(JR) Nara Line (奈良線)
The JR Nara Line is a railway line (arterial line) of the West Japan Railway Company (JR West) that runs between Kizu Station (Kyoto Prefecture) in Kizugawa City, Kyoto Prefecture, and Kyoto Station in the Shimogyo Ward of Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. The entire rail line is included in the section covering the metropolitan area and its suburbs.
Although the Nara Line officially starts at Kizu Station because it is historically a branch line of the Kansai Main Line, outbound trains (odd-numbered trains) run from Kyoto to Kizu and inbound trains (even-numbered trains) run in the opposite direction. Unless otherwise specified, the descriptions are given according to the outbound direction from Kyoto to Kizu, except for in the track data section.
The line's own color is brown, which has been chosen to represent 'a classic, sophisticated impression suitable for connections between two historic cities.'
Administration (type of business): West Japan Railway Company (Railway Business Operator)
Track length (operating kilometers): 34.7 km
Track gauge: 1067 mm
Number of stations: 19 (including the stations at both ends of the track section)
Electrified section: The entire rail line is electrified (DC 1500V).
Block (railway): automatic block system (double-track section), single-track automatic block system (single-track section)
Safety equipment: ATS (Automatic Train Stop system)
Operation direction center: Shin-Osaka integrated direction center
Maximum speed: 110 km/h (double-track section), 95 km/h (single-track section)
The line between Kyoto Station and Kizu Station is called the Nara Line, but the entire line lies within Kyoto Prefecture, not in Nara Prefecture. This is because, initially, the Nara Line was built by Nara Railways between Kyoto Station and Nara Station, but Kizu Station and other stations south of Kizu Station were separated from the Nara Line in order to be part of a route between Osaka and Nagoya after Nara Railways was merged into Kansai Railways. However, trains run from Kizu Station to Nara Station in Nara Prefecture through the Kansai Main Line (Yamatoji Line).
JR West established popular names (JR Kyoto Line, JR Kobe Line or the like) for the lines in the Urban Network with the revision of March 13, 1988, but a popular name was not given to the Nara Line. The Nara Line is also referred to as the 'JR Nara Line' in order to distinguish it from the Kintetsu Nara Line of Kintetsu Corporation.
The Nara Line was referred to as the 'JNR Nara Line' in the era of Japan National Railways (JNR), the former JR, and the information board included the English notation 'JNR.'
The Kintetsu Nara Line competes with the Yamatoji Line between Nanba and Nara, whereas the JR Nara Line competes with the Kintetsu Kyoto Line.
While many trains used to run on the Keihan Uji Line and the Kintetsu Kyoto Line (both of which run parallel to the Nara Line), the Nara Line was only electrified toward the end of JNR in 1984; consequently, it remained just a small local line on which the JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 105 (comprising two cars or the like) ran for some time, even after electrification, until the privatization of the JNR.
However, after the foundation of JR West and the Nara Line's incorporation into the Urban Network, the improvement of transportation services was quickly achieved with, for example, trains comprised of four cars (some comprised of six cars), double-tracked in part, or with increased numbers of trains, including rapid services such as the 'Miyakoji Rapid Service.'
Today, the Nara Line is characterized by the access it offers to sightseeing areas such as Byodo-in Temple in Uji City, or by a commuter line for passengers from the southern part of the Kyoto Prefecture, such as Joyo City. However, trains go around toward the east between Momoyama Station and Shinden Station and run the edge of the central part of town in Joyo or to the south of Joyo; thus the regional and transportation gaps between the Nara Line and the Kintetsu Kyoto Line remain.
The following commuter passes can be used at all stations on this line: J-THRU/ICOCA; Suica, which is offered by the East Japan Railway Company (JR East); TOICA, which is offered by the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central); and PiTaPa, which is offered by the Surutto Kansai Association. Simple ticket gates are used at Joyo Station or stations to the south of Joyo Station, as some unmanned stations still exist.
