Kintetsu Keihanna Line (近鉄けいはんな線)

The Kintetsu Keihanna Line is a train line of Kintetsu Railways (Kintetsu) connecting Nagata Station (Osaka Prefecture) in Higashi-Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station in Nara City, Nara Prefecture.

On March 27, 2006, the operation of the line constructed between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station, having been temporarily called the 'New Keihanna Line,' started, and at this time the line between Nagata Station and Ikoma Station, having been operated as the Higashi-Osaka Line, was renamed as the Keihanna Line as well. The nickname of 'Yumehanna' is used to wholly indicate both the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line and this line, between which through-service has been provided.

The PiTaPa and ICOCA cards supporting KANSAI THRU PASS can be used. J-through cards can't be used for automatic ticket gates, but railway tickets can be bought from automatic ticket vending machines. As in the era of the Higashi-Osaka Line, additional freight charges are applied in order to recover the construction cost.

Information on the line

Total length of operating track line (kilometers of the line in operation): 18.8 km
Kintetsu Railways (rail tracks on streets)
Between Nagata Station and the railroad/street-border point: 5.1 km
Kintetsu Railways (railway operator)
Between the railroad/street border point and Ikoma Station: 5.1 km
Kintetsu Railways (railway operator) / Nara Ikoma Rapid Railway Co., Ltd. (railway operator)
Between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station: 8.6 km
Track guage: 1435 mm
Number of stations: Eight, plus two signal stations (including the start and end stations)
Double-track portions: The entire line
Electrified sections: The line is fully electrified (using a 750-VDC third-rail system).
Block (railway): Automatic block system
Safety equipment: ATC (Automatic Train Control)
Maximum speed: 95 km/h
Installation of in-vehicle guidance equipment: 100%

The operations of the entire line are controlled by the Osaka Transportation Control Division (formerly the operations division at Kamihoncho); the portion between Nagata Station and the railroad/street border point east to Shin-Ishikiri Station is operated based on the Tramways Act and that between the railroad/street border point and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station is based on the Railway Business Act.

Summary

The line between Nagata Station and Ikoma Station was constructed as the Higashi-Osaka Line for the purpose of bypassing the Kintetsu Nara Line, whose cars had become seriously congested due to the development of land for housing along the line. In the west of Shinishikiri Station, the line runs along Hanshin Expressway (No. 13) Higashi Osaka Route and National Route 308, and the track is elevated between Aramoto Station and Shinishikiri Station. This is because railways and roads were constructed integrally under the control of the former Ministry of Construction, and the Higashi-Osaka Line was the first in Japan to use a structure integrating an elevated bridge for a highway and that for a railway, attracting attention at that time as a system providing an effective means of usage when a wide road isn't available. In the Ikoma tunnel between Shinishikiri Station and Ikoma station (4,737 m), a portion of the former Ikoma tunnel constructed during the era of the Osaka Electric Tramway was reused.

To connect Osaka and Kansai Science City (Keihanna Science City) (Gakkentoshi), the line between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station was constructed by extending the Higashi-Osaka Line, providing a transportation means for people living in the many homes built over the large area covering the northern part of Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture, and the northwestern part of Nara City. However, because this portion of the line is far from Seika-cho, Soraku-gun, Kyoto Prefecture (the central area of Gakkentoshi), it can be said that the line is for businesspeople and students commuting to the urban center of Osaka from bedroom communities in Nara Prefecture rather than serving as a line for Gakkentoshi. Of this portion of the line, approximately 60% consists of tunnels. It is also planned that the line will be extended from Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station toward Shin-Hosono Station and Takanohara Station (extension plan).

When the operation of the line between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station started, the name of the Higashi-Osaka Line was changed to the Keihanna Line. A name to wholly indicate both the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line and this line, between which through-service was provided, was solicited publicly, and 'Yumehanna' was selected. A name to indicate both the lines in total was provided to convey the message that the area around Honmachi Station on the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line can be accessible directly without changing trains at Ikoma Station. However, Higashi-Osaka City, a local public body along the line, has requested that Kintetsu change the name of Aramoto Station, which is the nearest to the city hall of the city, to Higashi-Osaka Station in order to keep the name of Higashi-Osaka as a station name. The cost of such a change would be considerable, so the parties concerned are discussing the possibility of having Kintetsu bear the cost, although the cost of changing the name must generally be covered by the public body.

