Kitakinki (train) (北近畿 (列車))

Kitakinki, an "L-tokkyu (limited express)" operated by the West Japan Railway Company (JR West), runs in the section between Shin-Osaka Station and Kinosakionsen Station via Fukuchiyama Station and Toyooka Station (Hyogo Prefecture) on the track of the Fukuchiyama Line (also called the JR Takarazuka Line) and Sanin Main Line. The Kitakinki service is part of "Kitakinki Big X Network," which is the name of the limited-express service network in the northern Kinki District that connects Kitakinki Tango Railway with JR West; the name "Big X" comes from its shape, which is like the letter "X" on the map.

The train color is yellow. It originates from the color of the JR Takarazuka Line, which is one of the lines on which the Kitakinki runs.

Summary of the operation
When going from the direction of Osaka for the "Santan (Tanba, Tango and Tajima)" area, the Kitakinki train service functions as a sightseeing limited express, and the number of passengers increases especially during the wintertime as a result of the promotion of 'kanikani Higaeri Express (Day Trip by Limited Express for All-You-Can-Eat Crabs),' which is held every winter. When running in the section from Fukuchiyama Station southward, the Kitakinki train service on the Fukuchiyama Line functions as a commuter limited express, and particularly within the section between Sasayamaguchi Station and Fukuchiyama Station, where there are few local trains, some trains of Kitakinki makes stops at many station.

When coming from the direction of Kinosakionsen Station, Toyooka Station and Fukuchiyama Station for Osaka, the Kitakinki train service not only functions as a limited express for business trip on weekdays but also as a limited express for sightseeing on weekends and holidays, so the number of train cars varies from four to seven depending on the day of boarding. Some trains of the Kitakinki service connect with those of 'Tanba (train)' at Fukuchiyama Station, thereby functioning as substitutes for 'Kinosaki (train),' which directly connects the Kyoto area with the Tajima area but has fewer trains. Additionally, if one changes trains at Fukuchiyama Station without passing through its ticket gate, the limited express charge is exceptionally discounted as that of a through train.

When the limited express is running on the track of the Fukuchiyama Line or the Sanin Main Line, there is no operation of the rapid train arriving at and departing from Osaka Station. Because it takes nearly the same time to cover the railway section as the rapid train, the Kitakinki train service also functions like the "Home Liner" (a train whose number of passengers is fixed mainly for securing seats for all of them during the commute hours) when running in the section from Sanda Station and southward; in this section they stop at every station at which the rapid train stops, except for Nishinomiyanajio Station, Nakayamadera Station, Kawanishiikeda Station and Itami Station (of JR West).

There are sales in some trains of the Kitakinki service, mainly those that arrive at or depart from Kinosakionsen Station.

Stops
Shin-Osaka Station - Osaka Station - Amagasaki Station (JR West) - Takarazuka Station - Sanda Station (Hyogo Prefecture) - (Shin-Sanda Station) - (Aino Station) - Sasayamaguchi Station - (Tanikawa Station) - Kaibara Station (Hyogo Prefecture) - (Iso Station - Kuroi Station (Hyogo Prefecture) - Ichijima Station) - Fukuchiyama Station - Wadayama Station - Yoka Station - Ebara Station - Toyooka Station (Hyogo Prefecture) - Kinosakionsen Station

Just some trains of Kitakinki stop at the stations shown in braces above.

Rolling stock used and seats set
JNR/JR Limited Express Series 183
Basically, this is rolling stock modified from the JNR/JR Limited Express Series 485, which was introduced when the Kitakinki operation was launched.

In some cars of the Kitakinki service there are chimes whose melodies are arrangements of traditional folk songs familiar in the northern Kinki district (Fukuchiyama Ondo, Miyazu-bushi and Dekansho-bushi).

