Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 65 (photostories)


Revitalising Local Rail Business
Echizen Railway

Echizen Railway operates rail services between Fukui and Katsuyama Station (Katsuyama-Eiheiji Line) and Fukuiguchi and Mikuniminato (Mikuni-Arawa Line) in Fukui Prefecture. The lines were previously owned by Keifuku Electric Railway until 2002, but rail services had been terminated since 2001 following two rail crashes in a six-month span, which forced the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) to order the shutdown of the two lines.
Keifuku Electric Railway formally applied for permission for closure of the lines in 19 October 2001. Bus services were provided, but it led to road congestions and failed to meet the needs of local residents. Echizen Railway was established in 17 September 2002 with financial support from Fukui Prefecture, to maintain rail service in both lines. Since its inception, the company has been making active efforts to attract passengers such as lowering fares, arranging tie-ups with local hot spring inns (accommodation fee discount), and offering services by railway attendants.

Revitalising Local Rail Business

Sanriku Railway
Sanriku Railway is a third-sector railway company opened in 1 April 1984 in Iwate Prefecture to maintain local rail services following the decision to close Japanese National Railways’ (JNR) Sakari Miyako, and Kuji lines. The company operates two lines, Minami-Rias line (from Sakari to Kamaishi), and Kita-Rias line (from Miyako to Kuji). The company suffered tremendous damages in the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but managed to restart services partially in just 9 days. The service was fully resumed on 6 April 2014. JR EAST Yamada Line will be transferred to Sanriku Railway after its restoration, linking together the northern and southern sections of Sanriku Railway.

Revitalising Local Rail Business

Wakasa Railway
Wakasa Railways’ Wakasa Line connects Wakasa and Koge stations in Western Japan. The line started operation in Januray 1930, as government railways’ Wakasa Line. It was converted to quasi-public line in 14 October 1987, following the closure of JR West Wakasa Line. Since 2009, infrastructure is owned by local municipalities and train operation is conducted by the company. The company is known for its active management style, such as exhibiting a steam locomotive and holding test drive events and festivals, and renovating its station and railway facilities such as turntable into a tourist attraction. The company is also actively collaborating with local residents, to encourage rail use. Due to such policies and management, rail ridership for the line has increased, despite decreasing local population and flagging economy.

Revitalising Local Rail Business

Toyama Light Rail
Toyama Light Rail is a LRT (Light Rail Transit) tram system started operation in December 2006, using tracks converted from former JR West Toyamako Line. Toyamako Line was suffering from lack of ridership due to proliferation of privately-owned vehicles. When the construction plan for Hokuriku Shinkansen was approved in 2001, the issue was brought up on what to do with the unprofitable Toyamako Line.

Three options were discussed: 1 build a viaduct and elevate the line to integrate the northern and southern section of the city; 2 abolish the line in lieu of a bus service 3 convert the line to LRT. The third option was adopted, and construction began in 2005. The LRT has played a pivotal role in achieving Toyama Compact City strategy (more information on P 16). It is planned that the LRT will be directly connected to Toyama City Tram network, after the completion of renovation of Toyama Station.