Form of operation
After the limited express 'Kuroshio' connecting Kyoto Station with Wakayama Station via the Nara, Sakurai and Wakayama lines ceased operation in 1984, only the local trains ran until 1991 (except for the temporary operation of a special limited express), but now there are four types of trains: the Miyakoji Rapid Service, the rapid service, the trains classified by operation and section, and the local train.
Miyakoji Rapid Service
The Miyakoji Rapid Service--the fastest train on the Nara Line--runs mainly during the day. The train basically runs every 30 minutes and variously connects with the local trains at Uji Station. The public gave this train the nickname 'Miyakoji rapid train' before it went into operation. Not only Japanese people but also foreign visitors use the Miyakoji Rapid Service as a train connecting Kyoto with Nara, both of which are sightseeing destinations. The cars are all from the JR Suburban Train Series 221, which comprises either four or six cars. The maximum train speed is 110 km/h in double-track sections, or 95 km/h in other sections.
The standard travel times are approximately 44 minutes from Kyoto to Nara and about 47 minutes from Nara to Kyoto. A train bound for Kyoto stops at Kamikoma Station or Tanakura Station for about two minutes and passes the Miyakoji Rapid Service bound for Nara, thus making a slight difference between the travel times of the inbound train and outbound train.
March 3, 2001: Operations began.
March 15, 2003: The train began making stops at Tofuku-ji Station and Tamamizu Station through a revision of the schedule.
The rapid service runs during the morning and evening rush periods. It stops at JR-Ogura Station and Shinden Station (Kyoto Prefecture), through which the 'Miyakoji Rapid Service' passes. The cars used are all from the JR Suburban Train Series 221, which comprises either four or six cars. The train basically runs every 30 minutes and variously connects with the local train at the Uji Station. Like the Miyakoji Rapid Service, the rapid service passes through Narayama Station, at which the rapid train on the Yamatoji Line stops. Before the 'Miyakoji rapid train' came into operation in March 2001, the rapid train had stopped at Kyoto, Uji, Joyo (except at the beginning), Kizu and Nara stations, employing the JNR/JR Suburban Train Series 117 for its cars; since then, however, this series has not been used on the Nara Line. Some rapid service trains run through to the Yamatoji Line in the morning and evening due to the schedule of operation.
Regional Rapid Service
The regional rapid service runs mainly in the morning and nighttime hours. Initially, the operation was limited to weekdays, but with the schedule revision of March 18, 2006 it was changed to Saturdays and holidays in addition to weekdays. The regional rapid service stops at every station between Uji Station and Nara Station, while some regional rapid services bound for Kizu used to pass the local train at Uji Station in the late evening, etc., due to the schedule; however, based on the current schedule, the regional rapid service doesn't pass the local train before reaching the arrival station. All regional rapid services employ the JR Suburban Train Series 221, except that one regional rapid service leaving Kyoto Station between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturdays and holidays employs the JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 103. Due to the operation schedule, some regional rapid services run through from the Yamatoji Line during the morning rush period.
The regional rapid service on the Nara Line formerly used orange letters as the Line's own color, but it was the same color as the one used for the 'Miyakoji Rapid Service' and the rapid service so as to distinguish the regional rapid service on the Nara Line from that of the Yamatoji Line. However, in March 2008, with the replacement of signs along with the revision of the schedule, a sign for the regional rapid service was changed to include green letters, whereby the use of the line color was stopped. At the Kamikoma Station or stations to the north of Kamikoma Station, purple letters are used on the timetable boards.
The local train runs between Kyoto Station, Uji Station, Joyo Station and Nara Station. The train runs every 15 minutes during the day between Kyoto Station and Joyo Station, and every 30 minutes between Joyo Station and Kizu Station. Basically, the cars are from the JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 103, but some are from the JR Suburban Train Series 221. Due to the schedule, some local trains go through to the Yamatoji Line in the early morning and late evening. Formerly, some local trains would go through to the Sakurai Line, but with the schedule revision of September 4, 1994, the Nara and Sakurai lines were divided.
