Shinkansen (a term related to bullet trains) (新幹線)
Following the Tokaido Shinkansen that the former Japan National Railways (JNR) started operation on October 1, 1964, each of the JR group companies has operated its own high-speed railway system, and the term Shinkansen is used for indicating the railways for high-speed operations, the train-cars, and related railway-based transportation systems as a whole.
Series 300 Shinkansen train-cars and 0 series Shinkansen train-cars
0 series Shinkansen train-cars, 700 series Shinkansen train-cars, 300 series Shinkansen train-cars, Hikari Rail Star, 500 series Shinkansen train-cars, and 300 series
Definitions and summary
Article 2 of National Shinkansen Network Law defines Shinkansen railways as 'the trunk railways that enable trains to run at a speed of 200 km/h or more in major railway sections.'
The structure and role of Shinkansen are in essence different from those of regular train lines. Therefore, Shinkansen are dealt with differently from general railways legally as well: For example, for Shinkansen, the Special Measures Act on Punishment of Acts Endangering Safe Operation of Shinkansen Railways applies in addition to the general Railway Construction Act.
A Shinkansen line is built by Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, and its cost is shouldered by the national government and autonomous bodies along the Shinkansen line. Its operation is exclusively conducted by the passenger-handling railway company (JR).
There is no legal base for specifying the railway operators, such as 'Shinkansen must be operated by JR.'
However, the reasons why the operations are taken over by the JR group companies would be as follows:
A huge amount of money is needed for operating the Shinkansen, and the only companies with enough funds to shoulder such costs are the JR companies that have taken over operations of the Japanese National Railways.
The former Japanese National Railways (JNR) operated the Tokaido Shinkansen, Sanyo Shinkansen, Tohoku Shinkansen, and Joetsu Shinkansen, and when JNR was divided and privatized into each of the JR companies, the persons versed in operation know-how moved to each of the JR companies.
The so-called mini-Shinkansen is originally 'an improvement of regular train lines and the through-operation of trains on Shinkansen lines through the introduction of the standard gauge,' and is not covered by the Shinkansen described in this article.
Shinkansen originally means 'new trunk lines' in contrast to former trunk lines. For example, the name Tokaido Shinkansen was given because this line was built to increase the number of tracks of the Tokaido Main Line, a regular railway line.
In nations other than Japan, bullet trains or super expresses are used for indicating Shinkansen, with Shinkansen itself also used in some nations. When the operation of the Tokaido Shinkansen started in 1964, the name New Tokaido Line was used (even now, this expression is used on electric bulletin boards on train-cars of the Yokohama Municipal Subway). Today, the term of Shinkansen is used for each Shinkansen railway line, and for the name of each train on the Shinkansen or Super-express, for example, NOZOMI Super-express, is used, even for the local trains of a Shinkansen line. The term of Super is used in the JR group to indicate that the trains on Shinkansen are positioned above the Limited Express on their regular railway lines ('the class above Limited Express' in Japanese).
By the way, the announcement of "Welcome to the Shinkansen. This is the NOZOMI super-express…" is used in the trains.
Major technologies for Shinkansen
Trains run at speeds exceeding 200 km/h over almost all sections of a Shinkansen railway. Therefore, various technologies different from those for regular railways are used. In addition to speed, high standards have been maintained for safety as well as passenger-friendliness, and its successful operation has offered an opportunity for other nations to review the value of high-speed railways.
Railways and gauge-related facilities
Newly laid railway routes different from those for regular lines are used (except for mini-Shinkansen).
The standard gauge (1,435 mm) is used.
Large curvature radii are used for curved sections to make the straight sections as long as possible. The standard curvature radius is 2,500 m for the Tokaido Shinkansen (enabling a top speed of 255 km/h, with 270 km/h enabled for the N700 series Shinkansen trains only), and 4,000 m or more for the railways that were laid for the Sanyo Shinkansen or later (enabling trains to run at a top speed of 300 km/h over these curved sections, without decreasing its speed). However, the curvature radius rules are not applied to the sections in metropolitan areas, such as between Tokyo and Yokohama of Tokaido Shinkansen and between Tokyo and Omiya of Tohoku Shinkansen, and also to those close to the major stations where all trains on a Shinkansen stop. Due to inevitable geographical reasons as well as the availability of necessary land, sections with a smaller curvature radius exist around Atami and Tokuyama, although not many trains stop at these stations.
The following designs are employed to prevent accidents from occurring:
No crossing with roads is provided to prevent the trains from colliding with vehicles (for the regular railways where mini-Shinkansen are operated, the number of crossings are reduced, with safety measures strengthened as well).
For the ares where railways are laid, measures to prevent ordinary people entering are taken. As a measure that fits into the above, the railways are laid so as not to cross roads on the same plane (except for mini-Shinkansen). Furthermore, for disturbing Shinkansen train operation, punitive provisions more severe than those for disturbing train operation on regular railway lines are specified legally as well, based on the Special Measures Act on Punishment of Acts Endangering Safe Operation of Shinkansen Railways.
To prevent physical injury from being caused due to, for example, touching a passing train, safety fences with moving gates are placed on platforms (for examples, in Shin-Yokohama Station and Shin-Kobe Station), or tracks for passing trains are provided separately from the tracks where trains stop (for examples, in Shizuoka Station and Fukushima Station (located in Fukushima Prefecture)). However, in the stations where the speeds of passing trains are not high, for example, Omiya Station (located in Saitama Prefecture) and Karuizawa Station, only safety fences are provided. Initially, no fence was provided in Tokyo Station, Nagoya Station, Kyoto Station, Shin-Osaka Station, and Hakata Station of the Tokaido Shinkansen and Sanyo Shinkansen, but later, safety fences alone became provided in these stations as well. On the Tokaido Shinkansen, safety fences are provided in some stations (for example, Shizuoka Station and Hamamatsu Station) as well, even though tracks for passing trains are provided separately from the tracks where trains stop.
From the viewpoints of increasing the passenger friendliness level and safety level as well as taking measures against noise, various new ideas have been introduced into the designs of the rails and turnouts (so-called points).
For the rails, long rails are used for reducing the number of connection points. In the section between the Iwate-Numakunai Station and the Hachinohe Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen line, approx. 60.4 km-long 'super-long rails' are used.
For the points, elastic turnout points (elastic turnouts), which enable the reduction of vibration in passing these portions, and movable nose crossings, which enable the spaces at the rail crossings to be filled up, are used. For the turnouts which are located in the north of Takasaki Station and are used for making a branch between the Joetsu Shinkansen line and the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, the longest and highest-level points, which enable a branching train to pass the point at a speed of 160 km/s, are installed.
Long distances (30 -40 km) are provided between stations on the Shinkansen, because Shinkansen is mostly used for mid or long distance transportation.
Due to their high speeds, it is impossible to operate the trains while checking signals located on the ground from the trains visually. Therefore automatic train control devices (ATC) are used for operations, and instructions for operation are displayed in the operating room of the trains, based on signals available there.
The Centralized Train Control unit (CTC) in the operation center controls the states of all trains in operation centrally. Currently, after the introduction of the Programmed Traffic Control system (PTC), all Shinkansen operations, including ordinary point control and signal control, automatic announcements in the stations, the management and maintenance of train-cars, and the generation of the train operation schedule for restoring operation after a traffic failure, are controlled by computers systematically.
Power supply methods
For electric power, a single-phase 25,000 AC is supplied to the train-cars. Nowadays, the AT power-feeding system is used throughout Shinkansen (initially, the BT power-feeding system was used in Tokaido Shinkansen).
The following frequency commercial power supplies are used:
60 Hz is used throughout the Tokaido Shinkansen line. The frequency of the commercial power supply is 50 Hz in the areas to the east of the Fuji River of Shizuoka Prefecture and 60 Hz in those to the west, and the operation of the Tokaido Shinkansen covers both of these areas. However, because the extension of the line to the Sanyo area was assumed from the start, the use of 60 Hz throughout the line was decided to simplify the specially high pressure devices required on the train-car side. In the areas where the frequency of the commercial power supply is 50 Hz, the frequency is converted to 60 Hz for the Shinkansen line at a frequency conversion facility.
On the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, the section where the 50 Hz power supply and the 60 Hz power supply are switched is provided between the Karuizawa Station and Sakudaira Station. The train-cars on the Shinkansen line support both 50-Hz power supplies and 60-Hz power supplies as well.
In each of the Sanyo Shinkansen line (constructed by extending the Tokaido Shinkansen line), the Tohoku Shinkansen line, the Joetsu Shinkansen line and the Kyushu Shinkansen line (the Kagoshima route), the power supplies with the same frequency as that of the area through which each Shinkansen line is operated (60 Hz for the Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines, and 50 Hz for the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines) are used.
In either electric system, the phase problem among substations (the frequency problem on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line) must be solved. However, because continuous powered operation must be conducted for maintaining the high-speed operations, the boundary of a power-feeding section of a substation is switched on the ground, instead of providing a dead section (where trains pass in inertia with no power supply, to prevent the generation of arcs) used in regular railways lines. An air section is provided for switching power supplies. In this section, power can be fed from either of the substations provided on both sides of the section. Entering such a section, the power supply from the substation used before entering the section is utilized initially, but when the entrance of the train to the section is detected, the power supply is switched to the one from the substation on the other side. It takes approx. 0.5 second to make the switching, and almost no passengers notice that the switching operation was performed.
Even before the gauge was changed, 50 Hz, 20,000 VAC power supplies were used in the Yamagata Shinkansen line and the Akita Shinkansen line, both mini-Shinkansens. Therefore, even after the gauge was changed, the power supply system continued being used, with the train-cars for the through operations supporting more than one voltage. In this case, a dead section is used for connecting different voltage sections.
For powering trains, instead of the 'concentrated traction system' used for locomotives (including the many push-pull type concentrated traction systems employed in Europe, in which non-powered passenger train-cars are pulled), the distributed traction system (electric train-car system) in which motive force is distributed to each train-car, is used to increase the acceleration/deceleration ability, to make the train-cars lighter and to reduce the load on the railways.
However, because the electric/electronic devices to be installed on the train-cars increased, this system had a disadvantage in sales, compared to the concentrated traction system because of the high initial cost and the maintenance cost. However, nowadays, induction motors employing VVVF inverter control have been introduced in addition to the practical use of regenerative brakes, and this system has become advantageous in the aspect of applying brakes in high-speed operation, compared with the concentrated traction system, because in the latter system, mechanical or eddy-current brakes, not used for moving the train, must be provided on each of the attached, non-powered passenger cars (the distributed traction system has become used in some train-cars of the new-generation TGV and ICE).
With Japan being mountainous, the ground tends to be less solid than that of other countries. In the concentrated traction system, stronger railways must be used and the ground under them must also be more solid, compared to the distributed traction system, to support the heavy weights of locomotive cars. Therefore, use of the distributed traction system is more advantageous in laying and maintaining rails than that of the concentrated traction system.
To secure a large output power from an organization of train-cars as a whole and to use adhesion weight effectively, the ratio of the number of locomotive cars within an organization of train-cars is made as large as possible. In the 0 series Shinkansen train cars used initially on the Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line, and in the 200 series Shinkansen train cars used initially on the Tohoku Shinkansen line and Joetsu Shinkansen, a locomotive car was used for each of the train-cars. A locomotive car is used for each of the 500 series Shinkansen train-cars on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines and of the 800 series Shinkansen train-cars on the Kyushu Shinkansen line, to operate the trains at a top speed of 300 km/h and to run them in steep slopes, respectively.
In the N700 series train-cars, which operate at the same 300 km/s as the 500 series train-cars on the Sanyo Shinkansen line, train-cars with no engine are also included, because the ability to control the idle running and skidding of wheels has increased. The power for braking the train-cars with no engine is ordinarily shouldered by the locomotive cars, and the brakes on the train-cars with no engine are operated only when an abnormality occurs, for example, the regenerating brake is disabled or breaking due to an emergency becomes necessary, or are also operated to maintain a stop state.
When a train enters a tunnel at a high speed, the air pressure changes, and therefore, an air-tight structure is employed for them to prevent the passengers from becoming uncomfortable due to the pressure change.
In the cab, the master controller and the brake are placed on the right side and on the left of the operator, respectively, contrary to those on the regular railway lines. It is said this is because the master controller is used more often than brake in the operation of the Shinkansen lines, and most of the operators are right-handed. However, there are many theories concerning this matter.
To support operations at 200 km/h or more, the speed meter is not the round type used on regular railway lines. In initial Shinkansen train-cars, speed meters of horizontal line types were used, and in the middle era, digital types in which the display was made using a slant line to a certain point and for higher speeds, using a horizontal line, with the speed displayed numerically in details in the lower-right portion. Then in some of the latest model train-cars, a glass cockpit is employed.
In high-speed operations, it is highly possible that, for train protection (or to stop other trains for protection), use of fuses and short-circuiting-rails devices, both of which are used in regular railway lien operations, is inadequate. Therefore, a train protection method different from those used in regular railway lines is utilized to stop other trains quickly at emergencies.
On the train side, an Emergency Ground Switch (EGS) is installed, and when the train operator pushes this switch during an emergency, other trains on the line can be stopped.
On the railway side, a train protection switch is provided at 250 m intervals on the main railways and at 50 m intervals on platforms, and pushing this switch enables the ATC circuit to stop operating.
Concerning the wireless train protection device, its receiver alone is equipped on trains, and the transmitter is carried by an officer in charge of railway maintenance so that, when damage is inflicted on railways, for example, during railway maintenance work, the officer can stop the trains not equipped with ATC, for example, for the reason that the security method has been changed.
