The Japanese Railway Society
By Anthony Robins
Faces Yomiuri Shimbun/Chunichi Shimbun/Tetsudō Fan/Tetsudō Journal The new type N700S shinkansen type made its first appearance at Tōkyō Station (Platform 15) at 10:05 on 23rd June. Having arrived from the depot, it stayed for about 15 minutes before departing for Shin-Ōsaka.
Yuri Kogen Railway, a third-sector operator in Akita Prefecture, has
started operation of its ‘Chōkai Omocha’ railcar (YR-2001). In an
orange and white livery, it features various configurations of seating
and a children’s playspace, and operates two return journeys. As
with many rural railways, it is an attempt by this 23 km long railway
to increase passengers, the number of which declined from 600,000 in
1994 to 223,000 in 2015.
14th July 2018 saw Kintetsu
launch its ‘Tsudoi’ three car sightseeing train to commemorate the
1,300th anniversary of Yunoyama Onsen (hot springs) in Mie Prefecture,
SW of Nagoya. Operating one return journey on weekends and
holidays from 14th July to 2nd September, leaving
Nagoya at 10:06 and Yunoyama Onsen at 16:50, the train features a bar,
seats looking outward for views, a children’s playspace and a
children’s control desk behind the driver’s cab.
3rd-sector Abukuma Express Railway plans to introduce its new AB900
type, based on JR East’s type 721. A total of ten 2-car sets in
contrasting liveries are due to be in service, with the first in July
2019 to replace the nine current 2-car type 8100s.
type for tram route 2 between Hiroshima Station and Hiroden Miyajima is
the 5200 ‘Green Mover APEX’, of which two sets are due to enter service
in March 2019. As with previous type 5000 and 5100 sets, they will
be 5-part sets.
New Stations Tetsudō Journal
for stations on the section of the Ōsaka Higashi Line due to open in
Spring 2019 between Shin Ōsaka and Hanaten have been announced. They
are respectively (with distances from Shin Ōsaka), Minami Suita (2 km),
JR Awaji (3.3 km), Shirokitakoendori (5.4 km) and JR Noe (7.6 km).
Steam Issues Asahi Shimbun/John Stephens/Chunichi Shimbun
65 year old Masao Yamazaki
decided it was time to say ‘sayonara’ to steam locomotive D51 1116,
which had been in his garden in Shiroi in Chiba Prefecture since the
mid 1970s. It had arrived from Hokkaidō via Omiya. It will now be
moved in three sections (boiler, underframe and tender) by specialized
Ōsaka based firm, Achiha, to Chikusei in Ibaraki Prefecture. It will
appear there with other preserved rolling stock, including former
‘Hokutosei’ carriages. The cost of the move plus garden restitution is
estimated at 20 million yen. Actually, that is still less than the 25
million he originally paid for it, plus transportation.
U.S. built classic locomotive, 4514, known as ‘Iron Horse’ resumed operation at Otaru Museum on 21st July, after a test run on 19th
July. Boiler problems in October 2017 led to repairs being necessary.
They were carried out at the Sappa Boiler Company, in Ōsaka, which
has handled recent repairs for a number of locomotives. The museum
aimed to collect half of the 12 million yen repair costs through
crowdfunding and it succeeded in collecting more than 7 million
yen in donations.
Fans were out in force at Tōbu’s Kinugawa Onsen to mark the first anniversary of its ‘Taiju’ steam operation on 10th August.
Financial Support The Japan Times/Stephen Turner/Yomiuri Shimbun
July, Transport Minister, Keiichi Ishii, announced that the government
would extend 40 billion yen in financial aid to JR Hokkaidō over a
period of two years up to March 2021, while also issuing a (second)
order to improve its management. JR Hokkaidō revealed a record
operating loss of 41.6 billion yen for the 2017 financial year and
indicated that half of its routes would be difficult to operate without
financial assistance. The assistance which has been announced will
be used for new facilities, trains and services on seven routes and for
improving services to Sapporo’s Chitose Airport. The ministry will
review progress every three months and fine executives up to 1
million yen, if the results are not satisfactory. Further financial
assistance from April 2021 will be based on the success of changes.