Formerly, a limited express ran on the Nara Line as a special train. A limited express which had the nickname 'Kuroshio XX' from 1987 to 1988 and 'Kuroshio XX' from 1988 to 1989, the JNR/JR Limited Express Series 381ran between Kyoto Station and Shirahama Station via the Kansai Main Line, the Kansai Main Line Hanwa Freight Line and the Hanwa Line. The Kinki edition of the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper announced on January 6, 1998 that a limited express comprising the JNR/JR Limited Express Series 381 would begin operating (as a regular train) on the Nara Line in about 2001, but eventually the plan was canceled.
Miyakoji leisure train
The Miyakoji leisure train ran between Kyoto Station and Sakurai Station (the Miyakoji Rapid Service ran for the section between Kyoto Station and Nara Station) for some time, but now there is no train excluding a special train going through to the Sakurai Line.
Uji-gawa River fireworks display
The Uji-gawa River fireworks display (nearest stop: Uji Station) is held in mid-August, when the special schedule is introduced to secure sufficient transport capacity before 4 p.m. to the end; after 4 p.m., only the local trains run between Kyoto Station and Uji Station at intervals of approximately 10 minutes. Kizu Station is the arrival and departure station of some local trains.
When the Nara Line was a single track, a special schedule was adopted during the New Year holidays, according to which the rapid train stopped at every station between Kyoto Station and Uji Station, and the number of trains traveling to Uji Station was increased. During some New Year holidays the train would arrive at and depart from Momoyama Station. In about 1992 (mainly on Saturdays and holidays) a through train to the Sakurai Line bound for Tenri Station ran once an hour by extending its regular rapid service.
Occasionally, trains reserved for groups enter the Nara Line from around the country. During the Tenrikyo Autumn Grand Service held every October 26, particularly, the through train denoted as a 'train reserved for groups: Tenrikyo transportation train' runs from Kyoto Station to Kizu Station via the Nara Line, to Nara Station via the Yamatoji Line, and to Tenri Station via the Sakurai Line.
All cars belong to the Nara rail yard.
JR Suburban Train Series 221
The Nara Line shares the JR Suburban Train Series 221 (comprising two, four or six cars) with the Yamatoji Line, the Osaka Loop Line, etc. The JR Suburban Train Series 221 comprising either four or six cars is used mainly for the 'Miyakoji Rapid Service' and the 'Rapid Service,' while the one comprising four cars mainly enters the Nara Line. The JR Suburban Train Series 221 (comprising two cars joining two other cars) runs according to the holiday schedule.
JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 103
The JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 103 (comprising four cars) is used on the Nara Line for the local train, while the one comprising eight cars (four joining four other cars) is used on the Osaka Loop Line and on the Yamatoji Line for the regional rapid service during the rush hours. Part of the rolling stock is replaced with stock transferred from the Osaka Loop Line's Morinomiya rail yard.
The line connecting Kyoto, Kizu and Nara was opened by the Nara Electric Railway, and initially trains ran the same route as the current Kintetsu Kyoto Line between Kyoto and Momoyama. In 1921, the Tokaido Main Line between Baba (currently Zeze) Station and Kyoto Station was switched to the current line via the Higashiyama tunnel; and on the same day the old Tokaido Main Line between Kyoto Station and Inari Station and a new line between Inari Station and Momoyama Station came to serve as the Nara Line, whereby the line between Kyoto Station and Fushimi Station was abolished and the line between Fushimi Station and Momoyama Station was made a freight line. Later, the land after the line between the Kyoto Station and the Fushimi Station was sold to the Nara Electric Railway, a predecessor of the Kintetsu Kyoto Line.
September 5, 1895: The line between Kyoto Station and Fushimi Station (3 miles 23 chains ≒ 5.29 km) was opened by Nara Railways. Fushimi Station was opened. Kyoto Station was shared with the governmental railway.
April 21: To-ji provisional train station was opened.
May 3, 1902: Kamikoma Station was opened.
November 12: The operating distance was changed from miles and chains to miles (e.g., from 21M48C to 21.6M).
