R.T.T. (Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency) is concerned with this project and no less than 40 billion yen (390.5 million dollars) have been spent on it since 1997.

Tram Changes      Tetsudō Journal/Tetsudō Fan

Hiroshima now has five 3-section type 1000 ‘Green Mover Lex’ sets, with the entry into service of set 1005 on 17th February. With the 1st March timetable change, Hankai in the South of Ōsaka introduced its second type 1001 low-floor car, 1002. It features purple rather than the green relief of 1001 in its livery. 30th March saw Nagasaki retire its type 2000 car 2001, following the withdrawal of 2002 in 2010.

Umekōji Changes     Tetsudō Journal/Tetsudō Fan

Adding to attractions at Umekōji is a display of ex Kyōto trams which opened on 8th March located nearer to Kyōto Station on the other side of the San'in Main Line from the steam roundhouse.  As well as veteran cars 27 (operating) and 29, it also includes cars 505, 703, 890, 935, 1605 and 2001.

With closure of the Ōsaka Transportation Museum at Bentenchō on 6th April, type 7100 locomotive 7105 ‘Yoshitsune’ was moved from there to Umekōji. After maintenance work, it is due to be on display from September.  Umekōji will close at the end of August 2015 and a new Kyōto Railway Museum is due to open next to the roundhouse at Umekōji in Spring 2016.

A Sell-out           The Japan Times

While its regular EMU service was thinned out from the Spring, the Ōigawa Railway’s three month operation of a Thomas the Tank Engine service completely sold out. Running on many but not all days of the ‘Kawane 13’ (depart Shin-Kanaya at 1038) and ‘Kawane 14’ (depart Senzu at 1410) schedules, the service consists of locomotive C11 227 and carriages repainted in the light brown livery of the stories.

Slightly Less Golden       JR East

During the ‘Golden Week’ period, with weekday public holidays on a Tuesday and the following Monday and Tuesday, 4.417 million passengers used JR East limited express or shinkansen services, 3% fewer than in 2013.

Facing challenges          Asahi Shimbun

Although JR Kyūshū’s ‘Nanatsuboshi’ (Seven Stars) has seen heavy demand from domestic passengers, it has been harder to gain passengers from overseas. Keen to give it an international flavour, JR Kyūshū decided that two of its fourteen suites would be reserved for international travelers from April. However, with this quota for the June to August period, and for 28 suites in the August to November period, it only received a ratio of 1.5 to 1 applications compared with a ratio of 36.9 to 1 for Japanese passengers. A run starting on 8th April exclusively for international passengers took 4 months to fill and initially, just one overseas operator (in Hong Kong) has agreed to charter the train.

Rebuilding              The Japan Times

Groundwork by JR East began in April to renovate busy Shibuya Station in Tōkyō. Renovations will improve the situation for transferring passengers, particularly between the Yamanote and Saikyo Lines. In the future, Yamanote Line trains in each direction will leave from two faces of the same platform, with Saikyō Line trains closer than the present 350 metres to the south. Full-scale construction will begin in the 2015 financial year, with a new 46 storey building on the east side by 2020 and lower buildings following on the west side.

The Longest            Asahi Shimbun
Nippon Steel has developed 150 metre long rails at its Yawata Works in Kita-Kyūshū and the capability to transport them over routes with curves of as low as 180 metres radius. Ranked the world’s longest, the first batch will be used in the Kanmon Tunnel between Honshū and Kyūshū.  Yawata Works produces 600,000 tons of rails annually (more than 60% of Japanese production) and around 80% are exported.
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