When the Keihanna Line started operation, a serial number was assigned to each station, including those on the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line (also including the stations in the portion corresponding to the former Higashi-Osaka Line). A melody to indicate the departure of a train has been used in the stations east of Aramoto Station since March 21, 2006, six days before the inauguration of the Keihanna Line, when the train operation schedule was changed (before that, in Kintetsu, the melody of 'The Waves of the Danube,' in single chords, such as used for introductory sounds in family computers, was employed to indicate train departures from Platform 4 and 5 for the Kintetsu Limited Express trains in Kintetsu-Nagoya Station).

In the era of the Higashi-Osaka Line, perhaps in order to differentiate Kintetsu from the Chuo Line, Kintetsu's corporate colors of orange and sky-blue (more correctly, the three colors of solar-orange, aqua-blue and purple-white are used for train cars owned by Kintetsu) were used as the image of the line, and even today the vestiges remain in the train car bodies and facilities dating from that era; however, the use of lime-green as the color for imaging the line was decided when the Keihanna Line was inaugurated (but the colors of Kintetsu's train cars remain unchanged). It is considered that the change of color was made in order to enhance the sense of unity with the Chuo Line upon the establishment of the name 'Yumehanna' by using a color similar to the line color used by the Chuo Line, but it is also considered that, since the line color of the Osaka Municipal Subway Imazatosuji Line has become orange, the color change was made to prevent the Keihanna Line from being mistaken for this subway line.

Operations

Cosmosquare Station, on the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line, can be reached without changing trains from Naga Station. Because through-service is provided, train cars of the Chuo Line, with green lines, run on this one as well. However, since the operation of the extended portion of the line, between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station, started, all the trains on the line have been one-man-operated, and a detection system using infrared beams has been installed on the platforms of all stations in order to support the train operations.

Consequent upon the increase in the length of the line due to the start of operations between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station, the maximum train speed was increased, to shorten the traveling time, to 95 km/h from 70 km/h, the highest speed in Japan for train lines using the third-rail system, and before executing the speed change the maximum train speed in the portion corresponding to the former Higashi-Osaka line was also increased from 70 km/h to 95 km/h on March 21, 2006, when the train schedule was changed. It takes 22 minutes for a train to run between Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station and Nagata Station. The operation of rapid trains was also investigated, but the introduction was postponed.

In the current train schedule, approximately half of all trains return from Ikoma Station, while the trains returning from Ikoma Station go to the Higashi-Ikoma signal station (depot) and change direction there. Between Nagata Station and Ikoma Station, a maximum of 14 trains an hour run during the rush hours and eight trains during the less busy times of day, while between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station eight trains an hour run during the rush hours and four trains run during the less busy times of day. The train schedule was partially changed on July 19, 2006, and the two deadhead trains, which are sent from Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station to the Higashi-Ikoma depot during the night, are then used to transport passengers bound for Ikoma Station.

Train cars owned by Kintetsu

Kintetsu Railways Series 7000
Kintetsu Railways Series 7000

Train cars from other lines that run on the Keihanna Line

Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau
Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau Series 20
Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau Series 20

Rail yards

The following two rail yards are provided for the Keihanna Line: the Higashi-Ikoma depot in the Higashi-Hanazono train-inspection section on the eastern side of the Higashi Ikoma signal station (on the northeastern side of Higashi-Ikoma Station, on Kintetsu Nara Line), and the Tomigaoka depot in the Higashi-Hanazono train-inspection section on the western side of Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station.

The Higashi-Ikoma depot was established at the start of operations between Nagata Station and Ikoma Station, and until around November 2005, when trial operations started between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station, the outbound main-line portion between the current Ikoma Station and Higashi-Ikoma Signal Station (the track toward Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station) was used as the line for a depot. This line connects with the Nara Line, and when the important parts inspection or the thorough inspection of the train cars of the Keihanna Line is carried out, the cars are sent to the Goido rail yard using this connection line via the Higashi-Ikoma depot, Nara Line, Yamato-Saidaiji Station, Kintetsu Kashihara Line, Kashiharajingu-mae Station, the crossover in Yamato-Yagi Station and the Kintetsu Osaka Line. However, the power-supply voltage and power-collection system for train cars on the Keihanna Line are different from those of other lines, and accordingly, on each of the Nara, Kashihara and Osaka lines the power collector (power-collector shoe) is removed from each of these cars and each set of three cars is placed between and moved to the depot by two electric-powered vehicles (Moto type 75 nos. 77 and 78).