Local governments (Hokkaidō and municipalities) are also expected
to provide assistance. The ministry sees the need for JR Hokkaidō to
establish a model similar to JR Kyushu, described as, “earning profits
from related businesses to support loss-making railway operations.”
Impasse Mainichi Shimbun
work on JR Tōkai’s Chūō Linear Shinkansen, which is due to open in
2027, is well underway, a point of contention continues concerning the
possible effects of tunneling in the Southern Alps in Shizuoka
Prefecture on water supplies from the Ōi River (Ōigawa). The 25 km
Southern Alps Tunnel includes an 8.9 km section in this prefecture.
Preparations to build the tunnel were due to start as early as the end
of August, but the prefectural government is concerned about a drop in
spring water supplies as a result of tunneling. In addition, although
JR Tōkai has offered improved Tōkaidō Shinkansen services for Shizuoka
after the linear link opens, the prefecture will not be served by any
station on the new line.
Tie-Ins Asahi Shimbun/John Stephens/Mainichi Shimbun/The Japan Times Starting operation from 29th
June on the Chōshi Railway in Chiba Prefecture is a retro themed train.
Built in 1962, the interior has been aged by using wood effect floor
coverings and door and window frames painted to look like wood. In
addition, there are stained glass like vinyls on the windows. Veteran
advertisements from the Taisho and early Showa eras complete the
effect. It is financed by Kintaro House, a construction company which
specializes in rental apartments, buying the naming rights for 10
million yen in 2017.
The same railway has also proudly
launched a ‘foul-smelling’ snack (mazui-bo). The attention drawing name
apparently belies its corn-potage soup based taste. The snack is sold
at the railway’s Inubo Station for 50 yen or 600 yen for 15. Already
well-known for its ‘senbei’ (rice crackers), the railway raised 70% of
its revenue from food related items in 2017!
Tōkyū is working on
innovative advertising in its hub area of Shibuya in Tōkyō. While
advertisements in the area are usually placed higher up, the company is
targeting up to 100 eye level locations by April 2019. Tokyu will place
advertising on walls in the area which suffer from graffiti, erase it,
and pay the buildings’ owners based on size and time period. In
addition, in September, Tōkyū held a street art exhibition in
collaboration with young street artists.
Phantom Station Mainichi Shimbun
Keisei’s former Hakubutsu Dōbutsuen (Museum and Zoo Station) was opened to the media on 19th
June. Opened in December 1933, between Ueno and Nippori, use declined
as fewer trains stopped there with its limit of four car trains and it
closed in March 1997. It is still available for evacutions. However, in
April, it became the first railway facility to become a Tōkyō
Metropolitan Government designated historical structure. As it has
historic murals painted by Tōkyō University of the Arts students, the
university is cooperating with the restoration and a new entrance ,
designed by a dean at the university, will be added.
The Last Ones Tetsudō Journal/Odakyū
last two car type 7200 set operated by Ueda Dentetsu (MoHa 7255 and
KuHa 7255), which had been in operation since arriving secondhand from
Tōkyū Dentetsu, made its final run on 12th May.
July saw a ceremony at Odakyū’s Shinjuku Station to mark the last run
of iconic LSE type 7000 ‘Romance Car’ on the ‘Hakone 41’ service
departing at 15:40 for Hakone-Yumoto.
Multicoloured Line-up Tetsudō Fan
A charter working on 1st
June between Sakurai and Uji-Yamada saw an eight-car combination
composed of 2-car PN04 ‘Aozora II’ in traditional cream and red livery,
a regular 2-car type 22600 AT51 set in the orange and blue
limited-express livery which is now being superceded, and blue and
off-white PN05 ‘Aozora II’.
Overnight Tetsudō Fan
details of JR West’s projected overnight set, derived from a 6-car type
117 set, has been revealed. Car 1 will feature semi-compartment green
car sets, Car 2 will include women only seating and toilet, Car 3 will
feature group compartments and reclining seats, Car 4 will have ‘free
space’ with tables, Car 5 will have ‘nobi nobi’ accommodation which
allows people to lie down as with the type 285 ‘Sunrise Express’, and
Car 6 will include five green car compartments.