First-class car: The first half of, or the whole of, the front car that is headed for Kinosakionsen Station, Toyooka Station and Fukuchiyama Station
Ordinary car (railway car): Reserved seats/non-reserved seats

Competing transportation
The transportation competing with Kitakinki is as follows:

Express bus
Umeda Station Hankyu Sanbangai-mae in Osaka Prefecture - Fukuchiyama Station/Amanohashidate Station/Miyazu Station
Hankyu Bus Co., Ltd., and Tango Kairiku Kotsu Co., Ltd. each operate three round-trip bus services a day; each takes about two hours and costs \1810 to cover the one-way distance between Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station, and it takes about three hours and costs \2510 to cover the one-way distance between Osaka Station and Miyazu Station.
Umeda Station Hankyu Sanbangai-mae/Shin-Osaka Station (both in Osaka Prefecture) - Kinosaki Onsen/Yumura Onsen (Hyogo Prefecture)/Hamasaka Station
Zentan Bus Co., Ltd., operates three round-trip bus services ("Kaniokoku-Go") a day for the Kinosaki Onsen route, and it takes about three hours and costs \3600 to cover the one-way distance; moreover, Zentan Bus Co., Ltd., also operates three round-trip bus services ("Yumechiyo-Go") for the Yumura Onsen route, and it takes about three hours and costs \4200 to cover the one-way distance.
Kobe Sannomiya Station - Fukuchiyama Station
Nikko City Bus and Kyoto Kotsu each operate six round-trip bus services a day; it takes about one-and-a-half hours and costs \1600 to cover the one-way distance between Kobe Sannomiya Station and Fukuchiyama Station.
Kobe Airport/Kobe Sannomiya Station/Hyogo Kencho-mae - Kinosaki Onsen/Yumura Onsen/Hamasaka Station
Zentan Bus Co., Ltd., operates two round-trip bus services ("Kaniokoku-Go") a day for the Kinosaki Onsen route, and it takes about three hours and 20 minutes and costs \3200 to cover the one-way distance; moreover, Zentan Bus Co., Ltd., operates two round-trip bus services ("Yumechiyo-Go") a day for the Yumura Onsen route, and it takes about three-and-a-half hours and costs \3700 to cover the one-way distance. When the Maizuru Expressway (the present Maizuru Wakasa Expressway) opened in the late 1980s, the expressway bus service was operated (by West JR Bus Company and Shinki Bus) in the section between Osaka and Fukuchiyama, but the operation was ended several years later because the number of bus services and passengers was low.

Except for the route between Kobe Sannomiya Station and Fukuchiyama Station, every bus service has been operated since the 1980s; the time needed to cover the distance has become shorter and shorter as the expressway network has been extended, although the number of bus services hasn't significantly increased. Given the circumstances, the newly established bus route between Kobe Sannomiya Station and Fukuchiyama Station since 2006 have effectively changed transportation between the Hanshin area and the northern Kinki area, because the route needs far less time and money than the railway and there is no need to transfer between buses.

Aviation
Japan Air Commuter Co., Ltd., operates two round-trip flights a day between Osaka International Airport and Konotori-Tajima Airport. It takes just 35 minutes to cover the distance in the airplane, but the airfare costs as much as \11,400 (if you make a reservation by the day before the flight, you can get the discount fare of \7900); moreover, it takes time to go to the urban area from the airport, so the railway has the edge over the air route. Moreover, it's the tourists and business travelers outside the Kansai area to whom the local aviation industry now promotes the use of the airplane, because the characteristics of the airplane can't be used if only people within the Kansai area are targeted by the promotion. When coming to the northern Kinki district from distant places, like Tokyo or Fukuoka, the flight via Osaka International Airport to Konotori-Tajima Airport is the shortest route.

Others
Currently, the trains of Kitakinki cover the section between Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station in approximately one hour and 40 minutes, and they cover the section between Osaka Station and Kinosakionsen Station in about two hours and 40 minutes; the train starts almost every hour, which is more frequent than the express bus service. Regarding the section between Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station, the railway fare and limited express charge (a non-reserved seat of an ordinary car) amount to \3250, and for the section between Osaka Station and Kinosakionsen Station they amount to \4940. Consequently, the railway is inferior in cost but superior to the express bus in terms of the time needed to cover the distance and in the frequency of service.

