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News Update

By Anthony Robins

  October  2017

New Faces Asahi Shimbun/ East/Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal/The Japan Times/Mainichi Shimbun

The first of Keio’s new type 5000 debuted on 29th September. The 10 car type (Tc+M+M+T+M+M+T+M+M+Tc) is unpainted stainless steel with pink relief (above window level) and blue relief (below window level). As with some other recent types, seating can be reconfigured for busier or more relaxed times.

As reported in ‘News Update’ in issue 90 of ‘Bullet-In’, 2020 sees the debut of the next generation Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen type, the N700S (‘S’ for ‘Supreme’). Nose appearance is more angular than the N700A, to reduce wind resistance. The type will feature LED headlights which will be 20% larger than existing ones. All seats will have power outlets at the front of armrests and their reclining mechanism is designed so that the back rest and seat move in tandem.

JR East is replacing aging KiHa 40s, beloved by chairman, Peter Dibben (see last issue), on its 64.9 km Hachinohe Line with type E130-500 cars, comprising 6 single and 6 two car units from August. Another type, the GV-E400 will begin testing in 2018, with single and two car versions numbering 63 cars starting operation in the Niigata area in the 2019 financial year and in the Akita area in the following financial year. The GV-E400 features diesel engines driving electric motors.

Similarly, JR Hokkaidō will introduce its first two H100 diesel railcars from February 2018 to replace aging KiHa 40s. The unpainted H100 will have a capacity of 99, but only 36 seated, compared with the KiHa 40s 103, of which 48 can be seated. Top speed will be slightly faster at 100 km/hr, compared with 95km/hr for the KiHa 40. Green, white and yellow vinyls below window level will provide some colour.  

In contrast to the recent introduction of upmarket cruise trains, such as its own ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’, JR West has shown images of a long-distance overnight train with an aim of introducing it by summer 2020. The six-car formation would feature a mixture of layout, with green cars at either end (one featuring 2+1 seating  and the other featuring compartments), two standard cars (respectively, 2+2 seating and compartments), one ‘freespace’ car, and one with ‘nobi nobi’+ flat seats. + a term meaning ‘relaxed’ also used on the ‘Sunrise Express’.

After a tapecutting ceremony at Yokohama Station on 21st July, Izukyu’s ‘Royal Express’ left for its first run to Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula. The 8-car set, which has been remodeled from a type 2100 ‘Alpha Resort 21’ set by Eiji Mitooka, features a gold lined blue livery and includes a dining car, a multipurpose car for wedding ceremonies or exhibitions, and a car for children. Maximum capacity is about 100 passengers. It will run to cater for various travel packages, with the most expensive being 200,000 yen including a night at a hot springs resort. Testing of the set on the JR East part of its route had started on 7th July.  

Commemorating the 30th anniversary of JR West and the 40th anniversary of Wakayama Adventure World is a ‘Panda Kuroshio Smile Adventure Train’ operating on certain ‘Kuroshio’ limited expresses between Kyōto and Shingū from 5th August 2017 until November 2019. In recognition of the five giant pandas at Wakayama Adventure World, one 6-car type 287 set has a panda face on the front of the train, images of pandas and other animals on doors, and panda headrest covers on seats. As the set runs a varied diagram, passengers cannot specifically book seats on the train. However, the first day’s operation was advertised as ‘Kuroshio 95’, departing from Tennoji in Ōsaka at 08:49, after a ceremony. Among those attending that was  Yoshinobu Nisaka, Governor of Wakayama, who said, “I’m about to board the train and I’m excited.” The train arrived at Shirahama at 11:08, followed by a ceremony there.

Prototype Kakihara/The Japan Times

Following on from previous prototypes, such as the type 952/953 ‘Star 21’ (1992-8) and type E954 ‘Fastech 360S’, JR East’s ‘ALFA-X’ (Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail eXperimentation) is due to appear in Spring 2019, as a testbed for 360 km/h operation, but with testing up to 400 km/h. Consiting of a 10-car set, the end cars will be of two types, with one sporting a longer nose than the E5 and the other with the same length but a different shape. The set will influence the next-generation production type, which is aimed to be introduced in 2030, the same time as the Hokkaidō Shinkansen is due to be completed to reach Sapporo.