Through-operation to other railway lines
In the sections called mini-Shinkansen lines (the section between Fukushima and Shinjo of the Yamagata Shinkansen line and that between Morioka and Akita in the Akita Shinkansen line), the gauge of the regular railway lines has been changed to the standard one to enable through operation as limited express through Shinkansen. These mini-Shinkansen lines are not formal Shinkansen lines legally as well as from the viewpoint of equipment, and basically are regular railway lines (these lines are called Shinkansen for convenience and for an image strategy for them). Therefore, the highest speed of the operation is limited to 130 km/h, the same as regular railway lines. However, this speed is the highest speed of the regular railway lines. The operation style is sometimes called 'shin-zai chokutsu (unten)' (literally, through operation between a Shinkansen line and a regular railway line) because trains are operated through a Shinkansen line and a regular railway line.
Gauge-adaptable train-cars have been developed in Railway Technical Research Institute to enable trains to be operated through a Shinkansen line and a regular railway line without changing the gauge, but it is not decided yet when practical use of these train-cars is to start.
Shinkansen lines (meeting full specifications)
* The nickname of 'Nagano Shinkansen line' is used, because the operation of the line does not reach Kanazawa in Hokuriku region until the 2014 fiscal year.
When the line started its operation, the name was 'Shinkansen line to Nagano,' including 'to.'
This was because the name of the "Nagano Shinkansen line" gave at that time the slight impression that "the line ends at Nagano," inviting from the Hokuriku region a strong protest that the naming may kill the prospect of the line being extended beyond Nagano.
The term of 'Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen' and that of 'Tohoku/Joetsu Shinkansen' are sometimes used by combining Tokaido Shinkansen and Sanyo Shinkansen and combining Tohoku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen, respectively.
Only on the Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line, train-cars of another company run (train-cars of JR West run on the Tokaido section and those of JR Tokai run on the Sanyo section). On each of the other Shinkansen lines, train-cars of the corresponding company alone run (some of the train-cars operated on the Yamagata Shinkansen or the Akita Shinkansen correctly are leased from the companies that own them).
The rails of the Tokaido Shinkansen line and those of the Tohoku shinkansen line are not connected at Tokyo Station. Therefore, for a passenger to go from Hakata to Hachinohe (or from Hachinohe to Hakata), the passenger must always change trains. In the era of Japan National Railways, there were plans to operate trains through both Shinkansen lines (experimental 961-type Shinkansen train-cars were manufactured for testing the through operations, and platforms 14 and 15 for the Tokaido Shinkansen in Tokyo Station are curved towards the Tohoku Shinkansen line side, because they were made assuming that trains were to be operated through both Shinkansen lines). However, the through operation was not realized due to the following reasons: Almost no passengers existed traveling through Tokyo station, the frequency of commercial power supplies were different from each other (60 Hz for the Tokai and Sanyo Shinkansen lines, and 50 Hz for the Tohoku, Joetsu and Nagano Shinkansen lines), and in addition, there were differences in the train-car designs, for example, measures against snow fall were taken for train-cars on the Tohoku and the Joetsu Shinkansen lines. AS of 2008, because use of the Shonan Shinjuku Line operated through the center of Tokyo flourishes, and because the Tohoku-jukansen plan (the line on which trains are operated through the Tokaido main line and Tohoku main line) is in progress, demand for passengers who travel through Tokyo among areas, close to Tokyo, in the Kanto region (demand for commuters in particular) can be assumed. However, concerning the Shinkansen lines, the prospect of realizing a through operation is considered small for the following reason in addition to the reasons described above: Each Shinkansen line is operated by a separate company, in contrast to the era of Japan National Railways (JR Tokai has decided that 16-car trains must be used for a through operation). However, operation in the section between the Torikai rail yard and Shin-Osaka Station is made an exception, because the section is used by trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen line for entering and exiting the yard.
Limited-express operated through a Shinkansen line (for mini-Shinkansen lines)
The Yamagata Shinkansen line: between Fukushima Station (located in Fukushima Prefecture) and Shinjo Station (on the Ou main line (operated by JR East))
The Akita Shinkansen line: between Morioka Station and Akita Station (through the Tazawako and Ou main line (operated by JR East))
For the section to the north of Morioka on the Tohoku Shinkansen line and for that to the west of Karuizawa on the Nagano Shinkansen line, the introduction of mini-Shinkansen lines were investigated. However, in the end, full-specification Shinkansen lines were constructed for both sections.
Regular railway lines with Shinkansen specifications
Such a line indicates railway lines that were originally for transporting deadheads on a Shinkansen line but have become used for passenger transportation as well. However, for the reasons that the line distances are short and trains on the lines are not operated at high speeds, these lines are dealt with regular railway lines. However, because the train-cars and facilities used are for Shinkansen, the trains running on these lines are handled as general 'limited express' and an extra ticket for the limited express must be purchased in addition to an ordinary ticket to ride them. The trains on the Hakata Minami (Hakata South) line are the only limited expresses with no nickname provided.
The Hakata Minami line: 8.5 km between Hakata Station and Hakata Minami Station (the railway line for transporting deadheads to the railway yard is used for transporting passengers as well) (operated by JR West).
The Joetsu Line (a branch line): 1.6 km between Echigo-Yuzawa Station and the Gala Yuzawa Station (the railway line for maintenance is used for transporting passengers as well.)
(Connected with the Joetsu Shinkansen line, the railway line constitutes part of the Joetsu Shinkansen line from the viewpoint of the railway name as well.)
(It is popularly called the Gala Yuzawa line.) (Operated by JR East)
Although a non-reserved limited express ticket costs \840 even for a short distance ride, for example, between Tokyo Station and Ueno Station or between Tokyo Station and Shinagawa Station on the Shinkansen line, a limited express ticket for these sections costs \100, the lowest of JR limited express tickets, because only trains dealt with on regular railway lines run on these sections.
New railway lines with Shinkansen specifications
New railway lines with Shinkansen specifications, sometimes called 'Super-limited express method' (-based lines), indicate lines constructed in the following way, and train-cars on regular railway lines run on them: The structures, such as railway beds and tunnels, are constructed in Shinkansen specifications, and 1.067 mm gauge rails are laid.
There are the following examples:
Kaikyo Line: between the Shin-Nakaoguni signal yard and the Kikonai Station. Slab tracks supporting a distance of 4.4 m between tracks and a gauge of 1.435 mm are employed. The rails are now fixed with bolts to make the gauge 1.067 mm, but a three-rail system will be introduced when the Hokkaido Shinkansen is constructed. Even the old-type limited express manufactured in the era of JNR can run at a speed of 140 km/h (ordinarily, the highest speed is limited to 120 km/h) inside the Seikan tunnel, and the ATC-L type automatic train control device, compatible with the analog ATC used in Shinkansen, is employed (however, each JR company is digitizing the ATC system, and it is highly likely that the ATC-L will be replaced with a digital ATC after the construction of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line is completed). With the slopes within ±15&permil and with the radii of the curves around R6500, the specifications meet those of Shinkansen. The current aerial power line voltage is 20 KVAC, but is scheduled to be raised to 25 kVAC when the operation of the Shinkansen line starts. For the cargo trains and overnight trains, new electric locomotives supporting more than one voltage system will be introduced.
The Seto-Ohashi line: between the Chayamachi Station and the Utazu Station. However, in the Washu-zan tunnel and on the Seto-Ohashi Bridge, only the space enabling the provision of a four-track line, including the Shinkansen tracks and regular railway tracks, has been secured, and the railways for the Shinkansen line have not been laid yet. Some slopes and curves in the present section between the Chayamachi Station and the Kojima Station do not meet Shinkansen specifications. Therefore, new railways for Shinkansen will be laid for this section.
The Nagasaki route of the Kyushu Shinkansen line is being constructed in the super-limited express method, and to use existing regular railways in some sections of the route, and there is also investigation into modifying them. The construction of some sections of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line and the construction of those of the Konoshima route of the Kyushu Shinkansen line were started in the super-limited express method, but later, their specifications were changed to full Shinkansen ones.
For other routes, refer to "New railway lines with Shinkansen specifications."
Routes in planning stages
Refer to projected Shinkansen lines as well. The numbers of kilometers are estimates.
Routes under construction
The Hokkaido Shinkansen line: between Shin-Aomori Station and Shin-Hakodate Station, 148.9 km (scheduled to start its operation in the 2015 fiscal year)
The Tohoku Shinkansen line: between Hachinohe Station and Shin-Aomori Station, 81.2 km (scheduled to start its operation in the 2010 fiscal year)
The Hokuriku Shinkansen line: from Nagano Station to Kanazawa Station to the Hakusan sogo railway yard (comprehensive Hakusan railway yard) (scheduled to start its operation in the 2014 fiscal year: The start of construction of Fukui Station (located in Fukui Prefecture) corresponding to the reform of the Station house for the Echizen railway line is included.)
The Kagoshima route of the Kyushu Shinkansen line: between Hakata Station and Shin-Yatsushiro Station, 129.9 km (scheduled to start its operation in the 2010 fiscal year)
The Nagasaki route of the Kyushu Shinkansen line: between Takeo-Onsen Station and Isahaya Station
Sections where the construction of Shinkansen is yet to be started
The Hokkaido Shinkansen line: between Shin-Hakodate Station and Sapporo Station, 211.3 km
The Hokuriku Shinkansen line: between Kanazawa Station and Osaka City
The Nagasaki route of the Kyushu Shinkansen line: between Shin-Tosu Station and Takeo-Onsen Station, and between Isahaya Station and Nagasaki Station (located in Nagasaki Prefecture) (for the section between Hizen-Yamaguchi Station and Takeo-Onsen Station, there are investigations to make the existing regular line a two-track line)
Sections where construction of Shinkansen is scheduled to start next
The Hokkaido Shinkansen line: between Oshamanbe Station and Sapporo Station, 124.1 km
The Hokuriku Shinkansen line: between Kanazawa Station and Fukui Station (the work to reform Tsuruga Station is included)
The Nagasaki route of the Kyushu Shinkansen line: work to reform Nagasaki Station
The Shinkansen lines in the basic plan
Based on the National Shinkansen Network Law enforced in 1970, the following Shinkansen lines are listed in the basic plan, which was compiled for determining the Shinkansen routes for which construction was to be started. However, the start of constructing these lines has been postponed due to the so-called oil-shock and because the business performance of JNR deteriorated. Even today, there appears no prospect that the work to construct these Shinkansen lines will be started, but the voices that desire their construction still remain strong in some quarters.
The Hokkaido Shinkansen line: between Sapporo City and Asahikawa City, approx. 130 km
The southern route of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line: between Oshamanbe Town and Sapporo City, approx. 180 km
The Uetsu Shinkansen line: between Toyama City and Aomori City, approx. 560 km
The Ou Shinkansen line: between Fukushima City and Akita City, approx. 270 km
The Chuo Shinkansen line: between Tokyo Prefecture and Osaka City, approx. 480 km
JR Tokai expresses the intentions to construct this Shinkansen line by itself with the JR-Maglev system and to start its operation in 2025 between the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Chukyo metropolitan area.
The Hokuriku/Chukyo Shinkansen line: between Tsuruga City and Nagoya City, approx. 50 km
The Sanin Shinkansen line: between Osaka City and Shimonoseki City, approx. 550 km
The Chugoku-Odan Shinkansen line: between Okayama City and Matsue City, approx. 150 km
The Shikoku Shinkansen line: between Osaka City and Oita City, approx. 480 km
The Shikoku-Odan Shinkansen line: between Okayama City and Kochi City, approx. 150 km
The Higashi (east) Kyushu Shinkansen line: between Fukuoka City and Kagoshima City (via Oita City and Miyazaki City), approx. 390 km
The Kyushu-Odan Shinkansen line: between Oita City and Kumamoto City, approx. 120 km
Canceled Shinkansen lines
The Narita Shinkansen line: between Tokyo Station and Narita Airport Station, approx. 70 km
The work to construct this line started in 1974. However, the work was stopped in 1983, due to the so-called oil-shock, difficulties in obtaining necessary land and strong protests against its construction by autonomous bodies along the line. After this, the basic plan became ineffective corresponding to the privatization of JNR in 1987. The facilities that had been constructed were used by the Narita Airport Rapid Railway (Airport Branch Line of the Narita Line), and Tokyo Station on the Keiyo line was constructed later in the space where the Tokyo Station for the Shinkansen line was to be constructed.
By the way, Shigefumi MATSUZAWA, governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, and Kensaku MORITA, who has become governor of Chiba Prefecture advocating 'Constructing a maglev between Haneda and Narita' as an election pledge, are investigating the initiation of a maglev investigation committee. Therefore, attention must be paid to their activities.
The second Tokaido Shinkansen line
This line was planned to be constructed using linear motor cars, but its construction has been integrated into the plan of the Chuo Shinkansen line described above (for using the experimental maglev line facilities effectively).
The Joetsu Shinkansen line: between Shijuku Station and Omiya Station
The construction was cancelled (because the Joetsu Shinkansen line was connected to the Tohoku Shinkansen line at Omiya Station), but for some sections of the line, the necessary land has been procured, with space for the underground Station acquired as well (Shinjuku Station of the Shinjuku line of the Toei metropolitan subway, that of the Keio Shinsen line (the new Keio line), and that of Shinjuku Station of the Oedo line of the Toei metropolitan subway are constructed in deeper places to avoid the Station space for the Joetsu Shinkansen line). There is the opinion that the construction work for this section of the line should be restarted, because, when the projected Shinkansen lines start operations, it may occur that the traffic capacity between Omiya and Tokyo and that at Tokyo Station become inadequate. However, the blank space along the elevated Saikyo line is a buffer zone called 'environmental space,' which has been provided taking into account noise-related problems, and is not land acquired for extending the Shinkansen line.
Even in the official documents that were handed over from JNR to JR corresponding to the privatization of JNR in 1987, it is described that 'A two-tier elevated structure should be provided on the Omiya side.'