Currently, however, the Kita Kinki-Toyooka Expressway and Kyoto Jukan Expressway are under construction. When these expressways open, the situation of road traffic will be greatly improved between the Hanshin area and the northern Kinki area, so the automobile traffic will increase and change in terms of its flow; additionally, the express bus will reduce the time needed to cover the distance and will have more frequent service than at present. Particularly between the Tajima area and the Hanshin area, road traffic is expected to cover the distance in nearly the same time as the railway (or even less than the railway).

Meanwhile, regarding the railway at present, there is no plan to introduce new rolling stock, nor is there a plan to speed up the train, which would be difficult given the recent circumstances. The trend in transportation after the improvement of the expressway network is worthy of attention.

History of high-class trains on the Fukuchiyama Line

Development after World War Ⅱ
June 1, 1960: The Semi Express 'Tanba (train)' started operating in the section between Osaka Station and Kinosaki Station (the present Kinosakionsen Station).

Its operation route diverged at Fukuchiyama Station into two directions--the direction of Ayabe Station and Amanohashidate Station, and the direction of Wadayama Station on Sanin Main Line--and the division or connection of the train cars was done at Fukuchiyama Station.

October 1, 1961: The timetable revision (later called 'San Roku To') was done, and the high-class train operation was changed accordingly as follows:

The Limited Express 'Matsukaze (train)' started operating in the section between Kyoto Station and Matsue Station via Osaka Station by way of the Fukuchiyama Line and Sanin Main Line.

The Express 'Izumo (train),' running between Hamada Station/Taisha Station (on the Taisha Line) and Tokyo Station, had been operated by way of Osaka Station, but at this occasion the route was revised into one that traveled by way of Ayabe Station. Instead, the Express 'Sanbe' started operating in the section between Hamada Station /Taisha Station and Osaka Station.

One round-trip train service arriving at and departing from Toyooka Station (Hyogo Prefecture) via Wadayama Station was added to the operation of the Semi Express 'Tanba.'

At this point the Semi Express 'Hakuto (train),' running in the section between Kyoto Station and Matsue Station via Ayabe Station, was upgraded to an express and the rolling stock was converted into a diesel train. Concurrently, some cars were added to the rolling stock of Hakuto arriving at and departing from Osaka Station via the Fukuchiyama Line.

March 20, 1964: The operating section of the Limited Express 'Matsukaze' was extended to Hakata Station.

September 1, 1964: The express 'Sanin Kanko' started operating as a special sightseeing train for groups of passengers in the section between Osaka Station and Taisha Station (there was the inbound train departing from Izumoshi Station). Additionally, the Express Sanin Kanko had two variations of trains according to the types of operations, so that the overnight semi-express operated as the outbound train and the express operated as the inbound train.

March 1, 1965: The Semi Express 'Hashidate' started operating in the section between Osaka Station and Amanohashidate Station.

October 1, 1965: The timetable was revised, and the high-class train operation was changed accordingly as follows:

The rolling stock of the Express 'Sanbe' was converted into a diesel train, and the operating section of those which were starting at and returning to Hamada Station was extended to Iwami Masuda Station (the present-day Masuda Station) from Hamada Station.

One round-trip service running in the section between Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station was added to the operation of the Semi Express 'Tanba,' thus creating a three-round-trip service system.

The operation of the Limited Express 'Yakumo' in the section between Shin-Osaka Station and Hamada Station started. However, due to the rolling-stock arrangements the operation was launched on November 1 of the next year.

March 5, 1966: The semi-express system was revised, and the Semi Express 'Tanba' and 'Hashidate' were upgraded to limited express status.

October 1, 1966: The Express 'Sanbe,' which shared the track of the Taisha Line, was downgraded to a local train.

October 1, 1968: The timetable revision (later called "Yon San To") was done, and the high-class train operation was changed accordingly as follows:

The train name 'Hashidate' was abandoned. Instead, along with the existing Express 'Tanba,' that name was given to the other major trains running in the section between Osaka Station and some stations in northern Hyogo Prefecture (or in the northern area of Kyoto Prefecture) by way of the Fukuchiyama Line. And with this change, the operating system of the Express 'Tanba' turned out to be the four round-trip services arriving at and departing from Fukuchiyama Station, Toyooka Station, Kinosaki Station or Amanohashidate Station. Additionally, one round-trip service of Tanba arriving at and departing from Toyooka Station was operated by way of Ayabe Station.