Freight Results Tetsudō Journal

Provisional results for the 2017 financial year show 30,930,000 tonnes of freight carried by JR Freight, up 160,000 tonnes from the previous year, with wagonload traffic up slightly at 8,940,000 tonnes and container traffic down slightly at 21,990,000 tonnes. However, container traffic still represented 19.6 billion out of 20.9 billion tonne-kms and 109.2 billion yen out of 118.7 billion yen in terms of earnings. (billion = 9 zeros).

Congratulatory The Japan Times

1st July saw the 25th anniversary of the Yamagata Shinkansen with commemorations including the first operation of the ‘Toreiyu Tsubasa’ (E3-700 set with footbaths) to Tōkyō Station, rather than its usual runs between Fukushima and Shinjō.  

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of JR privatisation, JR East has issued a limited edition of 300 binders, each with a platform ticket for each of its 1,634 stations. Applications could be made from mid July until the issue date, ‘Tetsudō no Hi’ (Railway Day) on 14th October. Priced at 228,760 yen, the platform tickets can be used until 31st March 2018.  

‘Machinery Day’ on 7th August saw JSME, the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, designate seven historic items as a ‘Mechanical Engineering Heritage Property’. One of these was the first subway car type for the pioneering Ginza Line in Tōkyō, which opened in 1927. MoHa car 1001 was the first of ten cars.

20th August saw celebrations of 80th anniversary of the completion of running throughout the Iida Line, which is now operated by JR Tōkai and which is an unusually long rural electrified line, at 196 km and with 94 stations. Commemorations featured a type 373 operated express with headboard and tapecutting ceremony at Toyohashi Station

Comebacks  Asahi Shimbun/Mainichi Shimbun/Tetsudō Journal

As reported in ‘News Update’ in issues 92 and 93 of ‘Bullet-In’, 1943 built D51 827, which was formerly preserved in Ama in Aichi Prefecture is now owned by Achiha, an Ōsaka company specializing in transporting trains. On 25th June, following repairs and repainting, it had a trial run at Aridagawa Tetsudō Park in Wakayama Prefecture, using air pressure. Takaaki Achiha, president of the company said, “We would like children who have never seen an SL moving to see and touch it.” The Aridagawa Tetsudō Park opened in March 2010 and also features rolling stock which operated on the 3rd-sector Arida Tetsudō, which closed at the end of 2002, in the form of KiHa 58 003 and railbus HaIMo 180-101. 

As indicated in the last issue’s ‘News Update’, another D51, Umekoji based D51 200, had been undergoing testing on the Hokuriku Line. Subsequent testing took place on 11th July on the Yamaguchi Line for future ‘SL Yamaguchi’ operation.  

As previously reported, Tobu has been preparing for the return of steam after more than five decades. The day for this return dawned on 10th August, with C11-207 making the 12.4 km from Shimoimaichi to Kinugawa Onsen in 35 minutes

Relieving Congestion The Japan Times

Although rail congestion has been somewhat relieved in Tōkyō with the expansion of the rail network, especially subway lines, rush-hour overcrowding remains severe, with the two most crowded sections (at 199% of capacity) being Tōkyō Metro’s Tozai Line (Kiba to Monzen-Nakacho from 07:50 to 08:50) and JR East’s Sobu Line (Kinshichō to Ryōgoku from 07:34 to 08:34). Yuriko Koike, the Tōkyō Governor whose party was successful in city elections in 2nd July, started a two-week campaign on 11th July to encourage companies to provide more flexible working hours to reduce pressure in the morning peak. More radically, she once suggested running double-decker trains with two level platforms. The new ‘Jisa Biz’ campaign sees the Tōkyō Metropolitan Government encouraging companies to allow employees to start work after 08:00 or after 09:00, with the cooperation of both employers and rail companies. Tokyu will start its ‘Jisa Biz Liner’ on eight days up to 21st July, departing from Chuorinkan at 06:04 for Oshiage (07:15). In addition, Tokyu will use an app to offer commuters shopping vouchers, if they pass through Shibuya before 07:30, whether they get off their train there or not. In August JR East started giving early commuters extra points on their ‘Suica’ IC cards. Commuters spending over 200 yen at JR East related convenience stores between Chiba and Akihabara before 07:00 on more than ten mornings during the month could join a lottery for 500 prizes of 10,000 yen’s worth of ‘Suica’ points..