Nicknames of Shinkansen trains
On the Tokaido Shinkansen line and the Sanyo Shinkansen line, which are operated by JR Tokai and JR West, respectively, the nickname of a train is given based on its operating speed, and on the Shinkansen line operated by JR East, it is given corresponding to its operating direction or its destination. When E1 series Shinkansen train-cars or E4 series Shinkansen train-cars, so-called 'Max' train-cars, are used, 'Max' is attached to the nickname. Only one nickname is used for the trains used on the Nagano Shinkansen line of JR East and those on the Kyushu Shinkansen line.
The Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line
Nozomi (trains)': the highest-speed trains
N700 series Shinkansen train-cars, 700 series Shinkansen train-cars or 500 series Shinkansen train-cars are used, with 300 series Shinkansen train-cars used on rare occasions on a temporary basis.
Hikari (trains)': trains for complementing Nozomi operation
Initially, Hikari stopped only at stations in large cities, and was the synonym for super-limited express in contrast to Kodama trains that stopped at every station on the line. However, for convenience, Hikari trains came to stop at stations that are not used by many passengers as well, and after the Nozomi trains were introduced, have come to be defined as the trains that are neither Nozomi nor Kodama. On the Sanyo Shinkansen line, trains called "Hikari Rail Star" have been introduced based on customer needs. In the past, the nickname of "West Hikari" and that of "Grand-Hikari" also existed. Contrary to the 'Nozomi' trains, some Hikari trains stop at every station in some sections. 700 series Shinkansen train-cars and 300 series Shinkansen train-cars are used mainly, with a few N700 series Shinkansen train-cars and 500 series train-cars (on an irregular basis) also used. In the past, 100 series Shinkansen train-cars and 0 series Shinkansen train-cars were also used.
Kodama (trains)': the trains that stop at every station of the line. For some of the Kodama trains that are operated in early morning hours or in late evening hours, 'Local train: No reserved seat is available' or 'No reserved seat is available' is written in the time tables. No 'Kodama' runs across the boundary between the Tokaido section and the Sanyo section. In addition to 700 series Shinkansen train-cars and 300 series Shinkansen train-cars, N700 series Shinkansen train-cars are used between Hamamatsu Station/Mishima Station and Tokyo Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen line two times every day, and on the Sanyo Shinkansen line, 500 series train-cars (seven train-car group), 100 series Shinkansen train-cars are also used, with 700 series 7000-7999 Shinkansen train-cars for Hikari Rail Star used for a few Kodama trains in early morning hours or in late night hours. 0 series Shinkansen train-cars were used until November 30, 2008, and N700 series Shinkansen train-cars were used until March 13, 2009 for the Kodama trains that ran the section between the Kokura Station and the Hakata Station.
The Kyushu Shinkansen line
Tsubame (trains)': 800 series Shinkansen train-cars are used, and at Yatsushiro Station, passengers on this train can ride the 'Relay Tsubame' train waiting on the other side of the same platform.
The Tohoku Shinkansen line
Hayate (trains)': the trains connecting Tokyo Station to Hachinohe Station (some of them run up to Sendai Station or Morioka Station, with some others operated in the section between Sendai Station and Hachinohe Station). E2 series Shinkansen train-cars and E3 series Shinkansen train-cars (in the Komachi grouping, and for connecting additional train-cars).
Yamabiko (trains)': the trains that run in the southern section of Morioka Station, except the following 'Nasuno' trains described below. In the southern section of Sendai Station, Shinkansen train-cars of any types except E1 series of JR East are used, and E2 series Shinkansen train-cars, E3 series Shinkansen train-cars (in the 'Komachi' organization, and also for connecting additional train-cars), and E4 series Shinkansen train-cars are used in the northern section of Sendai Station.
Nasuno (trains)': the trains that stop every station between Tokyo Station and Nasu-Shiobara/Koriyama Station (located in Fukushima Prefecture) on the Shinkansen line. Shinkansen train-cars of any types except E1 series of JR East are used.
The Akita Shinkansen line
Komachi (trains)': E3 series Shinkansen train-cars are used: Basically, this train is operated connected to a 'Hayate' train in the southern section of Morioka Station (some Komachi trains run between Akita Station and Sendai Station independently, and are connected to a Hayate train at Sendai Station).
The Yamagata Shinkansen line
Tsubasa (trains)': 400 series Shinkansen train-cars and E3 series 1000 - 1999 Shinkansen train-cars are used, and these train-cars are basically operated connected with E4 series 'MAX Yamabiko' Shinkansen train-cars in the southern section of Fukushima Station (some of them are operated independently in the same section).
The Joetsu Shinkansen line
Toki (trains)': trains except the 'Tanigawa' trains described below
200 series Shinkansen train-cars, E1 series Shinkansen train-cars, and E4 series Shinkansen train-cars are used. In the past, E2 series Shinkansen train-cars were also used. When this Shinkansen line started its operation, this name was used for the trains that stopped at the every station on the line. For a while, this name was merged into 'Tanigawa,' and disappeared. However, to prevent the name of 'Asahi' from being mistaken for 'Asama' that also ran between Tokyo Station and Takasaki Station, the name of 'Toki' was restored replacing 'Asahi' when the train operation schedules were revised on December 1, 2002.
Tanigawa (trains)': the trains operated in the southern section of Echigo-Yuzawa Station (or Gala Yuzawa Station in the ski season). The train-cars of the same types as those for Toki are used. Tanigawa trains mostly stop at every station. However, some of them pass the Honjo-Waseda Station alone when operated up to the Gala Yuzawa Station in the winter season.
The Nagano Shinkansen line
Asama': the trains connecting Tokyo Station to Nagano Station.
E2 series Shinkansen train-cars are used
In the past, 200 series Shinkansen train-cars and E4 series Shinkansen train-cars were also used for special trains.
The following nicknames were also used in the past:
The Tohoku Shinkansen line
Aoba (trains)': trains that stopped at every station. This name disappeared because the corresponding trains were merged into 'Nasuno' trains or 'Yamabiko' trains when the train operation schedules were revised on October 1, 1997.
The Joetsu Shinkansen line
Asahi (trains)': the express (some of them stopped at every station after the Nagano Shinkansen line started its operation). Being likely to be mistaken for 'Asama,' the name was replaced with 'Toki' when the train operation schedules were revised on December 1, 2002.
Train-cars for the Shinkansen lines
Since carbon steel was used for the material for the bodies of the train-cars utilized on the Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line in the era of JNR, such as the 0 series Shinkansen train-cars and 100 series Shinkansen train-cars, the bodies were comparatively heavy. However, from the 200 series Shinkansen train-cars for the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen line, aluminum alloy was used to make the bodies lighter, so than the body weight did not increase significantly even with snow-combating equipment added. Aluminum has become used in general for the Shinkansen train-cars developed after the privatization of JNR. In addition, due to the progress of aluminum processing technology, the cost of manufacturing the bodies has been reduced while the body weight is made lighter as well. Resultantly, recently developed train-cars are considerably lighter than those developed in the era of JNR.
It is said that a Shinkansen train-car costs roughly \200 million to \300 million now. Shinkansen train-cars are currently manufactured by the five companies of Nippon Sharyo, Ltd., Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Hitachi, Ltd., Kinki Sharyo Co., Ltd (only for JR West) and Tokyu Car Corporation (only for JR East).
On the other hand, as the JR companies have increased the train speeds aggressively after their inauguration, various problems have arisen, such as noise generated from contact between the power collectors and the aerial power supply lines, noise due to wind generated by the fast-moving train-car bodies, and considerable attrition of the portions in contact. Therefore, the number of pantographs are reduced from one every two train-cars in the 0 series Shinkansen train-cars to one every eight train-cars in 300 series Shinkansen train-cars. In addition, T-shaped special pantographs called wing types have been installed for the 500 series Shinkansen train-cars, further increasing the power-collecting efficiency. Getting a hint from the fact that the sound generated by the wings of flying birds of the owl order is smaller than that of birds of other orders, a streamline protrusion has been attached to the pantographs. Furthermore, when a train enters a tunnel at a high speed, noise is generated due to a rapid air pressure change (air-pressure wave) inside the tunnel, and it is necessary to hold down the amount of the noise. Therefore, the head shape of the front-positioned train-car has been developed considering the aerodynamics in running conditions and the head area-changing rate in entering a tunnel. Consequently, the length of the head portion has become longer, compared with that of the initial 0 series Shinkansen train-cars, and in addition, the shape has become quite different from those of ordinary train-cars (becoming sharp and streamline, like a duckbill).
Even for Shinkansen, regular maintenance of the train-cars is necessary, and railway yards are provided at various locations along the lines (for more information about the check items, refer to "Checks on train-cars").
High-speed railway systems in the prewar era
In the initial stage of the railway system development in the Meiji period, narrow gauge track was employed from the viewpoint of cost. Therefore, due to constraints originating in low standards, high-speed operations of trains as in Europe and the United States were inconceivable. The maximum speed remained at 100 km/h or less from the 1910s to 1950s.
Changing the gauge to the standard one was proposed many times in the era from the Meiji period to the Taisho period. In the end, the standard gauge failed to be introduced due to political struggles or cost problems (also refer to "disputes about gauges in Japan").
In the 1910s, a plan to construct 'the Japan electric railway,' a new high-speed railway based on electric train-cars between Tokyo and Osaka, was proposed from the private sector, but failed to be implemented because the national government did not approve of it.
The development of realistic high-speed trains in Japan was started by South Manchuria Railways (so-called Mantetsu), which laid railways across Manchuria (the present northeast part of China) that was under control of Japan at that time. This company was operated with capital and technology from Japan and by the executives and engineers who were mostly Japanese, and therefore, it is not too much to say that the railways were Japan-owned.
At the time, Mantetsu used steam locomotives to drive train-cars in the era before electric ones. However, the railways were laid with high standards employing the international standard 1,435-mm gauge (called the broad gauge in Japan), and in sharp contrast to conservative Japanese Government Railways (JGR), Mantetsu tried to take advanced measures early on in its company history.
In 1934, Mantetsu developed streamline-shaped steam locomotives (for express passenger cars for South Manchuria Railways) based on its own design, meeting the trends in Europe and the United States, and for 701 km between Dalian City and Shinkyo (Xingjing) (present Changchun City), started operating the limited-express 'Asia' train, which combined a locomotive with an organization of newly-developed streamline-shaped passenger train-cars (with all of the cars air-conditioned). The maximum speed of this train reached 120 km/h or more, far exceeding the trains of JGR whose maximum speed was 95 km/h. It ran between the two cities in eight hours and 30 minutes, achieving an average speed (including the stopping periods) of 82 km/h.
However, the railways in Europe and the United States at that time advanced further. For example, the steam locomotive-driven 'Flying Scotsman,' a limited-express between London and Edinburgh, was operated by London and North Eastern Railway of England at a maximum speed of more than 160 km/s on a business basis, and Deutsche Bahn AG operated 'Fliegender Hamburger,' a diesel train, at speeds more than 150 km/s on a business basis. Furthermore, railway companies in the United States owned steam locomotives that could drive regularly operated trains at speeds far exceeding 180 km/h.
The 120-km/h operation itself was typical of the level of major railways in Europe and the United States, and the 'Asia' train only reached this typical level (however, the complete provision of air-conditioning facilities, including air-cooling equipment alone was the most advanced in the world).
The technologies developed in Mantetsu were never used effectively for the railways in main land of Japan. However, Yasujiro SHIMA, who was Mantetsu personnel, was an engineer specialized in railway technology, came to promote the 'Bullet train plan,' to be described later, together with his oldest son, Hideo SHIMA.
As described above, no private large-scale inter-city railways were realized, as the Japan electric railway described above. However, some mid-distance inter-city railways, such as Shinkeihan Railway, Hanshin Electric Express Railway, Osaka Electric Tramway, and Hanwa Electric Railway, were achieved by introducing inter-urban technologies in the United States. Many of these routes were laid in places where they came to compete with existing railways, and one of their objectives of laying new railways was 'to introduce higher standard railways to offer higher speed operations' (compared to existing railways provided in parallel). In the sense of 'Laying higher standard railways,' some aspects of these activities resemble those for Shinkansen.
In particular, Kansai Kyuko Railway Co., Ltd, the successor of Sangu Kyuko Electric Railway, successfully connected Osaka City and Nagoya City, two cities not too near nor too far apart (189.5 km in the railway length), through railways, although a train change was required at Ise-Nakagawa Station. On the other hand, Hanwa Electric Railway operated the 'Chotokkyu' train (super-limited-express) at an average speed (including stopping periods) of 81.6 km/h, comparable with the performance of the 'Asia' train.
Naturally, high-level specifications were applied to many of the train-cars of these private railway companies (for example, 100 series electric train-cars of Hankyu, 2200 series electric train-cars of Sangu Kyuko Electric Railway, and electric train-cars of Hanwa Electric Railway), slightly affecting the development of the distributed traction system in JNR to be described later.
Bullet train plan
Entering the 1930s, demands for transportation from Japan to China increased rapidly due to the Manchurian Incident and Sino-Japanese war, increasing the amount of traffic on the Tokaido Main line and Sanyo Main line as well.
Around this time, the 'Trunk railway investigation committee' was established by Japanese Government Railways (JGR), and how to increase transportation capacities of major trunk railways were investigated there. It was the 'Bullet train plan' that this committee proposed in 1939 as a drastic measure for increasing transportation capacity.
According to this plan, a new route, separate from the Tokaido main line and Sanyo main line, was to be constructed with broad gauge (of 1.435 mm or the standard gauge) from Tokyo to Shimonoseki, and trains were to be operated at a maximum speed of 200 km/h, exceeding that of the 'Asia' train by Mantetsu, connecting Tokyo to Osaka in four hours and to Shimonoseki in nine hours. This plan was approved in September of 1940, and it was decided that the work to construct the line was to be started.
Already at this time, the persons concerned used the terms of 'Shinkansen' and 'Koki Shinsen' (new broad gauge railway line), because new trunk railways were to be laid. It is said that the term of 'Shinkansen' originated here.