The Tomigaoka depot was established with the start of operations between Ikoma Station and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station.

Construction history

The plan for the Keihanna Line is based on the line plan of extending the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line up to around Shin-Tanabe Station in Kyoto Prefecture, which was included in the thirteenth report of the Council for Urban Transport in 1971.

Between Nagata and Ikoma

After the war, Kintetsu planned to construct a bypass line between Ishikiri Station and Morinomiya Station in order to alleviate congestion on the Kintetsu Nara Line, which had become serious due to housing development along the line, but some portions of the planned line overlapped the lines planned by other companies and Osaka City, because at around the same time the Keihan Electric Railway planned an extension between Owada Station (Osaka Prefecture) and Morinomiya Station and Osaka City planned an extension of the fourth line (the current the Chuo Line) up to Hanaten Station via Honmachi Station and Morinomiya.

Through negotiations among the parties concerned, it was decided that Kintetsu and Keihan should construct a line up to Aramoto Station and Osaka City a line in the urban area, on the condition that through-service would be provided between the two lines. However, eventually Osaka City constructed the fourth line using the third-rail system, whereupon Keihan abandoned the plan of constructing the new line and the remaining Kintetsu decided on a policy of introducing through-service between the new line by Kintetsu and the fourth line by developing train cars that use trolley lines on Kintetsu's line and also support the third-rail system; however, because Osaka City was reluctant to accept the plan, Kintetsu also abandoned the plan to construct the new line. Therefore, Osaka City also proposed an independent plan to extend its line up to Ishikiri.

Such plans remained out of discussion for some time after that, but since the thirteenth report of the Council for Urban Transport (in 1971) included the description that the "Osaka City [Municipal] Subway Chuo Line must urgently be extended in order to improve transport conditions up to Ikoma Station," the momentum for constructing the new line increased again. However, Osaka City, which had taken a position on municipal management that was reminiscent of the Monroe Doctrine, was reluctant to construct a line outside Osaka City, and finally, based on Osaka Prefecture's proposal, it was decided in 1974 that Osaka City should construct a line up to Nagata Station (Osaka Prefecture) in Higashi-Osaka City and Kintetsu should construct a line extending from the station.

Kintetsu obtained the licenses and patents concerned with constructing a line between Nagata and Ikoma stations in 1977, immediately established Higashi-Osaka Ikoma Railway, its wholly owned subsidiary, and transferred the licenses and patents to the new company so that it could execute the construction work; then, in 1979, the work started as that for constructing the p-line of the Japan Railway Construction Public Corporation (JRCC) (currently the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency (JRTT)). Kintetsu--which considered that it would be preferable to operate the new line through integration with the company's other lines because the new line was originally constructed for the purpose of bypassing the Nara Line--bought out Higashi-Osaka Ikoma Railway in April of 1986 when the construction work was nearly complete, and then the line between Nagata and Ikoma stations started operating on October 1 of the same year as the Higashi-Osaka Line of Kintetsu. The same method was also used effectively for the construction of the Keihan Oto Line.

Between Ikoma and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka

The view eastward, with the Shiraniwa Tunnel at the end
Gakken-Kita-Ikoma Station can be seen beyond the tunnel. The distance between the two stations is 0.8 km (the photograph was taken on April 20, 2006).

Concerning the lines east of Ikoma Station, the construction of a line between Ikoma and Takanohara and of a line branching out somewhere between these two stations and extending toward Seika-cho and Nishi-Kizu Station were included in the 'Basic Plan for Kansai Scientific City' announced in 1982 by the National Land Agency (now the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport); moreover, in the tenth report by the Council for Transport Policy in 1989 it was described that a line should be constructed between Ikoma and Takanohara by 2005 and that the construction of a line branching out somewhere between these two stations and extending up to around Hosono Station (Shin-Hosono station in the eighth report by the Council for Kinki Regional Transport in 2004) had to be investigated together with the construction of a line up to the area between Takanohara and Kizu Station in Kyoto Prefecture.

