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News Update

By Anthony Robins

October 2015

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New and Revised Faces     Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal

For delivery between 2016 and 2019, Tōkyō Metro’s type 13000 (Hibiya Line) and Tōbu’s type 7000 (Isezaki Line) will ease joint operation compared with the current types (03 and 20000 respectively) by standardizing on four doors per side 20 metre cars in a 7 car unit (compared with 8 car 18 metre cars with three or five doors per side). Slightly deeper seats and more powerful air-conditioning will also be featured.

Spring 2016 is due to see Seibu Railways’ ‘Kanko Ressha’ (Sightseeing Train) enter service. A reworking of a type 4000, it will feature four cars, including two dining cars (cars 2 and 4 with 26 seats each) and open kitchen (car 3). Due to operate on about 100 days a year and available for hire, it is due to run between Ikebukuro or Seibu-Shinjuku and Seibu-Chichibu as well as Seibu Shinjuku and Hon-Kawagoe.

July saw delivery and testing begin for JR East’s new type E353 for Shinjuku-Matsumoto services

August saw the final JR Tōkai N700 set upgraded to N700A (small A), a programme which began in April 2013. In JR Tōkai’s fleet N700As now number 105 sets as opposed to just 26 type 700s.

Back in Time   Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal/The Japan Times

JR Kyūshū’s ‘Aru Ressha’ launched on 8th  August features ‘bling’ with a gold and black exterior plus luxurious interior where passengers are served a sweets (dessert) course. Expensive at a minimum one-way of 20,000 yen, it consists of two cars (KiRoShi 47  9176 and KiRoShi 47 3505) with just 38 seats and travels between Ōita and Hita (August-October) and Sasebo and Nagasaki (November-March) once per day (round trip). The illustrious creators of this train are Eiji Mitooka, whose other designs include JR Kyushu’s ‘Seven Stars’ and Yoshiko Narisawa, a famous Tōkyō restaurant owner. Mitooka actually based the train on a model by the late Nobutaro Haro, creator of the Hara Model Railway Museum in Yokohama. This in turn was inspired by a U.S. built train from 1908 which had been ordered by the then Kyūshū Railway but which did not go into service because of nationalization.

To commemorate 130 years of Nankai and the end of type 7000 operation, unit 7037 of the latter type and type 10000 unit 10004 are back in classic two tone green liveries until September 2015 (7037) and September 2016 (10004) including for operation on Nankai’s ‘Southern’ (Ōsaka Namba – Wakayama)

Chiba Prefecture’s Isumi Railway saw new build KiHa 20 1303 delivered in June. Heavily based on the classic JNR type, it is newly built by Niigata Transys.

Competition  Nikkei Asian Review

The opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Nagano and Kanazawa on 14th March saw airlines facing severe competition but increased travel to key attractions. In April, 686,000 passengers rode between Jōetsumyōkō and Itoigawa (used as a measure of ridership on the whole line). This was a jump of 220% from a year earlier on non-shinkansen services. 1st to 18th May (including Golden Week) saw ridership at 531,000, 230% compared with the previous year. Visitors to the famous Kenrokuen garden were up 24% between 14th  March and 31st May, while the ‘Kagaya’ ryokan saw 20% more visitors. However, ANA saw a fall of 30% and JAL a fall of 43% in passengers on their Tōkyō (Haneda) – Komatsu routes in May. ANA plans to retain its current schedule until the end of October and JAL will keep its schedule until the end of March.

Testing Times        Tetsudō Fan

An E235 unit, the new type for JR East’s Yamanote Line, saw a test run on the Chūō Line on 2nd  June, operating from Toyoda to Ōtsuki, then back as far as Hino, before returning to Toyoda.

Globalization          Nikkei Asian Review

As well as involvement in South and Southeast Asia through a feasibility study for a high-speed rail line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in India, rolling stock and maintenance supplies for Bangkok’s Purple Line in Thailand, and supplying former Saikyo and Yokohama Line trains to Indonesia with maintenance support, JR East plans to add more foreigners to its staff as part of its ‘open innovation’ policy. The company is hiring students from China and countries in Southeast Asia and plans to expand its internship program for foreign students which was launched in 2014.

Payback Time      Mainichi Shimbun

On 22nd  September the Tōkyō Supreme Court upheld a Tōkyō High Court ruling to pay 4.6 billion yen in compensation to shareholders and institutional investors who claimed losses from false financial reporting by Seibu Railway which led to it being delisted from the Tōkyō Stock Exchange in 2004.

Hiroshima Matters           Mainichi Shimbun/Hiroshima Dentetsu

Recently renovated, Hiroshima Dentetsu’s 653 (Hibaku densha = A-bombed train) has been the location for those who experienced the events of 6th August 1945, to talk about them to current schoolchildren, as was the case on 4th  August when Pak Nam-ju related her experiences. 653 also operated at weekends and holidays between 13th  June and 30th  August in a joint promotion between the tram operator and Chūgoku Broadcasting. Twice daily operation was by postcard application with a 500 yen fare.

Withdrawn cars 772 (ex Ōsaka City) and three part sets 3005 and 3006 (ex Nishitetsu) are bound for Myanmar in the footsteps of earlier exports of Japanese trains.

Back in Steam     Tōbu Railway/Kiyoshi Jinno/Gifu Shimbun/Asahi Shimbun

Tōbu aims to see steam again in 2017 with a plan to use JR Hokkaidō’s C11 207 on the 12.4 kms stretch between Shimo Imaichi and Kinugawa Onsen. This will be the first steam on Tōbu since 1966.

3rd-sector Ena Railway in Gifu Prefecture saw a small step towards steam when C12 244 operated using an air compressor at 7 kms/hr for 120 metres each way at Akechi station on 9th August. Around 3,000 spectators were in attendance. The railway aims for steam operation from 2019.

Time to say Goodbye            Asahi Shimbun/Mainichi Shimbun/RM News

After the end of regular operation of the ‘Hokutosei’ (Tōkyō - Sapporo) in March, even seasonal operation ended on 23rd  August, with its arrival at Ueno at 09:25, to cheers from around 2,500 railfans and other spectators. On 2nd September ‘Hokutosei’ stock was moved behind EF64 1052 from Oku (Tōkyō) to Nagano rolling stock centre.

‘Hikyoeki’ or remote stations are a feature of Japan, including particularly on JR Tokai’s Iida Line. One such station, Koboro in Toyoura in Hokkaido on the Muroran Line closes this autumn. This has meant an influx of railfans to this station between Oshamambe and Hisashi-Muroran which opened as a ‘shingojo’ (signal location) in 1943.

Succession             Mainichi Shimbun

Following the death of famed stationmaster cat Tama at the age of sixteen, on 11th  August the Wakayama Electric Railway appointed former second in command, Nitama, a five-year old, as stationmaster at Kishi station. Wearing a stationmaster’s cap as she was held by the railway’s president, Nitama apparently offered prayers to a new shrine to Tama and reported her promotion to Tama’s soul. A visiting office worker described her as, “looking more dignified than when I saw her a few years ago, and she seems to have got more used to her job.”

Comeback            Mainichi Shimbun

20th August saw JR East begin trial decontamination work on a section of the Jōban Line affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster between Yonomori and Futaba. Workers in protective gear removed rails and sleepers in a 50 metre section where radiation levels were from 2.8 to 28 microsieverts per hour. This is an area where inhabitants remain evacuated. JR East aims to restart services in the sequence: Odaka- Haranomachi (Spring 2016), Namie-Odaka (March 2017), Sōma-Hamayoshida (Spring 2017) and Tatsuta-Tomioka (March 2018).

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