Some persons had the following image of the future, assuming that a Japan-Korea tunnel would be constructed under the Tsushima Straits: Trains would be operated through the tunnel to the Korean peninsula, from Busan Metropolitan City to Hoten (Fengtian) (present Shenyang City), to Shinkyo (Xingjing), the capital of Manchukuo (present Changchun), onward to Beijing City and to Shonan (present Singapore).
On the railways at that time, a locomotive pulled passenger train-cars typically, and it was planned for the 'Bullet trains' as well that a method of combining an electric locomotive and a steam locomotive should be used.
The construction work was continued even after the Pacific War broke out, and the work of constructing the Nihonzaka tunnel (later used for Shinkansen) progressed. However, the work was stopped due to the deteriorating state of the war. However, a considerable portion of the route was used effectively for constructing the Tokaido Shinkansen line later. In particular, during the war, a considerable portion of the necessary land space was procured almost forcibly, making the construction of the Shinkansen line smoother.
The engineers who were concerned with this bullet train plan lived in Kannami Town, Takada County, Shizuoka Prefecture, and 'Shinkansen' existed as a geographical name there before the Shinkansen operation started.
Trends towards distributed traction systems
For several years after the end of the Pacific War, the state of Japan, including that of the railways, was in utter turmoil, but after the start of the Korean War in 1950, the state recovery was in full scale, increasing demands for inter-city transportation rapidly.
We cannot miss the fact that JNR in the era of 1945 - 1954 employed many talented engineers, who had belonged to the research sector of the Japanese forces or to munitions companies but lost their jobs or could not find jobs using their skills after the war. Researches about the vibration of train-cars in high-speed running conditions and about air force characteristics were advanced significantly by the existence of engineers who had belonged to the former Japanese forces.
Shinji SOGO, who became president of JNR in 1955, called back Hideo SHIMA, who had once been a talented engineer in GNR, but had been in the private sector at the time, to JNR, appointing him to chief engineer. Persons centered on him came to promote Shinkansen plans after that.
In mountainous Japan, whose ground is not solid enough, use of the 'distributed traction system,' in which motive power is distributed to each of the train-cars, as in electric train-cars and diesel train-cars, rather than the 'concentrated traction system,' in which a locomotive pulls passenger train-cars, is more suited. The reasons are that the trains based on this system are provided with superior acceleration/deceleration abilities even in the railway conditions of many curves and slopes, and that the trains can run at high speeds even on the railways laid on less-solid ground, because they exert a smaller load on the railways. At that time, steam locomotives were mostly used, and were mainly used internationally as well. Therefore, there were also many in JNR who stuck to the concentrated traction system, but Hideo SHIMA was an exception who understood and contributed to investigating the characteristics of the distributed traction system from the pre-war era.
In 1951, Shima left JNR due to some reasons. However, 80 series JNR train-cars, which were developed in 1950 under Shima's leadership for local trains on the Tokaido railway line, were initially considered being suited for short-distance use, but it was verified that they also exhibited superior performances in long-distance operations as well, providing, after that, the motive force to promote use of electric train-cars and diesel train-cars in the regular railway lines of JNR. After Shima returned to JNR, the trend of introducing the distributed traction system in JNR was accelerated.
Appearance of high-performance electric train-cars
In Japan in 1953 and later, the activities to advance the performance of electric train-cars started corresponding to the introduction of new technologies from Europe and the United States and also corresponding to technology development by domestic manufacturers concerned.
In this process, important innovative technologies, clearly different from those in previous train-cars, as described in the following, came to be practically used only during several years from 1953: The new train-car base supporting high-speeds in addition to 'the Cardan driving method,' which enabled the suppression of vibration and contributed to making passengers feel more comfortable and to enabling high-speed operations, 'all-metal light body train-cars,' which enabled stress to be distributed to side plates and ceilings as well as floor chassis, 'the method of electrifying every train-car,' in which every train-car was equipped with an electric motor to increase acceleration performances, 'the electromagnetic straight brake mechanism,' which provided quick response abilities and allowed it to be handled easily, and 'the 1C8M method (MM unit method),' in which a control unit was shared by two electric power train-cars, contributing to reducing cost and to making the car bodies lighter.
As a result, 'high-performance electric train-cars' that were superior in high-speed performance as well as in acceleration/deceleration performance were introduced one after another centered on major private railway companies in 1954 and later, accomplishing a big technical achievement. Following this trend, JNR also made efforts to develop high-performance electric train-cars, and in 1957, developed the 101 series JNR electric train-cars, new type electric train-cars for commuters (later 101 series train-cars).
In the same year, Odakyu Electric Railway Co., Ltd. developed the 3000 type Odakyu electric train-cars (first generation), streamline-shaped limited express featuring a low center of gravity and articulated structure, with a designed affected by 'Electroliners,' a high-performance electric train-car developed in the United States in 1941, were ambitious ones aiming at a maximum speed of 145 km/h.
Noticing this, JNR borrowed the SE cars from Odakyu to do research about performance in high-speed operations, and tested them on the Tokaido main line in September of 1957. As a result, the speeds of the SE cars reached 145 km/h as planned, achieving the fastest speed in the world for short gauge railways at the time. Next, JNR modified MoHa-90 series electric train-cars for commuters to increase their speeds, for example, by changing the gear ratio, and the modified cars achieved a good record of 135 km/h, although the body shape was disadvantageous in the aspect of air resistance.
Based on these results obtained and applying the technologies for Moha-90 series electric train-cars, JNR developed in 1958, the limited-express type 181 series JNR electric train-cars (later 151 series) for the 'Kodama' trains, a limited-express on the Tokaido main line. This streamline-shaped light and low-center-of-gravity train-cars were fully air-conditioned, equipped with air spring bases, and enabled both speed and passengers' comfort to be met at the same time, completely surpassing passenger trains in the concentrated traction system. In July of 1959, the next year, the speed of the car reached 163 km/s in speed tests on the Tokaido main line, surpassing the speed record of Odakyu's SE cars.
The outstanding achievements attained by these train-cars verified the abilities of the distributed traction system, offering strong evidence for introducing electric train-cars in Shinkansen train-cars.
Furthermore, JNR also made efforts by itself for introducing AC electric power from 1955, and began using AC electric power in local sections, starting with the Hokuriku main line in 1957. Use of AC power itself originated in the idea that use of AC power would enable the cost of ground facilities to be reduced, compared with use of DC power. However, use of AC power came to be applied to the electric system of Shinkansen later. When trains are operated in a super-high speed on an electric railway line, lots of power is consumed. For this, to collect electric power from aerial power supply line efficiently, high-voltage AC electric power supplies, which enable lots of power to be conveyed for a long distance, were more suited than 1,500-V DC power supplies that had been used (of the railway lines using AC electronic power in Japan, the regular railway lines use 20 kV and the Shinkansen line used 25 kV, voltages more that ten times larger than that of the DC electric power-using lines).
For constructing Shinkansen
Before Shinkansen was constructed, when demands for transportation through railway lines and roads increased corresponding to domestic restoration in the post-war era, both capacities of transporting passengers and of transporting cargo on the Tokaido main line, the most important trunk line in Japan at that time, almost reached their limits. All sections of the Tokaido main line were electrified in 1956, but such a measure alone was acutely insufficient for increases in demands.
In 1957, 'the trunk railway investigation committee' within JNR submitted a report insisting that the transportation power of the Tokaido main line would be saturated sooner or later and laying railways other than the existing ones would be required.
Various implementation methods were proposed, but it was basically decided to select one from among the following three methods:
New railways should be laid along the existing railways, making the railways a four-track line.
New narrow gauge railways should be laid through a new route.
New broad gauge railways should be laid through a new route.
For increasing the number of tracks of the Tokaido line, it would be traditional common sense to adopt the four-track line. However, with future expandability in sight, the executives of JNR, including Sogo, decided to lay new broad gauge railways that were supposed to include many difficult problems. It was a super-high speed train plan with innovative technologies in the post-war era, to realize the bullet train plan in the pre-war era.
On May 25, the same year, the railway technology research laboratory (present Railway Technical Research Institute) reported in the lecture meeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of the laboratory that, when new broad gauge railways were laid, it would be possible to operate trains on them in three hours between Tokyo and Osaka. As soon as hearing the report, Sogo showed a keen interest in it, gathered the executives of JNR and had the research officer concerned at the laboratory talk about its details.
In Europe and the United States, for volume transportation measures, high-speed transportation using airplanes and road networks was considered promising, and the opinion was gaining support that railways would be replaced with such new networks and would be old-fashioned. Even in Japan, the general trend was to follow this opinion, and even many persons within JNR questioned the plan to lay a high-speed railway line in specifications different from those of existing regular lines.
Even Hiroyuki AGAWA, a railway fan, criticized the plan saying that the battleship Yamato, the Great Wall of China and pyramids constituted 'the three big structures of the world,' and if Shinkansen were built investing a vast amount of money in this era, it would become the second battleship Yamato and would be laughed at by the world (later, seeing that Shinkansen became so successful as to overturn the railway-declining opinion of the world, AGAWA expressed his regret in a talk with Reisuke ISHIDA who succeeded the post of president of JNR from Sogo).
Under such a serious situation, Sogo and Shima continued carrying out political activities (by Sogo) and technical projects (by Shima) to lay railways (Shinkansen) for new high-speed transportation along the Tokaido.
Backed up technically, the construction plan was approved in 1958 and the ground-breaking ceremony was held on April 20, 1959. The total construction cost was revised, increasing up to \380 billion from the original plan. Originally, Sogo and persons concerned low-balled the estimated cost needed to get approval of the Diet (of Japan), and in addition, rejected requests for constructing local railway lines to concentrate their efforts on the construction of Shinkansen, incurring displeasure of members of the Diet. Therefore, the cost problem became a liability issue later. So as to take responsibility, Sogo resigned as president of JNR and Shima retired from JNR as well.
On May 1, 1961, JNR obtained a loan of US$80 million (at a fixed rate of US$1 = \360 at the time) for this project from the World Bank, with the severe condition that the project should be completed by 1964 (this loan was completely paid back in 1981). With this loan, it became impossible to stop the Shinkansen project due to domestic reasons.
Concerning the construction of the railways, many of the tunnels having been excavated for the 'Bullet train plan' and much of the land having been purchased at the time were used effectively, as described above. It is also said that the project was able to be completed in a short period of five years, due to the existence of the land having been procured at that time and works having been already done also at that time. In Osaka Prefecture and Kyoto Prefecture, completed Shinkansen railways were used temporarily for operating trains on the Hankyu Kyoto main line for which the work to construct elevated railways was under way (-> Hankyu Railways whose trains ran on the Tokaido Shinkansen line).
The Kamonomiya model section
In 1962, the Kamonomiya model section was completed in the suburbs of Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture (between around Koza-Shibuya Station on the Odakyu line and around Kamonomiya on the Tokaido line).
It was due to the following reasons that this area was selected for the test track section:
The necessary land had already been procured in the pre-war era for the bullet train plan, enabling the work to be started early on the project.
A variety of railway shape conditions and ground facilities, such as straight sections, curve sections, tunnels, and railway bridges, were available, making it easier to collect necessary data.
The section was located close to the railway technology research laboratory as well, making it easier to take measures for the problems that were generated.
Here, running tests of an experimental '1000-type Shinkansen train,' a two-car train, were conducted repeatedly. Trains of A-organization (1001 and 1002), two-car trains, and Trains of B-organization (1003 - 1006), four-car trains, were manufactured each with different base carriages, in-vehicle facilities or window shapes to obtain comparative data.
In a test on March 20, 1963, a train of 1000-type B-organization achieved the fastest speed in Japan of 256 km/h.
Research results in the Kamonomiya section were used effectively for the development of 0 series Shinkansen electric train-cars, the first generation Shinkansen electric train-cars, and for that of railway facilities.
However, some defects existed in this Kamonomiya section. At Kamonomiya, located near Sagami bay and being relatively warm even in winter, adequate test data assuming high-speed operations in snow fall conditions could not be obtained. Even when snow happened to fall and a small amount of snow accumulation was observed, the snow melted before starting test runs, not constituting a test. Therefore, a record remains that potatoes were placed on the rails to simulate snow fall conditions to test snow-resistant characteristics of the skirt part of the train-cars.
For Shinkansen between Nagoya and Shin-Osaka, the route through the Suzuka mountain range was in the initial plan, but was abandoned due to constraints on the cost, technology and the period of work needed and was changed to the one via Sekigahara Town.
The area around Sekigahara is located in a valley at a high altitude, and heavy snow falls in winter there. Research about operating high-speed trains in such a section in winter was not able to be sufficiently completed before starting operation. This caused frequent train-car failures that were generated due to the snow stuck to the train-cars in the Sekigahara area in the first winter after operation started in 1964.
This Kamonomiya section was constructed as a section to be used later in actual operation, so that the facilities constructed for the tests would not be useless after operation started. Therefore, this test section was included in the Shinkansen line (a portion between Shin-Yokohama and Odawara) when the line started its operation. This method of constructing a test section was followed by the Oyama test line of Tohoku Shinkansen line and the maglev test line as well. In the Oyama test line, train station facilities were constructed and have been used as Oyama Station later.
The experimental electric train-cars used for the tests were modified after the Tokaido Shinkansen line started its operation. The A-organization trains and the B-organization trains became 941 type emergency relief trains and 922-0 type comprehensive electronic railway test trains, respectively, both being made useful later as well. The 941 type trains were put out of service, but the 922-0 trains were used until 'Doctor Yellow' based on 0 series trains were introduced later.
Until the privatization and separation of the Japanese National Railways (JNR)
On October 1, 1964, the Tokaido Shinkansen line started its operation meeting the opening of Tokyo Olympic Games
In addition, 0 series Shinkansen electric train-cars dedicated for the line were developed and were used in actual operation (-> refer also to the revision of the JNR train schedule on October 1, 1964). In the Japanese pavilion in the New York World's fair held in New York, the United States, from April 22 prior to the start of operation (1964), a mock-up of the train was exhibited, showing Japan's high technological level.