February 7, 1905: The track was transferred from Nara Railways to the Kansei Railway Company.
October 1, 1907: The Kansei Railway Company was nationalized.
November 5: The Ujigawa signal box was abolished.
August 15, 1914: The Hachijo signal box was abolished.
August 1: The line between Kyoto Station and Fushimi Station (3.3M ≒ 5.31 km) on the Nara Line was abolished. The passenger service was abolished between Fushimi Station and Momoyama Station (1.1M ≒ 1.77 km). The Tokaido Main Line between Kyoto Station and Inari Station (1.8M ≒ 2.90 km) was incorporated into the Nara Line. The new line between Inari Station and Momoyama Station（2.6M ≒ 4.18 km) was opened.
April 1, 1922: The Ujigawa temporary signal box (宇治川仮信号所) was changed to the Ujigawa temporary signal station (宇治川仮信号場).
February 13, 1926: Aodani-Bairin temporary train station was opened.
April 1: The Ujigawa temporary signal station was abolished.
April 1, 1930: The operating distance was changed to be given in meters from miles (e.g., from 21.6M to 34.7 km).
December 1, 1933: Aodani-Bairin temporary train station was upgraded to Yamashiro-Aodani Station.
July 15, 1955: Yamashiro-Taga Station was opened.
December 27, 1957: Tofuku-ji Station was opened.
July 11, 1958: Joyo Station was opened.
April 21, 1961: Obaku Station was opened.
March 2, 1982: Centralized Traffic Control was introduced.
October 1, 1984: The line between Kyoto Station and Kizu Station (to Nara Station) became electrified. The JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 105 and the JNR/JR Suburban Train Series 113 began operating. The limited express 'Kinokawa' (between Kyoto Station and Wakayama Station via the Nara, Sakurai and Wakayama lines) was abolished.
April 1, 1987: The Japan National Railways was split up and privatized to form the JR Group, as a result of which the JR Nara Line became part of the West Japan Railway Company. The Japan Freight Railway Company became a railway business operator for every line.
March 16, 1991: The rapid service comprising the JNR/JR Suburban Train Series 117 began operating.
September 4, 1994: The JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 105 was withdrawn.
(The JNR/JR Commuter Train Series 105 came to run only on the Sakurai and Wakayama lines.)
March 8, 1997: JR-Fujinomori Station was opened.
May 10, 1999: The rapid service began making stops at Rokujizo Station.
March 3, 2001: The lines between Kyoto Station and JR-Fujinomori Station, Uji Station and Shinden Station became double-track. JR-Ogura Station was opened. The 'Miyakoji Rapid Service' comprising the regional rapid service and the JR Suburban Train Series 221 began operating.
October 1: The rapid service and regional rapid service began making stops at Tofuku-ji Station.
April 1: The Japan Freight Railway Company left the Type II railway business.
April 23, 2008: The ATS was introduced between Yamashiro-Aodani Station and Kizu Station.
April 27: The ATS-P was introduced between Obaku Station and Yamashiro-Aodani Station.
The single-track sections between JR-Fujinomori and Uji stations, and between Shinden and Kizu stations, remain under discussion, but no specific plan has been established. Moreover, the acquisition of land along National Route 24 between JR-Fujinomori Station and Momoyama Station, and along the Keihan Uji Line between Kohata Station and Uji Station (near Obaku Station) is particularly difficult. Due to a shortage of budget, no further plan will proceed before the double-tracking of the entire Sagano Line (between the Sanin Main Line Kyoto Station and Sonobe Station) is completed.
At the Council for Transportation in the Kinki region, a plan for operation of the Nara Line through to the Tokaido Main Line (JR Kyoto Line) in the future is under discussion (there was once an overnight service from the late evening of December 31 to the early morning of January 1).
List of Stations
The distance of operation (in kilometers) from Kyoto Station is placed in parentheses.
Abandoned signal station
The distance of operation (in kilometers) from Kyoto Station are placed in parentheses.