Steam Curtailed Stephen Turner/JR East
East’s ‘Banetsu Monogatari’ steam service (Niitsu-Aizu Wakamatsu)
suffered cancellations due to problems with locomotive C57 180. The
service was replaced with a diesel hauled ‘rinji kaisoku ressha
(special rapid train)’ on 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 28th, 29th July and 4th, 5th, 11th and 12th August and with a diesel hauled ‘Banetsu Monogatari’ on 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th August.
Reinstated Hiroshi Kanoya/Mainichi Shimbun
In contrast, 14th
July saw the resumption of services throughout JR Kyūshū’s Kyūdai Line
(Kurume – Ōita), a year after damage from heavy rain. This allows
resumption of through ‘Yufuin no Mori’ limited express services, as
well as its use by the ‘Nanatsubo’ (Seven Stars) cruise train.
Progress Tetsudō Journal
West’s redevelopment of the area around the former Umeda Freight
Terminal in Ōsaka is continuing. Construction at the new station, which
started in November 2015 and has the provisional name of Kita Umeda,
was shown to the media on 17th May. The station area will
cost 15 billion yen and is 30% complete. The 2.4 km line connecting it
to the Tōkaidō Line (1.7 km in tunnel) at both ends will cost 54
billion yen and is 20% complete. Due to open in Spring 2023, the time
taken to reach Kansai International Airport by the ‘Haruka’ limited
express will be reduced by about 15 minutes.
In late May, JR
East started work on raising speeds on the Tōhoku Shinkansen between
Ueno and Ōmiya. Since its opening this section has been restricted to
110 km/h to reduce noise for nearby residents. In the next two years,
speeds at various locations will be increased to between 115 km/h and
130 km/h, saving a maximum of 1 minute.
Cashless The Japan Times
which rates as the most cash payment oriented country in the world is
keen not to fall behind as cashless payment methods are developed.
Okinawa Urban Monorail’s Yui Rail started a test on 22nd
July to allow payments by Alipay, a Chinese platform provided by
Alibaba which uses mobile phone QR codes. Chinese tourists accounted
for 25.6% of all inbound tourists in 2017, but less than 1% of the Yui
Rail’s passengers. However, Alipay is already used in more than
50,000 stores in Japan and Masaki Oshiro, who is in charge of the test,
said that, “It’s good to have various payment methods like Alipay
rather than forcing tourists to first exchange cash currency and to buy
tickets.” Japanese financial company, Orix, is handling the
transactions and TIS, based in Tōkyō, is operating the mediating centre
for the mobile settlement system.
Alibaba also announced on 23rd
July that it is teaming up with JR Kyūshū to expand use of the Alipay
system. It is already used at some JR Kyūshū retail outlets. JR Kyūshū
will encourage other companies in its area to accept Alipay, as well as
increasing sightseeing trains and sightseeing plans aimed at Chinese
tourists. Alibaba will increase information about Kyūshū attractions.
Filling Contrasting Gaps The Japan Times/Modern Railways
Update’ is issues 95 and 96 referred to the spread of wi-fi capability
on shinkansen services. March 2019 will see mobile access available in
the 53.85 km Seikan Tunnel. Currently, passengers do not have
access for about 25 minutes and mobile access is only available at
two evacuation areas. To allow access, relay equipment and carrier base
stations with intervals of 1 km are being installed., as well as
fibre-optic cables. The government’s communications ministry will
apply a new system which allows exemption for costs for railway
companies such as JR Hokkaidō, which have posted operating losses for
The UK’s infrastructure organization, Network Rail,
is working with a leading Japanese chemical company, Sekisui, which is
best known in Japan for housing. It has already carried out trials of
synthetic sleepers, manufactured from fibre-reinforced foamed
urethane. They can be machined on-site and have an expected operational
life of more than 70 years.
(Nagoya Railroad), which, typically for a private railway, has long
been involved in businesses as diverse as driving schools and hotels,
has entered a new area. On 30th June, it opened a Drone Academy at its
cultural centre at Jingu-Mae Station in Nagoya. Study ranges from
10,800 yen for a 90 minutes’ class to a four days’ combination of
standard course and advanced course for 378,000 yen. An e-learning
option is also available..