The names of the express trains 'Sanin Kanko,' 'Sanbe,' 'Hakuto' and 'Daisen (train),' all running in the section between Osaka Station and some stations on the Sanin Main Line via the Fukuchiyama Line, were integrated into 'Daisen.'
With this integration, the operating system of 'Daisen' became four round-trip services, including the overnight train.

October 1, 1970: 'Tanba (inbound train) No. 3' running from Toyooka Station to Amanohashidate Station was downgraded to a local train.

Development after the start of the Sanyo Shinkansen Line
March 15, 1972: Okayama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line opened and the JNR timetable was revised accordingly, accompanied by the change of the high-class train operation as follows:

The name 'Yakumo' was given to the limited express (on the Hakubi Line) connecting with the Sanyo Shinkansen Line, and the train called 'Yakumo' until then had its operating section transferred between Osaka Station and Tottori Station.
Also, the train called 'Yakumo' until then was given the new name 'Matsukaze (outbound train) No. 2/(inbound train) No. 1.'

The operating section of 'Daisen (outbound train) No. 2/(inbound train) No. 1' was shortened to that between Osaka Station and Tottori Station, and their names changed to 'Inaba (train).'

The rolling stock of 'Daisen (outbound train) No. 1' was connected at Yonago Station with that of the Express 'Hagi (train)' bound for Nagatoshi Station.

However, the operating section of 'Daisen' ended at Masuda Station, so the rolling stock was connected only in the section from Yonago Station to Masuda Station.

October 2, 1972: The timetable was changed as follows:

An outbound train running in the section between Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station was added to the Express 'Tanba.'

Matsukaze (outbound train) No. 1' would depart from Osaka Station, and 'Matsukaze (inbound train) No. 2' would arrive at Shin-Osaka Station.

The rolling stock of the Express 'Inaba' was connected with that of the Express 'Hakuto' in the section from Fukuchiyama Station and westward.

March 10, 1975: The Sanyo Shinkansen Line was extended to Hakata Station and the JNR timetable was revised accordingly; this was accompanied by the change of the high-class train operation as follows:

The train name was changed from 'Inaba' to 'Ideyu.'
Additionally, the rolling stock of the 'Ideyu' inbound train was connected with that of 'Tanba (inbound train) No. 2' while running on the Fukuchiyama Line.

Daisen (outbound train) No. 1' had its operating section transferred from Osaka Station to Hamada Station. Moreover, the Express 'Hagi,' whose rolling stock was connected with that of 'Daisen (outbound train) No. 1' from Yonago Station, was renamed 'Nagato,' but its operation type remained the same.

October 2, 1978: The timetable revision (later called "Go San To") was done, and the high-class train operation was changed accordingly as follows:

One outbound-train service of the Express 'Tanba' was cut.

The train name 'Ideyu' was changed to 'Daisen.'
With this change, the operation system of 'Daisen' returned to four round-trip services.

October 1, 1980: The operating sections of the express trains 'Tanba No. 5/No. 2' was shortened to that between Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station.

July 1, 1982: The express trains 'Matsukaze No.3/No.2' had their operation section extended to Yonago station.
Also, the rolling stock of 'Daisen (outbound train) No. 1' was separated from that of 'Nagato.'

March 14, 1985: The JNR timetable was revised, and express trains 'Matsukaze No. 1/No. 4' had their operating sections shortened accordingly. With this change in operation, the outbound train would depart from Osaka Station and arrive at Yonago Station, and the inbound train would depart from Yonago Station and arrive at Shin-Osaka Station.

Development after the electrification of the Fukuchiyama Line

November 1, 1986: The railway electrification was completed in the section between Takarazuka Station on the Fukuchiyama Line and Kinosaki Station on the Sanin Main Line, and with this electrification the limited express and express trains mentioned below were integrated with and operated as the L-tokkyu 'Kitakinki.'

The Limited Express 'Matsukaze'
The Express 'Tanba'
The Express 'Daisen' (daytime train only)
Until then, some trains of the Limited Express 'Matsukaze' and Express 'Daisen' had arrived at and departed from Kinosaki Station and other stations to the west, so instead of these trains the rapid train services from Kinosaki Station started operating.