When operation started, the trains were operated at the maximum speed of 200 km/s (with operation of the 'Hikari' and that of the 'Kodama trains taking four and five hours, respectively, between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka). Waiting for the railway bed state to stabilized, operations at 210 km/h were started in the next year (three hours and ten minutes for 'Hikari' and four hours for 'Kodama' between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka) (-> refer also to the revision of the JNR train schedule on October 1, 1965).
Between Tokyo and Osaka, two big cities in Japan, making a day trip became possible from 1958 using the limited express on the regular railway line, but the time allowed to stay at the trip destination was limited to only two hours. However, when the Shinkansen line started its operation, it became possible to stay long enough at a trip destination, changing the social structure drastically. With demands for business and leisure being generated, the initial 12-train-car organization of the Tokaido Shinkansen line was expanded to a 16-train-car organization at the opportunity when the Japan World Exposition '70 started in 1970, establishing a firm position as a high-speed and volume transportation system.
On the other hand, JNR was forced to continue making investments in various facilities, such as for constructing Shinkansen, for increasing the number of limited express trains and express trains and furthermore, for increasing the commuter-transporting capacities (for example, the five-direction strategy). Therefore, JNR's balance fell into the red from 1964 when the Shinkansen line started its operation, and the deficit amount continued increasing after that, and it is said that, as a result, the construction of the Shinkansen line was one the causes of the bankruptcy of JNR.
For this, Yoshiyuki KASAI, chairman of the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) refuted in a book he wrote that 'The Shinkansen line was constructed with only internally reserved money and borrowed money, and the cost has been recovered only by the train fares and other charges, and therefore, it is wrong to say that the construction of Shinkansen triggered the bankruptcy of JNR.'
Anyhow, for JNR thereafter, Shinkansen became an important revenue source.
After that, following the Tokaido Shinkansen line, construction on the Sanyo Shinkansen line was started in 1967 in the form of extending the Tokaido Shinkansen line, to drastically increase transportation capacity of the Sanyo main line, transportation demands for which had also increased, as well as to increase the transportation speed on the line. The Shinkansen line started operation up to Okayama on March 15, 1972 and up to Hakata on March 10, 1975 (-> refer also to the revision of the JNR train schedule on March 15, 1972 and March 10, 1975).
The catch copy was 'Hikari is going to the west.'
Furthermore, an extension of the Shinkansen to the Tohoku region was planned. In 1971, construction on the Tohoku Shinkansen line and that to construct the Joetsu Shinkansen line started, and the work for the Narita Shinkansen line, as an access route to Narita airport which was under construction, also started in 1974. It happened to coincide with the time when Prime Minister Kakuei TANAKA proposed 'Nippon Retto Kaizo-Ron' (Building a New Japan) for promoting the development of land in Japan, and it seemed that the construction of these Shinkansen lines could progress smoothly.
However, the construction of the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines met protest campaigns against it, difficulties in procuring necessary land and also met an abnormal amount of water flow in tunnel excavation work. Therefore, the completion of the former two Shinkansen lines was delayed by five years from the plan, and the work to construct the Narita Shinkansen line was stopped (however, the facilities constructed for this Shinkansen line were used later when JR East and Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd. built a railway line to access Narita airport). Environmental pollution problems due to noise and vibration along Shinkansen lines became serious around this time (for example, the environmental pollution caused by Shinkansen trains in Nagoya). In addition, due to repeated fare hikes corresponding to the deterioration of JNR's finance and the frequent occurrences of strikes because of labor troubles, the number of passengers on existing Shinkansen lines tended to decline. Then affected by the business operation problems and labor troubles, no technical innovation was achieved, and the progress and advancement of Shinkansen became stagnant for a while.
In 1982, the Tohoku Shinkansen line and the Joetsu Shinkansen line started their operations, with Omiya used as the departure and arrival place (-> refer also to the revision of the JNR train schedule on November 15, 1982 and the new Shinkansen relay train), and in 1985, the operations of those lines were at last extended to the central Tokyo area (Ueno) (-> refer also to the revision of the JNR train schedule on March 14, 1985). After this, the railway share of the traffic in the Tohoku and Joetsu regions increased considerably. However, with the burden of the construction of these Shinkansen lines added as well, the finance of JNR reached a catastrophic situation, leading to the division and privatization of JNR in 1987 the by Yasuhiro NAKASONE Cabinet.
Shinkansen in the era from the inauguration of JR to today
In the division and privatization of JNR, it was decided that the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines should be operated by JR East, the Tokaido Shinkansen line by JR Tokai, and the Sanyo Shinkansen line by JR West. However, initially, the facilities were owned by the Shinkansen Holding Corporation, a third class railway enterprise, and each JR company operated the corresponding line or lines borrowing the railways as a second class railway operator. Maintenance cost of Shinkansen lines were shouldered by each JR company, and the Shinkansen Holding Corporation collected only the fees of lending the facilities. The objective of this scheme was to compensate the red finance of the JR companies in other regions with profit from Shinkansen operations.
However, when the business operations of the three JR companies described above became stabilized and listed their shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and others came into sight, the following problems arose: With the lending fees being paid corresponding to the amount of traffic, the business operation efforts of each company could not be reflected in its business performance, and the amounts of assets and liabilities could not be fixed. Then in 1991, at last, the system was changed so that each of the railway companies should buy up the facilities in 60 annual installments from the Railway Development Fund, which was reorganized from the Shinkansen Holding Corporation.
Shinkansen-related activities had been stagnant both in the technical aspect and in the business aspect for a while, but, after the privatization and separation of JNR, active activities, such as introduction of new train-cars and new railway system styles came to be seen.
As a typical example, JR East introduced mini-Shinkansen lines in the following way, without constructing new railways meeting Shinkansen specifications (full specifications): Existing regular railways were modified, new train-cars dedicated for the railways were manufactured and these trains were enabled for operation through both Shinkansen lines and regular railway lines.
In 1992, 400 series Shinkansen train-cars were manufactured and the Yamagata Shinkansen line started operation between Fukushima Station (located in Fukushima Prefecture) and Yamagata Station of the Ou main line; In 1997, E3 series Shinkansen train-cars were manufactured and the Akita Shinkansen line started operation between Morioka Station and Akita Station on the Tazawako line and the Ou main line; in 1999, E3 series 1000 - 1999 Shinkansen train-cars were manufactured additionally and the section between Yamagata Station and Shinjo Station of the Ou main line started operation as an extension of the Yamagata Shinkansen.
JR West made the railway section to the comprehensive railway yard for Sanyo Shinkansen used for passenger train-cars as well, and started operation of the Hakata-Minami line between Hakata Station and Hakata-Minami Station in 1990 using trains-cars for Kodama trains and as limited-express trains on regular railway lines.
The maximum speed of Shinkansen remained at 210 km/h for a long time. However, from towards the end of the JNR era (-> refer also to the revision of the JNR train schedule on March 14, 1985 and also to the revision of the JNR train schedule on November 1, 1986), the speed was increased gradually, and now in 2008, the maximum train speeds have reached 270 km/h on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, 275 km/h on the Tohoku Shinkansen line and 300 km/h on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. In addition to increases in the train speed, to further reduce the traveling time between major stations, efforts have also been made for shortening the stopping periods at stations and for maintaining high speeds between stations as long as possible, although the amount of time reduced with these measures is at a level counted in minutes.
The work to construct the projected Shinkansen lines, which had remained stopped towards the end of the JNR era, were restarted, and the Tohoku Shinkansen line (between Morioka and Hachinohe in 2002), the Hokuriku Shinkansen line (as the Nagano Shinkansen line in 1997) and the Kyushu Shinkansen line (between Shin-Yatsushiro and Kagoshima-Chuo in 2004) started their partial operations, respectively. For the remaining sections and the Hokkaido Shinkansen line, the work has been progressing steadily as well.
Since around the end of the 20th century, use of Shinkansen for commuting to offices or schools has increased. This is because, in and after the bubble economy era, the price of land in large cities rose steeply, and many came to live in the suburbs from where they could commute to their offices or schools if using Shinkansen (mostly in Tochigi Prefecture, Gunma Prefecture and the east part of Shizuoka Prefecture for commuting to offices or schools in Tokyo). Starting with selling commuter passes for Shinkansen in February 1983, the number of companies offering commuter passes for Shinkansen increased, and in addition, the limit of nontaxable income for commuter passes given by companies was raised, accelerating this trend. Shinkansen trains in the morning and in the evening became congested with commuters, and train schedules for commuters became provided. As a measure for this situation, JR East introduced two-level train-cars, which were called Max and were provided with lots of seats, increasing the number of passenger seats per train-car drastically.
Safety of Shinkansen
During the 40 years since the Tokaido Shinkansen line, the first Shinkansen line, started operation on October 1, 1964, no fatal passenger accident (due to the Shinkansen) has occurred on the Shinkansen.
Many suicides by jumping on railway tracks occurred, and a person was caught by a train-car door, dragged and killed (refer to the passenger-falling-down accident at Mishima Station in 1995). However, these were not caused by fundamental defects of the Shinkansen system itself, and are considered exceptions. Therefore, it is recognized that the safety of Shinkansen is generally quite high.
The system to secure the safety of Shinkansen has been operated securely and has been maintained regularly. It could be said that this fact plainly shows a high level of railway-related technologies in Japan. This fact is sometimes called the safety myth of the Shinkansen. However, although no fatal accident have occurred, a few accidents that might have led to serious ones occurred in the past.
Examples of accidents on the Shinkansen
In 1973, a deadhead from the Osaka operation station (Torigai railway yard) was derailed; On September 30, 1991, the Hikari 291 train (100 series Shinkansen electric train-cars, a x train-car organization) ran up to Mishima Station with the wheels locked (or not rolling), at the speed of 225 km/h, the maximum speed for which ATC was enabled; In 1991, a lump of concrete dropped on a train passing through the Fukuoka tunnel of the Sanyo Shinkansen line in 1999; All of these were considered serious examples badly affecting safety.
In particular, many falling concrete accidents inside tunnels occurred starting towards the end of the 1990s. These accidents exposed the fact that, in the construction boom in the high-growth period in the middle of the 1960s and later when the Sanyo Shinkansen was built, hasty and sloppy work existed in various portions of the Shinkansen lines. Therefore, each JR company was requested to take thorough measures for maintaining the facilities.
On the Yamagata Shinkansen line where through operation with the regular railway line has been introduced, accidents at railway-crossings between Tsubasa trains and cars have occurred frequently. These cases would be included in the category of daily accidents on regular railway lines rather than those on Shinkansen lines. However, they are also the cases that are always brought to mind as a problem related to high-speed through operation of Shinkansen train-cars on regular railway lines.
Earthquake cases at the estuary of the Oigawa River
On April 20, 1965, approx. six months after the Tokaido Shinkansen line started operation, an earthquake of magnitude 6.1 occurred, centered on the estuary of the Oigawa River, Shizuoka Prefecture, destroying railway mounds there. Immediately after it occurred, all trains on the line were stopped, and no serious damage was incurred, also because the number of trains operated was small (two trains an hour in one direction). However, Masao SAITO (manager of the operating train department of then JNR and a railway engineering expert) who was responsible for the train operation said as follows.
At that time, the solidity of the railway bed became loosened, and the railway mounds were caved in some portions.'
If a train ran into the portion where the mound was destroyed, the train would have been derailed, causing a serious accident.'
By the way, slab tracks are used in some sections of the Sanyo Shinkansen line, Tohoku Shinkansen line, and Shinkansen lines constructed later.
Cases in the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake
In the 1990s and later, many big earthquakes occurred in Japan, and vulnerability of high-speed railway lines to earthquakes was pointed out.
In the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1995, elevated bridges of the Sanyo Shinkansen line in the earthquake-stricken areas were damaged, with some portions of them falling down, stopping operation between Shin-Osaka Station and Himeji Station for over 80 days. The occurrence of the earthquake early in the morning, at 5:46 before the train operation of the day started, saved serious accidents due to train operation from occurring. Based on this experience, earthquake-resistant measures, such as reinforcement of elevated bridges, have been taken.
Cases in the Niigata Chuetsu earthquake
Furthermore, in the Niigata Chuetsu earthquake on Oct. 23, 2004, serious damage was inflicted on the Joetsu Shinkansen line. In addition to the damage that was inflicted on structures, such as elevated railways and tunnels, the Toki 325 train on the Joetsu Shinkansen line (a ten train-car organization, the K25 organization of 200 series Shinkansen train-cars) was derailed while running at a speed of approx. 200 km/h immediately before reaching Nagaoka Station. This was the first derailment accident during operation in Shinkansen history.
On the Joetsu Shinkansen line, Compact UrEDAS, which was a customized version of the Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System 'UrEDAS,' was employed. However, in the 'Toki 325 train' case, the train could not stop before having been damaged, although the brake was applied immediately after a preliminary tremor (an earthquake wave) was detected, because the earthquake occurred just under the train.
Due to shocks of the derailment at a speed of 200 km/h, the rails were damaged seriously, for example, most of them disconnected from the track beds, and some were bent.
Ordinarily, when a train is struck by an earthquake of this magnitude at a place close to the earthquake center, it is considered impossible to escape from being derailed even if the train has stopped. In this case, however, although having been derailed, the train escaped from being overturned as a whole and no fatal nor serious physical damage was inflicted. In the case of the Toki 325 train, it was lucky that no train was running on the track on the other side. The Toki train and another train on the track on the other side were scheduled to pass the same place running in opposite directions with each other five minutes after the earthquake occurred. It is easy to imagine that, if these two trains collided head-on, a serious accident would have been caused.