Reconstruction Asahi Shimbun
of the bridge across the Yodogawa River in Ōsaka on Hanshin’s Namba
Line will start this autumn. To cope better with possible flooding
(particularly relevant given the item above), the new bridge will be 7
metres higher than the present bridge, which was built in 1924. It will
have 29 columns rather than the present 39, will cost an estimated 56.3
billion yen, and will take until the 2032 financial year to complete..
Security Issues The Japan Times
Following the stabbing incident on a Tōkaidō Shinkansen service on 9th June (see ‘News Update’ in issue 97), the Transport Ministry announced on 20th
July that passengers will be prohibited from carrying unpacked knives
onto trains. Railway staff will be able to exclude any passengers who
break this law and this happened on 9th September when a passenger on a
‘Nozomi’ service from Tōkyō to Hakata was taken off the train by police
officers at Kokura. However, no increased screening is planned, so it
could still be difficult to enforce. In addition, on 4th
September JR East announced that it would equip all of its bullet
trains with shields and tear gas spray. Drivers and conductors will
carry sprayers and flashlights, so that they can obstruct the vision of
attackers. Stab-proof jackets and two-pronged ‘weapons’ will be
provided at shinkansen stations and major conventional line stops. JR
Tōkai and JR West have already announced similar measures.
Closing Down Chunichi Shimbun/Nippon Sharyo/Asahi Shimbun
Aichi Prefecture based rolling stock maker, Nippon Sharyo, a subsidiary
of JR Tōkai, announced in July that its U.S. production facility at
Rochelle, Illinois, would close in the following month. The 230,000
square metre site, with buildings covering 73,000 square metres,
employed 694 workers at its peak, but was heavily affected by the loss
of a contract for Amtrak regional trains led by the California
Department of Transportation, following failed tests (see
‘Editorial’ in issue 90). This led to the Sumitomo managed order being
switched to production by Siemens in 2017. Cumulative losses are
indicated to be 60 billion yen.
User-friendler Yomiuri Shimbun/NHK/Stephen Turner
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry conducted a survey on 24th
July concerning user-friendliness of railway services at stations in
Tōkyō in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Nine
participants from abroad, including students, tried various tasks. The
tasks included asking station staff for assistance in a foreign
language and buying tickets at vending machines. Problem areas revealed
by the study will be shared with railway companies and used to make
improvements. In preparation for the 2020 events, JR East and Keisei
have added Chinese and Korean to their signboards which display details
about train delays and other information.
JR East is undertaking
an experiment to discourage ‘kakekomigosha’, passengers who rush onto
trains at the last moment. On its Jōban Line, it is trying out playing
the departure melody through the train’s outside speakers, rather than
through the station’s public announcement system. In this way, only
passengers in the immediate vicinity of the train are likely to rush.
Tōkyō Metro announced on 30th
July that it would place QR code stickers on tiles for the visually
impaired, as an experiment at Tatsumi station on the Yurakuchō Line
from 6th August. Scanning these with a smartphone gives audio
directions about locations such as where to turn and stairways.
Ups and Downs The Japan Times
JR East launched an escalator safety campaign on 23rd
July. It aims to reduce the approximately 180 accidents in the 2017
financial year. It was carried out in cooperation with more than
50 railways across the country until the end of August.
Exposed Mainichi Shimbun
a rather direct way to instill safety awareness, JR West has had
mechanics involved with bullet train maintenance crouch in passageways
between the up and down tracks in the Sanyo Shinkansen sections
from Kokura to Hakata and Hiroshima to Shin-Iwakuni. The
passageways are approximately 1 metre deep and 1 metre wide. As they
crouch there, they feel the speed of two or three shinkansen services
passing just above them at up to 300km/h. This method involves
mechanics from the company’s Hiroshima and Hakata Minami depots. The
activity was introduced in February 2016 after an accident in the
previous August which saw a metal part fall off a bullet train in
a tunnel in Fukuoka Prefecture. As of the end of July 2018, 24 sessions
had seen about 190 mechanics participate. The system has been opposed
by the West Japan Railway Workers Union. JR Tokai operated a
similar scheme for five years until the 2015 business year.
News Update Archive