The rolling stock of 'Kitakinki,' JNR/JR Limited Express Series 485, was squeezed out by reducing the cars of limited expresses nationwide, and some former middle cars were converted into front cars.

At the beginning of the operation, it merely consisted of ordinary cars so a first-class car wasn't connected with it, but half of its front car was converted into a first-class section ("Kuroha 481") right after that, and the conversion of the entire rolling stock was completed until the division and privatization of JNR.

July 16, 1988: 'Kitakinki' began to have its rolling stock of round-trip service connected with that of 'Edel-Tango,' meaning the JNR/JR diesel car Type Kiha 65, and the 'Edel-Tango' was the limited express through to the Miyafuku Line of the Kitakinki Tango Railway Corporation (KTR). The operating section was between Osaka Station and Amanohashidate Station.

March 11, 1989: The Limited Express 'Edel-Tottori' started operating in the running section extended westward from that of a round-trip service of 'Kitakinki,' and the rolling stock of 'Edel-Tottori' was JNR/JR diesel car Type Kiha 65. The operating section was between Osaka Station and Kurayoshi Station.

March 10, 1990: 'Edel-Kitakinki' started operating in the running section extended westward from that of the two round-trip services of 'Kitakinki,' and the rolling stock of 'Edel-Kitakinki' was JNR/JR diesel car Type Kiha 65. The operating section was between Osaka Station and Hamasaka Station.

December, 1991: 'Kinosaki' started operating as a special express running in the section between Osaka Station and Kinosaki Station.

1992: The operating section of 'Edel-Kitakinki' was extended to Higashi-Maizuru Station on the Maizuru Line. At Fukuchiyama Station, the division and connection of rolling stock was done between the train arriving at and departing from and Higashi-Maizuru Station and the train arriving at and departing from Hamasaka Station.

December 3, 1994: 'Edel-Tottori' had its operating section shortened to Tottori Station.

December, 1995: The operation of 'Kinosaki' ceased.

March 16, 1996: The timetable was revised and the high-class train operation was changed accordingly, as follows:

All regular trains of 'Kitakinki' would arrive at and depart from and Shin-Osaka Station.

The emblem of 'Kitakinki' on the front car changed from the picture (a stork soaring in the sky of northern Kinki, the running section of the train), to which was affixed the L-tokkyu logo, to the present design.

With the electrification of the KTR Miyafuku Line, the Express 'Miyazu' was upgraded to the Limited Express 'Monju (train).'

Tango Discovery,' which was rolling stock owned by KTR, replaced 'Edel-Tango' as the limited express running through to the KTR Miyafuku Line and connected with the rolling stock of a round-trip 'Kitakinki' service.

March 8, 1997: With the refinement construction of Amagasaki Station (JR West) completed, all trains of the Limited Express 'Kitakinki' and 'Monju' and the Express 'Daisen' began making stops at Amagasaki Station.

October 2, 1999: The operation of 'Edel-Tottori' and 'Edel-Kitakinki' ceased. Moreover, the 'Tango Discovery' would arrive at and depart from Kyoto Station, and the connection of its rolling stock with that of 'Kitakinki' was ended. Instead, 'Tango Explorer' would arrive at and depart from Osaka Station.

October 16, 2004: With the operation of the Express 'Daisen' ended, one outbound train of 'Kitakinki' was added to the existing ones running in the section between Shin-Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station.

April 25, 2005: A train-derailment accident occurred on the JR Fukuchiyama Line. Until June 18, train service was suspended in the section between Shin-Osaka Station and Fukuchiyama Station. Additionally, when the accident occurred, 'Kitakinki No. 3' from Shin-Osaka came nearby, but someone pressed the emergency button of the railway crossing near to the scene of the accident, so the obstruction warning indicator was on; the train motorman sensed the abnormal situation, pulled the emergency cord, and stopped the train at the spot just a hundred meters from the site, thus narrowly escaping danger.

March 18, 2007: A total ban on smoking was implemented in the cars of 'Kitakinki' and 'Monju.'

Origin of the train name
Kitakinki' translates to 'northern Kinki.'