In addition, because the place where the accident occurred was an area where lots of snow was supposed to fall, a ditch to melt snow was provided beside the railways, and part of the train-car bodies were caught in the ditch, escaping being overturned. Ordinarily, a flat area is provided on either side of the railways, and if a train was derailed in such an area, the train-cars might have been overturned completely. This accident made each Shinkansen line-operating JR company recognize the importance of taking anti-earthquake measures in Shinkansen lines.
Insufficiency of measures against disaster and terrorism
Contrary to airplanes and ships, no passenger list is available for Shinkansen. It is pointed out that, in case many die or are seriously injured, for example, in an accident where a Shinkansen train is overturned, it would be difficult to identify those dead or seriously injured. If such a situation happens, it is supposed that serious problems would arise in informing the relatives concerned or in making compensations for the accident. However, no Shinkansen line-operating JR company has taken any in-depth measures for this problem.
It is also pointed out that the Shinkansen lines might be vulnerable to the terrorism increasing globally since the end of the 20th century. In the present situation, it is a fact that, with no check on hand-carrying baggage, as in the case on board an airplane, explosives and/or knives could easily be brought into train-cars or on the platforms. In addition, many of the railway-related facilities, such as elevated bridges, can easily be accessed and could be targets by terrorists.
A security camera has been installed in the deck of each N700 series Shinkansen train-car, the latest model of the Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line. However, as in the case of the simultaneous explosives incident in London, installing security cameras alone cannot be effective for preventing terrorism. In addition, there are apprehensive voices that the installment of security camera might violate privacy.
By the way, JR East stopped the use of trash boxes on train-cars in each of its Shinkansen lines completely as a measure against terrorism for a while, but now, their use has been resumed due to passengers' voices that such a measure inconvenienced them. After Multiple Simultaneous Terrorism acts in the U.S. occurred, JR Tokai has patrolled the areas along the Shinkansen line, 24 hours a day, in cooperation with a security company affiliated to it.
On July 28, 2008, the Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line announced that they would install an automated external defibrillator (AED) in each of its train-car organizations starting in December of 2008.
The maximum speeds of high-speed railway lines in the world
The world-first achievement of the successful 210-km/h Shinkansen operation affected nations of the Europe and America. In France, having boasted an advanced railway nation, high-speed TGS diesel train-cars of the national railways of France were operated at a speed of 200 km/h for the first time on May 28, 1967, and even after that, more than one train was operated at 200 km/h. After starting operation of a new trunk railway line, France developed full-scale super-high-speed TGV trains in 1981 and achieved the world fastest speed in business operation of 260 km/s with the train, surpassing the record of the Shinkansen line.
In Germany (ICE) and Italy (Pendolino) as well, development of high-speed train systems were planned and operated. Pendolino in Italy, the Europe-first high-speed line, whose construction had started in 1970, started a partial operation in 1978, started a 250-km/h operation in 1983, but fell behind Germany and France in later development efforts, with the operation of the entire planned line starting as late as 1992.
Spain, which also had investigated introduction of new high-speed railway lines, employed the TGV high-speed trains, and the number of nations introducing TGV from France has increased.
Getting technical assistance from Germany, Russia connected in 1997 the distance of 654 km between Moscow and Saint Petersburg at a maximum operation speed of 250 km/h with Sokol trains, shortening the traveling time from four hours and 20 minutes to two hours and 30 minutes.
In these nations where standard gauge railways had already been laid, the railways around stations were used as they had been, and in the sections far from the stations, new railways for high-speed operations were laid or existing railways were modified and used for high-speed operations. Therefore, it can be said that, from the viewpoint of the system, they are different from the Shinkansen lines in which all railways had been newly laid.
As of October 2008, the fastest speed in business operation, except that in experimental testing, is 350 km/h achieved by the Hayate train of Shinkansen in Japan and by Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway in China where the ICE3 technology of Germany has been introduced. 320 km/h by TGV of France, 300 km/h by the 500 series trains of JR West, and 300 km/h by ICE Germany developed for its own use follow. In the Republic of Korea, Korea Train Express (KTX) started operation at 300 km/h in 2004, employing the TGV system of France, and in Taiwan, Taiwan High Speed Rail started operation at 300 km/h in 2007, employing the Shinkansen system in Japan (partially introducing technologies from France or Germany).
It planned to increase the speed of TGV to 360 km/h. AVE in Spain, which has employed the TGV system in France since the latter half of 2007, plans to operate between Madrid and Barcelona (630 km) at 350 km/h the trains called Velaro E from Siemens that is used in technologies for ICE of Germany. When operation is achieved, the traveling time between Madrid and Barcelona will be shortened to two hours and 30 minutes.
In addition, in Russia and Vietnam as well, there are plans to construct a maximum 350-km/h high-speed railway line with Shinkansen as its model.
As of 2008, the fastest passenger-carrying railway line, including levitated railways, is Shanghai Transrapid constructed in 2003 for accessing Shanghai Pudong International Airport, employing German technologies, and the maximum speed is 430 km/h.
The fastest train speed in the world, including those in running tests, is 581 km/h recorded by JR maglev trains on the Yamanashi maglev test line. Not including levitated railways, the fastest speed recorded in the world is 574.8 km/h by the 150-V organization high-speed TGV trains of France (the fastest speed on non-levitated railways in Japan is 443 km/h recorded by 955-type Shinkansen trains, the second fastest record in the world).
Since the Tokaido Shinkansen line was constructed earlier, the railway conditions, such as curves, are designed for 200 km/h to 299 km/h. Even in the later Sanyo Shinkansen and Tohoku Shinkansen line, the routes are rather mountainous compared with those in France and Germany, being provided with many obstacles, such as undulations and curves, which have prevented high-speed designs. In particular, in the latter Shinkansen lines as well as the Joetsu Shinkansen line, provision of cold-proof and snow-proof equipment reequipped for cold areas is inevitable, being disadvantageous in respect to weight. In addition, many problems still remain unsolved to operate trains at speeds over 300 km/h: For example, measures against noise are necessary because many houses exist along the railway lines.
However, JR Tokai and JR East started introducing N700 series Shinkansen train-cars from 2007, which enabled a maximum speed of 300 km/h on the Sanyo Shinkansen line, the same as that of 500 series Shinkansen train-cars and, with a car-body tilting system equipped, also enabled a speed of 270 km/h in the 2500-m radius curve sections, where the speed had to be decreased to 255 km/h in the past. In addition, in 2004, JR East started developing experimental train-cars (E954 type Shinkansen train-cars and E955 type Shinkansen train-cars) assuming 360-km/h operations, and test runs of E954 type cars started in 2005, followed by that of E955 type cars in 2006. Manufacturing E5 series Shinkansen train-cars assuming 320-km/h operations has already started based on the E954 type cars.
The fastest speed records in business operation, except those on elevated railways
1964: The Tokaido Shinkansen line started operation.
To stabilize the railways, the trains were operated at 180 km/h in some sections.
1965: Operations at reduced speeds were relaxed, and the trains started operating at 210 km/h throughout the line.
1972: The Sanyo Shinkansen line started operation.
1981: In France, operation of TGV started between Paris and Lyon.
1982: The Tohoku Shinkansen line and Joetsu Shinkansen line started operations.
1983: In France, 270 km/h was achieved with TGV.
1985: 240 km/h was achieved on the Tohoku Shinkansen line.
1986: 220 km/ was achieved on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines.
1988: 240 km/h was achieved on the Joetsu Shinkansen line.
1989: 230 km/h was achieved on the Sanyo Shinkansen line.
1989: In France, operation of TGV started on the Atlantic line.
1990: 275 km/h was achieved on the Joetsu Shinkansen line (using a downward slope in the Shimizu tunnel).
1992: 270 km/h was achieved on the Tokaido Shinkansen line.
1993: 270 km/h was achieved on the Sanyo Shinkansen line.
1997: 275 km/h was achieved on the Tohoku Shinkansen line.
1997: 300 km/h was achieved on the Sanyo Shinkansen line (with 500 series train-cars).
1997: The Nagano Shinkansen line started operation.
2002: The operation of ICE-3 started in Germany.
2004: The Kyushu Shinkansen line started its operation.
2004: In the Republic of Korea, Korea Train Express (KTX) started operation.
2007: In France, 320 km/h was achieved with TGV.
2007: Taiwan High Speed Rail started operation.
2008: In China, Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway started operation.
2010: 320-km/h operations are to start on the Tohoku Shinkansen line.
Of the high-speed railway line (Taiwan High Speed Rail) between the Nangang Station and the Kaohsiung Station, the 340-km section between Taipei Station and Xinzuoying Station is now in operation: For receiving the construction order, a federation from France and Germany and a federation in Japan fought furiously, and the federation in Japan reversed the situation and succeeded in receiving the order at last. This high-speed railway line was constructed by introducing the Shinkansen system, and 700T-type Taiwan High Speed Rail train-cars, based on 700 series Shinkansen train-cars, are used. As the reasons why Japan could successfully receive the order, the following ones are considered in addition to the technology and safety, but the final decisive factor for closing the contract was a financially favorable measure the Japan side offered: Taiwan has intimate feelings for Japan historically, has geographical conditions similar to those in Japan, and the Japanese system was provided with measures against earthquakes.
Initially, construction was started targeting at an operation start in October of 2005, but because the order of consultation work for the Taiwan High Speed Rail was received by the federation in Europe in advance, the federation in Japan met difficulties in adjustments of construction methods and schedules. Sloppy work in making railway beds by Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. in the Republic of Korea, which received an order to construct some sections, was found, and in addition to this, intentions of the companies in nations concerned were in disarray. Therefore, the start date for operation was delayed gradually, and on January 15, 2007, at last, operation started provisionally between Banqiao Station (Taipei County) and Zuoying, with operation in the entire line starting officially in March of 2007.
At present, construction work is under way in the section between Taipei and Nanko, but whether construction work between Zuoying and the Kaohsiung station will be started has not been decided.
By the way, Takashi SHIMA, the second son of Hideo SHIMA who greatly contributed to the implementation of the Shinkansen plan in Japan, is an adviser to the Taiwan High Speed Rail.
"Olympic Javelin," high-speed train-cars, are scheduled to be operated between London and Kent State via CTRL (or HS1; the former CTRL: Channel Tunnel Rail Link) in England starting in 2009: In this project, Hitachi, Ltd. received an order of 174 class-395 train-cars dedicated for operation, 29 organizations in total, and started handing over the train-cars in August of 2007. The train-cars are owned by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Rail UK, and are operated by Southeastern (a railway company).
These are the first Japan-made train-cars running on a UIC specification railway line, and are operated mixed with TGV-based Eurostar train-cars on the HS1line. The maximum speed in business operation is 140 miles/h (225 km/h) on the HS1 line and 70 miles/h (112 km/h) on existing railway lines, with 170-mph (275-km/h) operations aimed at in the future.
People's Republic of China
Including the 1,300-km Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Line Project between Beijing City and Shanghai City, the People's Republic of China has been constructing 200-km/n - 300 km/h high-speed railway networks throughout China in addition to a total of 7,000-km eight-route passenger-dedicated railway lines. However, because the development of 'Type DJJ2 China National Railway trains,' China's own high-speed train-cars, met many troubles, China has introduced technologies from Japan, France, Germany, and Canada.
From 2007, for the high-speed train-cars (200 km/h to 250 km/h) on existing railway lines, CRH1-type train-cars (CRH is the abbreviation of 'China Railway High-Speed'), based on Regina in Sweden (from Bombardier in Canada), CRH5-type train-cars, based on Pendolino ETR600 train cars in Italy (from Alsthom in France), and CRH2-type train-cars, 'kodanto' (bullet), based on E2 Shinkansen train-cars (from Kawasaki Heavy Industries Rolling Stock Company), have been introduced, and then for Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway that started operation between Beijing and Tianjin City for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, CRH3-type train-cars, based on the CRH2-type passenger train-car specifications and on ICE in Germany (from Siemens), have been introduced. Some of them were delivered in the finished train-cars, but others were assembled from parts or were manufactured based on the technologies offered, locally.
Of the JR companies, JR East has been active for acquiring orders, but Yoshiyuki KASAI, chairman of JR Tokai that offered technologies to Republic of China, made an announcement of declining to receive orders due to the liabilities that could be incurred when trouble occurs in the People's Republic of China, where laws concerned have not been established fully, and due to the apprehension of outflows of technologies.
Republic of Korea
In the bidding for constructing the 'Korea Train Express,' the high-speed railway line in the Republic of Korea, the Shinkansen system in Japan participated as well, but finally the TGV system in France was employed.
Vietnam plans to construct a North-South Express Railway (at a maximum speed of 350 km/h) between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (1,630 km) on loans, and it is expected that, if it is completed, the traveling time will be shortened to ten hours from the present 30 hours (according to a high-speed railway line plan in Vietnam).
In the United States, there is a plan to construct a high-speed railway line between Los Angeles and San Francisco of California. With the budget problems of California state and of profitability, it has not been decided when the construction is to start, but, due to the Green New Deal policies by Barack Obama, the movement for construction has become active. JR Tokai has promoted selling the Shinkansen system for the route actively. There are the voices that say, with earthquakes occurring often in the western part of the US, the Shinkansen system, which have measures against earthquakes since the start of its operation, would be advantageous compared with the high-speed railway system of other nations. At the construction project website, CG movies of two-toned, yellow and blue, 700 series Shinkansen train-car bodies are shown publicly.
In Russia, a high-speed railway line project between Moscow and Saint Petersburg (the route distance: 645 km; the maximum speed: 350 km/h) is now in progress, and a group of the project members have contact with companies in Japan. It is scheduled that from December of 2009, new train-cars based on ICE3 will be introduced on existing railway lines and will be operated at a maximum speed of 250 km/h. Furthermore, constructing a new high-speed railway line between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, and between Ekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk is also planned. There is also a plan to modernize the world-longest (9,288 km) Trans-Siberian Railway connecting Vladivostok with Moscow, including the construction of a new high-speed railway line (for a maximum speed of 350 km/h) on some sections of it.