More Surveillance 
Kyodo/Japan Today

The installation of more CCTV cameras on trains has been reported in recent ‘News Updates’. To ‘enhance security’ ahead of the Tōkyō Olympics and Paralympics, JR Kyūshū is installing cameras on its older type 800 shinkansen sets from November. During the 2018 financial year, it plans to add additional cameras to its ‘N700’ sets which are used on ‘Sakura’ and ‘Mizuho’ services, and aims to complete all installation work by 2020.

Catering for the Inbound Surge Asahi Shimbun/Tetsudō Journal

The large increase in inbound tourists to Japan has led JR West to increase luggage storage space, with Ōsaka Station now having 650 lockers which are large enough to keep suitcases, an increase of 60% from two years ago. During the same period, the number of such lockers at Kyōto Station has risen by 40% to 500. 

Enhanced Exhibits Asahi Shimbun

The Saitama Railway Museum, familiar to members who have visited Japan, saw its diorama reopened after renewal on 14th July. 23 metres in length and 10 metres wide, viewing glass has now been removed, making it easier for visitors to see the approximately 1,400 models operating on tracks totaling 1,200 metres. The latter now include models representing Kanto area private railways. In addition, the 140 seat ‘Restaurant Nippon Shokudo’ is modelled after dining cars from the era between the 1950s and 1970s. Its menu includes former staples, hayashi rice and beef curry plus fillet steak which was formerly served to passengers on the Cassiopeia sleeper. Finally, a newly  introduced Railway Cultural Gallery has interactive features for railway related works, including 77 novels, essays, and cartoons, 22 paintings, 55 films, 51 songs, and 66 ‘ekiben’ station lunchboxes and ‘ekisoba’ station noodles.

Overseas Activities  The Japan Times/Japan Today/Railway Gazette/Alan DeBurton

Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Corporation have won a 40 billion yen order to supply 144 train cars and maintenance depot equipment from Bangladeshi’s state run Dhaka Mass Rapid Transport for its 20 km MRT Line 6. The aim of this fully elevated route linking the north and south of Dhaka is to ease traffic congestion and is financed by loans from J.I.C.A. (Japan International Cooperation Agency). Work will be divided between Kawasaki’s focus on design, production and supply of train cars and depot equipment, as well as training local personnel. Mitsubishi will manage commercial administration and also partially supply depot equipment.  

According to Hun Sen, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, on a visit to Japan on 7th August, the country is requesting investment totaling 800 million dollars for an elevated rail system in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, to link the centre with the city’s international airport. Japan is the third largest donor to the country. 

The U.K. Department of Transport announced on 10th August that the West Midlands Trains consortium, led by NS subsidiary, Abelio, with a 70.1% share, but also with 29.9% involvement by JR East and Mitsui, has won the West Midlands area franchise for the period from December 2017 until March 2026. It is the first such involvement for JR East, but Mitsui gained a 40% involvement in the Abelio led Greater Anglia franchise in March 2017.

Pulling Out  The Japan Times 

U.S. investment firm Cerberus, which was once the top shareholder in Seibu Holdings, with more than 35%, has now sold its shares, which had dropped to 2.35% by April. It first invested in Seibu when it was reorganized in 2006 after a previous fraud issue which had caused delisting in 2004. At times, it put pressure on Seibu and one U.S. board member was appointed. On 16th August, Seibu Holdings President, Takashi Goto, expressed the company’s gratitude for support from Cerberus. 

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