Initially, Kintetsu examined the possibility of conducting the business independently, but considering the availability of subsidiaries it was decided that the business should be conducted based on a joint public-private venture; thus the Nara Ikoma Rapid Railway Co., Ltd., a joint public-private venture, was established in 1998 as the primary enterprise for the construction. It was decided that, after the completion of the line, the venture company would become the railway operator owning the facilities while Kintetsu would be the railway operator operating the line, based on the so-called "scheme of separating infrastructure and operation," and in 2000 the construction work started.

Initially, the start of the operation was targeted at autumn 2005, but was delayed till March 27, 2006, because it took an unexpectedly longer time to acquire the necessary land space; moreover, it took considerable time to train the drivers.

History

March 23, 1977: Patents concerned with tramway business between Nagata and the railroad/street border point and licenses for railway business between the railroad and the street border point and Ikoma were acquired.

September 16, 1977: The Higashi-Osaka Ikoma Railway was established.

December 23, 1977: The transfer of the patents concerned with tramway business between Nagata and the railroad/street border point, and of the licenses for railway business between the railroad/street border point and Ikoma to Higashi-Osaka Ikoma Railway, was approved.

April 1, 1986: The Higashi-Osaka Ikoma Railway merged into Kintetsu Corporation.

October 1, 1986: The line between Nagata and Ikoma went into operation as the Higashi-Osaka Line. Operation of the through-service up to Osakako Station of the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line started. The Higashi-Ikoma depot was established.

September 21, 1987: Electrical leakage caused a fire to erupt from cables in the Ikoma Tunnel. The train passing through the tunnel stalled and was unable to move, and consequently a life was lost.

December 18, 1997: When the Technoport Line of Osaka Port Transport System Co., Ltd. (OTS) (merged into the Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line on July 1, 2005) and started operations, the through-service was extended up to Cosmosquare Station.

July 28, 1998: Nara Ikoma Rapid Railway Co., Ltd., was established.

September 3, 1998: A license for railway business for the New Keihanna Line was acquired.

October, 2000: Construction of the New Keihanna Line started.

August 26, 2004: Construction of the Higashi-Ikoma tunnel (3,600 m) was completed.

January, 2005: The new line was officially called the Keihanna Line,' and the official names of the three new stations were decided as well.

October 26, 2005: The use of 'Yumehanna' was decided as the nickname to collectively indicate the Keihanna Line, Higashi-Osaka Line and Osaka Municipal Subway Chuo Line. At the same time, a picture contest was held for primary school children and others.

March 19 and 20, 2006: A test-ride event was held (four times a day to accommodate the persons who had applied).

March 27, 2006: Operation of the portion between Ikoma and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka started. It was decided that the portion between Nagata and Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka would be called the Keihanna Line, and that the Higashi-Osaka Line would share the new name. Concurrently, the Tomigaoka depot and both Higashi-Ikoma and Tomigaoka signal stations went into operation.

Extension plan

As described above, a plan to extend the line from Gakken-Nara-Tomigaoka Station to the Hosono (Shin-Hosono) and Takanohara areas exists, but the execution of the plan is likely to be postponed for the time being.
It is said that the reasons are as follows:

There should be just one extension route, but it has not yet been decided whether the extension should be made to Hosono (Shin-Hosono) or Takanohara. It is considered that the extended line will be highly useful for Kyoto Prefecture as well, but Kyoto Prefecture is reluctant to invest in the construction of the line to be extended. Because little progress has been made in the development of the area along the line to be extended, Kintetsu is cautious about the construction. It is planned that the Chuo Shinkansen will run along the border between Nara and Kyoto prefectures, but the more exact route is unknown, and Kintetsu is cautious because the company wants the extended line to connect to the Chuo Shinkansen.

Other points to be noted

If an individual purchases a train ticket commonly usable on Osaka Municipal Subway and on Kintetsu (specifying via Nagata Station), he cannot reach, with that ticket alone, Tsuruhashi Station, Uehonmachi Station (Osaka Prefecture) (Tanimachi 9-chome Station), Osaka-Abenobashi Station (Tennoji Station), Nipponbashi Station (Osaka Prefecture) (including Kintetsu Nipponbashi Station) or Nanba Station (including Kintetsu Nanba Station), all of which are directly accessible by trains of the subway and those of Kintetsu.