India has started efforts to introduce high-speed railway lines in earnest. In May of 2007, Indian Railways held a briefing for a survey prior to starting a project, attended by train-car manufacturers from Japan and Europe. The plan includes the four routes between Ahmadabad and Mumbai, between Amritsar and Lucknow via New Delhi, between Batna and Calcutta, and between Chennai and Bangalore.
From a global viewpoint, many of the nations requiring high-speed railways don't have severe transportation conditions as in Japan, such as geographical conditions and measures for noise. Therefore, in many cases, semi-concentrated traction systems, typically TGV, which are advantageous cost-wise compared to the Shinkansen system, are employed.
Cargo transportation on Shinkansen lines
The idea of so-called 'cargo Shinkansen' existed even when the construction of the Tokaido Shinkansen started (the operation of container trains at a super-high speed in the middle of the night), but has not been realized. At present, it is difficult to operate cargo trains and passenger trains mixed in a train schedule, because of differences in the maximum speeds and in the braking distances.
It is also said that, because it takes a considerable time to load and unload cargo even if the train runs at a high speed, the effect of shortening transportation time is less, compared with passenger trains
By the way, in 40 years, cargo trains with a similar concept have been introduced as '200 series JR cargo trains (super-rail cargo).'
It can be said that, to obtain a fund from the World Bank, construction plans for the Tokaido Shinkansen line was actually a story fabricated to pose that the line would be used for transporting not only passengers but also cargo. In Europe and the US at that time, the theory that the railway lines are destined to decline began appearing, and in addition, in the US where the World Bank was located, the railway lines had not been for passengers, but mostly for cargo. Therefore, it was considered that the bank would not understand that new railway lines 'dedicated for passengers' should be constructed and would not lend money for the construction. However, although it was a fabricated concept, there were some portions where the existence of remains of the cargo Shinkansen concept was confirmed: For example, on the Kyoto side of the second Osaka railway yard of Shinkansen (Torigai railway yard), a structure straddling over the Shinkansen main line and remains land for railways, which is now used for other business purposes, exist. It is also said that the Osaka cargo terminal station of the Japan Freight Railway Company is located at the site where the cargo-handling station on the Osaka Prefecture side of the cargo Shinkansen line should have been placed, at least showing the posture that such a cargo transportation system should have been introduced if possible.
In the Hokkaido Shinkansen line, whose construction work started in 2005, the section including the Seikan tunnel is to be shared with cargo trains on the existing regular railway line. Therefore, it is supposed that, in the section, only two passenger trains and two cargo trains an hour will be able to run in one direction. As a measure to alleviate this bottleneck situation, the Hokkaido Railway Company (JR-Hokkaido) has investigated developing special trains (trains on trains) that can load the cargo trains on the existing regular railway line as they are.
Fares for a section on a Shinkansen line are determined based on the railway length of the corresponding section of the regular railway line being operated in parallel with the Shinkansen line, although there are some exceptions as described later. One reason for this is the historical situation that a Shinkansen line was originally constructed as a new railway line additional to the regular railway line having been operated in parallel with it, and another reason is to avoid fare calculation from becoming complicated.
For more details, refer to the following:
Note: 'regular railway lines being operated in parallel' indicate the Tokaido main line for the Tokaido Shinkansen line, the Tokaido main line, Sanyo main line and Kagoshima main line for the Sanyo Shinkansen line, the Tohoku main line for the section between Tokyo Station and Morioka Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen line, (the Tohoku main line), the Takasaki line, Joetsu line and Shinetsu main line for the Joetsu Shinkansen line, and the Kagoshima main line for the section between Sendai Station (located in Kagoshima Prefecture) and the Kagoshima-Chuo Station on the Kyushu Shinkansen line.
A Shinkansen line and the corresponding regular railway line operated in parallel with it are basically considered the same route ('幹在同一視' (kanzaidoitsushi in pronunciation) in abbreviation). Therefore, the fare is basically the same for the same section regardless of whether a Shinkansen line is used or the corresponding regular line is used (there are some exceptions as described later).
Fares for sections including the section between Iwakuni Station and Kushigahama Station on the Sanyo main line are calculated specially using the railway length of the Gantoku Line as the distance between the two stations (a special route section), and this special calculation is also applied to fares on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. The actual railway of the Sanyo Shinkansen line in that section is laid along the Gantoku Line.
When a Shinkansen station is not connected to a station on the regular railway line operated in parallel, the nearest (corresponding) station on the regular railway line is used for calculating route distances (for example, Hanamaki Station is used for calculating the route distance for Shin-Hanamaki Station).
When a 'JR line operated in parallel' has become unused because (a portion of) a regular railway line operated in parallel has been abolished or has been transferred to a joint public-private venture railway company (for examples, the section from Takasaki Station to Karuizawa Station to Nagano Station on the Nagano Shinkansen line, the section between Morioka Station and Hachinohe Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen line, and the section between Shin-Yatsushiro Station and Sendai Station on the Kyushu Shinkansen line), the actual route distance is used for the fare calculation.
Based on the principle of kanzaidoitsushi, the route for a regular train ticket in one direction cannot include both a Shinkansen line section and a section on the regular railway in parallel with the Shinkansen line section.
For example, when you travel from Nagoya Station to Shizuoka Station (on the Shinkansen line) and to Yaizu Station, you cannot buy a one-way regular ticket for Nagoya to Yaizu because the section between the Shizuoka Station and the Yaizu Stations double, and you have to buy a ticket between Nagoya and Shizuoka and another one between Shizuoka and Yaizu (it is possible to buy a regular train ticket for a connected train ride).
On the other hand, when a Shinkansen line section and the corresponding regular railway line operated in parallel with it must be considered always the same, cases disadvantageous to passengers are generated, and the following exceptions are provided.
If a Shinkansen section includes no Shinkansen station connected with the regular railway line operated in parallel with the Shinkansen line, the section is dealt with a separate route (for example, the section from Shinagawa to Shin-Yokohama to Odawara).
For example, when you travel from Osaka Station to Shin-Osaka to Nagoya (using the Shinkansen line) and to Ogaki Station, a one-way ticket for the entire route can be purchased, without the section between Nagoya and Ogaki counted as duplicated.
In the section from Shin-Shimonoseki Station to Kokura Station (located in Fukuoka Prefecture) and to Hakata Station, the company operating the Shinkansen line and that operating the regular line are different, JR West and JR Kyushu, respectively, and therefore, the section is handled differently from other sections.
Although the section is handled as the same route, the fare of each company is different.
This is because, although an additional amount of money corresponding to the traveling distance is added to fares on the regular railway line to the west of Shimonoseki, operated by JR Kyushu, such an amount of money is not added on the Shinkansen line operated by JR West.
Because fares for the same section are different, the condition for selling one-way tickets are rather complicated. When the rule is applied strictly, there exist routes for which no one-way ticket nor connected train ride ticket can be bought.
For more information, refer to Article 16-2 and Article 16-3 and Article 16-4 of the Regulations on Passenger Operations.
Limited express fees
Limited express train fees for the Shinkansen lines (except the Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines) are not determined corresponding to distance in kilometers as for limited express trains on the regular railway lines but between stations, or in the so-called triangular table format.
Concerning connected train rides between a Shinkansen line and a regular railway line, there is a system in which the limited express fees or express fees are halved in certain conditions (the Shinkansen lines to which a fare system for connected train rides are applied). Many destinations could be reached riding on a (for example, limited express) train before Shinkansen lines started their operations, but after their operations were started, it has become necessary to ride on more than one train (for example, a Shinkansen train and a limited-express) to reach these destinations, and this system has originally been introduced to alleviate increases in total limited express fees in such cases.
From the viewpoint of systems, the Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines are provided with the special nature that trains are operated through both a Shinkansen line and a regular railway line.
Therefore, for these lines, the limited express fees are dealt with as follows:
When train use is limited within between Fukushima Station (located in Fukushima Prefecture) and Shinjo Station or between Morioka Station and Akita Station:
The trains are handled as those on the regular railway lines and A limited express fees are applied.
When changing to a train on the Tohoku Shinkansen line at Fukushima or Morioka, or riding through the Shinkansen:
To the limited express fee for the section of the Tohoku Shinkansen line you ride, the limited express fee corresponding to the travel distance on the regular railway line is added. This fee on the regular railway line is between the A limited-express fee and the fee in the case in which the connected ride discount is applied to.
The Kyushu Shinkansen line is provided with no connected ride discount, but when you get off a Shinkansen train at Shin-Yatsushiro Station and ride on a limited express on the Kagoshima main line there, without exiting from the entrance/exit gate, a special limited express fee covering both train rides is applied. However, this rule is not applied when you change from a limited express on the Kagoshima main line to a train on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. In this way, the system is so complex. For more information, refer to the Kyushu Shinkansen line in the connected ride fee system.
Competitions with air services
In long-distance transportation services, competition with airline companies continued. However, corresponding to deregulations, airline companies started to offer various discount fares ordinarily (for example, hayawari (discounts for very early reservations), tokuwari (special discounts), gekiwari (drastic discounts), and special discount fares including hotel charges in tie-ups with travel agencies). The current state of Shinkansen cannot compete effectively with such air services in the aspect of fares.
In addition, the existence of the frequent flier program (so-called mileage services in Japan) by airline companies has affected the competition significantly. The systems of preferentially treating frequent airline users are provided, offering high level services, such as giving them bonus mileage, providing special lounges, or discounting hotel charges at their destinations. Therefore, there are travelers who do not use the Shinkansen lines not offering these services. A point service has started for Express members, but its contents are still by far inferior to those by airlines in the aspect of preferential services to frequent users. In addition, no baggage check is conducted for Shinkansen as for airlines. Therefore, concerning security, it can also be said that a sense of insecurity remains for Shinkansen use. However, Shinkansen has the following superiority: changes to discount tickets are allowed, access to departure places is easier, a through fare is applied when a JR line is used consecutively, lots of trains are available and operated as scheduled, and no cumbersome procedure of baggage checks is necessary nor restriction on things to be brought on board is imposed.
To compete with airline companies, the following efforts have been made: Specially planned tickets offering large discount rates are sold centered on the sections in competition with airline routes, 'Express reservations' with a JR Tokai express card and J-WEST card (Express) are offered on the Tokaido line and Sanyo Shinkansen line that are used by many business customers, and in the Tohoku, Joetsu and Nagano Shinkansen lines, discount limited-express tickets are sold on an Internet reservation basis for the members of the operating company. In particular, the operation start of the Kobe airport and the Kita-Kyushu airport in 2006 significantly affected the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines. Therefore, JR Tokai and JR West, having frequently confronted each other, have started cooperating more strongly: For example, the coverage of the 'Express reservation' has been expanded to the Sanyo Shinkansen line, and the N700 series train-cars, the next generation train-cars aiming at a high performance of 300-km/h operations and at passenger comfort exceeding that of the 700 series train-cars, have been developed jointly. Against this, airline companies have taken the measures of enabling reserved tickets to be changed between Tokyo and Osaka and of introducing discount round tickets usable for any airline also between Tokyo and Osaka. In addition, they also take into account that the transportation capacities will be increased by the provision of an additional runway in the Tokyo international airport and the shortening of flying time due to the partial return to Japan of the Yokota air space will further enhance their competitiveness. Furthermore, they also have tie-ups with railway companies having the railway lines to access airports, such as Keihin Electric Express Railway Co., Ltd and Nagoya Railroad. Many of the railway lines owned by these railway companies are in competition with regular lines of the JR companies, possibly affecting the tie-ups as well.
By the way, all JR companies offer Internet reservation services. However, these services are also considered inferior to the corresponding ones by airlines in the following points: They are for member card-based ones mainly for business customers, and since each JR company operates its own service system independently, a member of a JR company cannot get a ticket nor a discount ticket of another JR company, and therefore, the services are considered exclusive ones.
On the Sanyo Shinkansen line, Hakata Station, its terminal station, is located close to Hakata airport. Due to this nature not seen in other areas, competition between the Shinkansen line and airline companies has become intensified for the transportation between Fukuoka and Nagoya.
In the past, competition between Fukuoka and Osaka was furious, but the railway side has been regaining ground, for example, by introducing 'Hikari Rail Star.'
Competition with other railway companies
Competition with limited expresses of private railway companies
Since the Tokaido Shinkansen line started operation, limited expresses of the Kinki Nippon Railway Company (Kintetsu Railway), Tobu Railway Co., Ltd., Odakyu Electric Railway Co., Ltd., and of Nagoya Railroad (Meitetsu) have competed with trains on the Shinkansen line.
No limited express of the private railway companies can compete with trains on the Shinkansen line in traveling time, and these companies have competed with Shinkansen lines in the aspects of cheaper fares and fees, of better station locations and of offering more comfortable train rides.
Competition with limited expresses of Kintetsu Railway
A direct competition is found between Nagoya and Osaka. On the Osaka side in particular, limited expresses of Kintetsu Railway as well have an advantageous point in that, although Shin-Osaka, the terminal station of the Shinkansen line, is located far from the Minami area, the station for the limited expresses (for example, Nanba Station) is located within walking distance from the area.
The competition started when the Tokaido Shinkansen line started operation in 1964. Initially, because the differences in the fares and fees were small and there were differences in their traveling time, more and more passengers came to use the Shinkansen line, and the limited express business continued to be sluggish until the first half of 1970s, except in 1970 when the Osaka Expo was held. Therefore, the Mei-Han (Nagoya - Osaka) non-stop limited express (Ko-Tokkyu) was forced to be operated in two train-car organizations using general-purpose train-cars. It is said that one train-car operations were considered at some point as well.
