Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 46 (pp.2–4 & 32–35)


New Urban Railways

Several new urban railway networks outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Area are being constructed actively in recent years. Some railways are introduced in the Feature articles, but there are more railways that are not covered. Here, we introduce Kobe New Transit’s Kobe Airport access line and Toyama Light Rail, opened in February 2006 and April 2006, respectively.

Kobe New Transit’s New Airport Access Line

The Port Liner is an urban automated guideway transit (AGT) system in Kobe, Japan, operated by Kobe New Transit. It opened as the world’s first urban AGT in February 1981. The initial section covered 6.4 km with nine stations, linking Kobe’s main transit hub, Sannomiya Station, to the man-made Port Island. The 4.3-km extension to the new Kobe Airport on an artificial island near Port Island opened on 2 February 2006. (Photos: Kobe New Transit)

Photo: Port Liner running on Kobe Sky Bridge linking Kobe City and Kobe Airport
Photo: Port Liner’s new rolling stock (above) with maximum speed of 70 km/h and its interior (right)
Photo: Kobe Airport Station
Photo: Ticket gate at Kobe Airport Station (left) and its multi-purpose toilet (below)
Photo: Operation control centre of Port Liner

Toyama Light Rail

The third-sector company Toyama Light Rail took over JR West’s Toyama-ko Line in April 2006, becoming the first takeover of an LRT-converted line in the group of JR companies. The Toyama-ko Line opened as the private Fugan Railway in 1924 and was nationalized in 1943. It was a DC line while the Hokuriku main line uses AC power. In 2003, JR West announced conversion of the Toyama-ko Line to an LRT to cut costs and improve accessibility by increasing the number of stations. (Photos: Toyama Light Rail)

Photo: Two-car Series TLR0600 running with mountains on background
Photo: Tram running through city street
Photo: Tram running on dedicated track (right) and its interior (above)

JRs’ New Rolling Stock (Continued)

JR East, JR Central, JR West, and JR Shikoku have announced new rolling stock designs. Although the design details are different, the common themes are: (1) Universal design or barrier-free facilities with easy-to-use functions, (2) Equipment for safe and stable transport and (3) Information guidance functions. Moreover, consideration of the global environment seems to be a key idea.

JR East

JR East announced new rolling stock for commuter trains in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area on the Keiyo Line and Chuo main line.

Photo: The Series E331 DC commuter train is scheduled to operate on the Keiyo Line (Tokyo–Soga) from March 2007. It is a development of the Series E993 (AC Train). The main feature is a short 14-m body with articulated bogies. Moreover, a direct drive motor (DDM) has been adapted from the Series E993.
(JR East)
Photo: The Series E233 DC commuter train has been developed to replace the older Series 201 and 109. It is scheduled to operate from December 2006 on the Chuo main line, and Ome and Itsukaichi lines.
(JR East)
Photo: Interior of Series E233
(JR East)

JR Central

JR Central is promoting replacement of rolling stock inherited from JNR with its own energy-saving designs. All rolling stock for regular limited-express services has been replaced. Commuter trains are being replaced with Series 211 and 311 stock.
In July 2006, JR Central introduced Series 313 stock, and it is now became the largest fleet in the company.

Photo: Series 313 started operation in August 2006 on Tokaido main line in Nagoya area.
(JR Central)
Photo: Interior of Series 313 (left and bottom) (JR Central)
(JR Central)

JR West

JR West introduced 10 train sets of the Series 521 to improve traffic on the Hokuriku main line and Kosai Line from November 2006. It is the company’s first DC commuter train with a maximum speed of 120 km/h.

Photo: Series 521 DC commuter train for Hokuriku main line and Kosai Line
(JR West)

JR Shikoku

JR Shikoku owns 180 diesel rail cars for commuter trains, but 28 are more than 30-years old. The company has announced new Class 1500 diesel rail cars for driver-only operations that can be coupled to existing stock.

Photo: Class 1500 diesel rail cars started commercial operation from May 2006 in the Tokushima district.
(JR Shikoku)
Photo: Interior of Class 1500
(JR Shikoku)