However, from disgust at repeated increases in fares and fees and also at repeated strikes in the JNR lines in the decade starting in 1975, customers using the Kintetsu limited expresses, instead of the Shinkansen line, increased between Nagoya and Osaka, centered on the non-business customers who were not focused on the traveling time. In this situation, entering the 1980s, use of three train-car organizations, later six train-car organizations, was restored, but only general-use train-cars continued being used for operation.
After that, 100 series train-cars were introduced in 1985, and as the competitiveness of the Tokaido Shinkansen line was enhanced by the inauguration of JR Tokai in 1987, new train-cars, the '21000 series Kintetsu train-car,' were introduced for the Kintetsu limited expresses in 1988. In the decade starting in 2000, another new train-car, the '21020 series Kintetsu train-cars' were introduced, 'Urban Liner' was upgraded to 'Urban Liner plus' and Meihan Marutoku Kippu Ticket, a discount ticket, was introduced. In this way, Kintetsu mainly appealed to the fares and riding comfort as its selling points.
On the other hand, in the sections, for example, in the Ise-Shima area and the Nara area, where no competition with the Shinkansen line exists, the Tokaido Shinkansen line and the limited expresses of Kintetsu are rather in a complementary relationship with each other. When the Tokaido Shinkansen line started its operation in 1964, Kintetsu took the strategies of nurturing its limited express network as a route for cultivating the Shinkansen line and of luring passengers arriving at Osaka, Kyoto or Nagoya on the Shinkansen line to the sight-seeing spots along its railway lines. In the Ise-Shima area, there still remains competition with the 'Mie' trains on the regular railway line, but, of the specially planned train tickets by JR Tokai, some specify the Kintetsu line, instead of the Nara line of JR West, to go to the Nara area from Kyoto Station on the Hankinson line.
It is also true that, between Nagoya and Osaka, the limited expresses of Kintetsu function as an alternative route to be used when the operation of the Shinkansen line stops, for example, due to a disaster.
Details of the historical aspect described above are described in the history of Kintetsu limited expresses.
Competition with higher category trains of Tobu Railway Co., Ltd.
Competitive situations exist in some areas from Tokyo Prefecture and the southern part of Saitama Prefecture to Tochigi Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture.
However, contrary to the limited expresses of Kintetsu described above, it cannot be said that limited expresses of Tobu are always dominant, except such areas as the Kinugawa hot-spring in Nikko City and Akagi-yama Mountain in Ashikaga City, where limited expresses, such as Spacia 'Ryomo,' were operated (to reach these areas using a Shinkansen line, another train on a regular railway line or private railway line or a bus must be utilized). It is said that this is because, although the Tokyo-side departure station on the Shinkansen line is located in the city center, those of Tobu are located on the eastern part of the city (the so-called shitamachi area), such as Asakusa and Kita-Senju. The situation had been the same even before 1991when the Tohoku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen line were extended to Tokyo Station. It is considered that a factor was that only few of the 'Kinu' and 'Kegon' limited expresses stopped at stations in Tochigi Prefecture at that time.
However, limited expresses of Tobu have advantages in cheaper fares and fees, in riding comfort and in-train equipment (provided with a buffet, and a jukebox in the era when the 1720 series Tobu train-cars were used), and in the ease of riding on subway trains on the Tokyo side. In addition, some limited expresses are operated through the railways of JR East and that of Tobu, and therefore, it cannot be simply said that they are in a competitive situation.
Competition with Odakyu Romance Car trains
A competitive situation exists with the 'Hakone' Romance Car trains between Tokyo and Odawara.
However, the operation of the 'Hakone' Romance Car trains have not been affected much by the start of operation of the Shinkansen line due to the following reasons and it can be said that the trains concerning both companies are operated harmoniously: A large difference exists in the fares, the features are different in that the Romance Car trains travel up to Hakone, and the terminal stations on the Tokyo side are different (Tokyo station for the Shinkansen line and Shinjuku for the Odakyu line). The Shonan-Shinjuku line of JR East, rather than the Shinkansen line, would be a direct competitor of the Romance car trains.
In addition, the 'Asagiri' train of the Odakyu line has been operated through the Odakyu railway line and Gotenba railway line of JR Tokai, which operates the Tokaido Shinkansen line, since the era of JNR, and therefore, it is difficult to consider that they are in a competitive situation.
Competition with limited expresses of Meitetsu
A competitive situation exists between Nagoya City and Toyohashi City in Aichi Prefecture. However, only two 'Kodama' trains and a 'Hikari' train an hour stop at the Toyohashi Station on the Shinkansen line. Furthermore, the speed of the Shinkansen trains cannot be used effectively without selecting specific time zones, and in addition, an additional limited express fee must be paid to ride on a Shinkansen train. Therefore, it can be said that the trains that are actually in a competitive situation with the limited expresses of Meitetsu would be the Rapid trains (including New Rapid trains and Special Rapid trains), which require no extra charge, running in the same section on the regular railway line operated by JR Tokai.
Competition among JR companies
Even in the era of JNR, competition with limited expresses on the regular railway lines operated in parallel with Shinkansen lines existed, but the situation was considered not 'constituting a competitive situation' because both lines were operated by the same company. However, when a Shinkansen line and the limited expresses running on the regular railway line laid in parallel with it have become operated by different companies after the privatization of JNR, they have become competitive in the business relationship.
Specific cases are described below:
In Fukuoka Prefecture (the northern part of Kyushu)
The section between Kokura and Hakata of the Sanyo Shinkansen line constitutes such a case. JR West operates many 'Kodama' trains that run only between Kokura and Hakata. On the other hand, the Kyushu Railway Company (JR-Kyushu) competes with 'Kodama' by lowering the limited express fee and by operating limited expresses more frequently. In this section, express buses of 'Hinoki,' 'Nakatani,' and 'Itozu' are operated by Nishitetsu Bus at an inexpensive fare of \1,100, and therefore, the situation has come to look like a three-way competition.
In the southern Kanto region
As another case, in accessing Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park from the Tokyo area, there exists competition between Tokyo/Shinagawa and Atami (between the Tokaido Shinkansen line by JR Tokai and the Tokaido main line by JR East). It might be said that harmonious operations are achieved there. However, no specific example of cooperative operations between the Shinkansen line and regular railway lines exist in this section, except through train operations between regular railway lines (the only case available is Izu Free Q Kippu (a free pass to access the Izu Peninsula), with which either riding a Shinkansen train or the 'Odoriko' train (unreserved seats) on the regular railway line is allowed. The JR East side offers through operations of limited expresses on the regular railway line and Izu Kyuko Line or the Sunzu line of the Izu Hakone railway with Tokyo.
In the Kinki region
Between Maibara Station and Osaka Station, a competition looks to exist between the Shinkansen line by JR Tokai and the Biwako line/JT Kyoto line by JR West, but it can be said that actually they are operated harmoniously.
In the section between Kyoto Station and Himeji Station, across the boundary between the operating area of JR Tokai and that of JR West, it can be said that trains on the Shinkansen line compete with the 'Hakuto' limited expresses of Chizu Express Co., Ltd. that run on the railway lines of JR West. When going to the Okayama or Hiroshima area from a station on the JR Kobe line or JR Kyoto line to the east of Kobe Station (located in Hyogo Prefecture), it is advantageous in many cases to ride on the Limited Express Super Hakuto at Osaka Station or Sannomiya Station and then to ride on a train on the Sanyo Shinkansen line at Himeji, rather than riding on a train on the Sanyo Shinkansen line at Shin-Osaka or Shin-Kobe station. In addition, taking such routes, from each station on the JR Kobe line to the east of Kobe Station, is also advantageous in traveling time as well, in many cases.
Competition with express buses
Daytime long-distance operations of express buses cannot compete with Shinkansen in speed and in punctual operations, even though the fares are considerably cheaper. However, express buses for middle-distance sections described above, and mid-night express buses for various sections, including that between Tokyo and Osaka, on which you can reach your destination cheap while sleeping, have gained popularity since around the 1980s. Being reminiscent of the JNR era, the JR bus company as well operates some routes along JR Shinkansen lines (centered between Tokyo and Nagoya/Keihanshin area). However, many companies other than those belonging to the JR group (bus-operating companies owned by private railway line companies, companies specialized in route bus operations, and chartered membership-based tour buses as well) have entered this business in a short period of time, generating competitive situations with Shinkansen lines. Being a bus, an express bus brings you directly to a central area of a city (for examples, Shinjuku or Shibuya of Tokyo, Sakae of Nagoya (in Nagoya City), Umeda or Nanba of Osaka, Kamiyacho or Hacchobori of Hiroshima, or Tenjin of Fukuoka (in Fukuoka City, etc)) or to a theme park (Tokyo Disney Resort, Universal Studios Japan, etc). Therefore, these buses do not constitute competitions with Shinkansen lines for routes connecting stations on Shinkansen lines, but indirectly get customers who could use Shinkansen lines (however, because there are too many differences between their fares and between the traveling times, it can be said that the trains or buses are selectively used based on customers' needs, rather than competing with each other directly). By the way, according to an agreement, JR Shinkansen lines do not operate trains in the middle of the night and early in the morning.
Concerning the construction of Shinkansen lines, it is said that various political interventions were exerted when construction started, because the start of their operation significantly affects interests of the areas along these lines.
The oldest examples include the problem about whether Kyoto Station should be placed or not when the Tokaido Shinkansen line was constructed, and the dispute about the placement of the Gifu-Hajima Station due to an intervention by Banboku ONO (however, it is said that the Gifu-Hajima Station has been placed as a measure for snow fall in the Sekigahara area as well, apart from political influence, and has not been placed solely by political power).
An opposite example also exists: The work to construct the Minami-Biwako Station in Shiga Prefecture had been started, but was stopped by the new governor who won an election by advocating the stop of the construction work.
Names of high-speed railway lines of the world
In Japan, the term of Shinkansen itself has already become a common noun indicating a high-speed railway line. Therefore, for a high-speed railway line in a country other than Japan, expressions of 'XX Shinkansen,' 'XX-version Shinkansen,' or 'XX-no Shinkansen' (Shinkansen in XX) (where XX indicates a nation name) are used, for example, in news reports ('TGV is the French Shinkansen,' 'ICE is the German Shinkansen,' 'Korea Train Express (KTX) is the Korean Shinkansen,' 'Soviet ЭР200 electric trains are the Russian Shinkansen,' or 'Taiwan High Speed Rail is the Taiwanese Shinkansen).
However, Shinkansen in Japan is an independent system integrating train-cars, railways, aerial power supply lines, and signals (ATC), and the trains are not operated through regular railway lines as those in Europe, except those on the Mini-Shinkansen lines. Therefore, Shinkansen is sometimes differentiated from other high-speed railway systems. In English, Shinkansen in Japan is expressed as Shinkansen, handled as a proper noun indicating High-speed railway line systems in Japan. Technically, constituting a system independent of regular railway lines is one of the features of Shinkansen that differentiate it from high-speed railway lines in other countries, and another feature is its uniqueness, for example, employing the distributed traction system.
Displays indicating Shinkansen at stations
At the stations where Shinkansen trains stop, a picture based on the 0 series Shinkansen train-car or 200 series Shinkansen train-car (the round-shaped head train-car) was drawn as a pictogram in the era of JNR, as displays in their premises. Even today, this pictogram is used at the stations on the Tohoku Shinkansen line and Joetsu Shinkansen line of JR East, and for the displays showing the gates to the Tokaido Shinkansen line at Tokyo Station (in the premises of JR East). However, JR Tokai and JR West use a picture of a train-car introduced later.
In some stations other than JNR/JR, such as subway lines, the displays of 'JR lines and Shinkansen' instead of 'JR lines' are used, separating Shinkansen from regular JR railway lines.
Some English displays related to Shinkansen are not unified. For example, Shin-Yokohama is used at some places, and Shin-yokohama at other places. No consensus has been reached on this matter among the authorities concerned.
Warning horns, running sounds, etc
As the 'sound' of Shinkansen trains, the onomatopoeic expression of 'byuwaan' was used from the early days, and was often taken up by the media as well (used in commercials for travels using Shinkansen, and included in the song of 'Hashire-hashire chotokkyu' (Go, go, super express). Many thought that this was the running sound of Shinkansen trains, but actually the warning horn. By the way, this sound has gradually ceased to bring up images of Shinkansen since the 1980s. For the train-cars that were introduced to the Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line following 100 series Shinkansen train-cars, and for those of the Shinkansen lines other than the Tokaido Shinkansen line and Sanyo Shinkansen line, this sound was never taken up by the media.
The actual level of the running sound of Shinkansen trains is smaller than that of those on regular railway lines in low-speed operations (at least at 110 km/h or less).
The running sound sources of Shinkansen trains are those from the wheels, those from the aerial power lines, and the sound of wind generated by protrusions in front of and on the sides of the fast-moving train-car bodies (aerodynamic sound). However, most of the sound becomes aerodynamic sound, when the speed approaches 300 km/h.
Therefore, taking measures against the aerodynamic sound becomes necessary for operating trains at high speeds, as described in the section of 'Train-cars for the Shinkansen lines.'
When a Shinkansen train enters a tunnel, a tremendously large noise is generated at the exit side of the tunnel due to the compressed air. This is the noise generated by air-pressure waves, and is also called a compressed wave. Against this as well, taking some measures is required.
Shinkansen' as geographical names
A place named 'Shinkansen' exists in Kannami Town, Takada-gun, Shizuoka Prefecture. This name was not given based on the Shinkansen plan after the war, but the place was the site where lodgings for workers engaged in the construction of the Tanna tunnel in the pre-war era of the bullet train plan. After the work was completed, the lodgings were removed.
However, later, a housing development was built at the site, and the district was named 'Shinkansen.'
In this district, a community center named 'Shinkansen' and a bus stop named 'Kansen-shita' exist as well.
The site in Kokubunji City, Tokyo, where the Railway Technical Research Institute is located is named 'Hikari-cho.'
It is said that this name was given after 'Hikari,' a nickname for trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, commemorating the development of Shinkansen.