The Shinkansen (Japanese: 新幹線, [ɕiŋkaꜜɰ̃seɴ] , lit.'new main line'), colloquially known in English as the bullet train, is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan. Initially, it was built to connect distant Japanese regions with Tokyo, the capital, to aid economic growth and development. Beyond long-distance travel, some sections around the largest metropolitan areas are used as a commuter rail network.[1][2] It is owned by the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency and operated by five Japan Railways Group companies.

A lineup of JR East Shinkansen trains in October 2012
A lineup of JR West Shinkansen trains in October 2008
Map of Shinkansen lines (May 2024. excluding the Hakata-Minami Line and Gala-Yuzawa Line extension). The section of the Nishi-Kyushu Shinkansen west of Takeo-onsen utilizes a cross-platform interchange with conventional express trains due to the suspension of the GCT development.

Starting with the Tokaido Shinkansen (515.4 km; 320.3 mi) in 1964,[3] the network has expanded to currently consist of 2,951.3 km (1,833.9 mi) of lines with maximum speeds of 260–320 km/h (160–200 mph), 283.5 km (176.2 mi) of Mini-Shinkansen lines with a maximum speed of 130 km/h (80 mph), and 10.3 km (6.4 mi) of spur lines with Shinkansen services.[4] The network presently links most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, and Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaido, with an extension to Sapporo under construction and scheduled to commence in March 2031.[5] The maximum operating speed is 320 km/h (200 mph) (on a 387.5 km (241 mi) section of the Tōhoku Shinkansen).[6] Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 603 km/h (375 mph) for SCMaglev trains in April 2015.[7]

The original Tokaido Shinkansen, connecting Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, three of Japan's largest cities, is one of the world's busiest high-speed rail lines. In the one-year period preceding March 2017, it carried 159 million passengers,[8] and since its opening more than five decades ago, it has transported more than 6.4 billion total passengers.[3] At peak times, the line carries up to 16 trains per hour in each direction with 16 cars each (1,323-seat capacity and occasionally additional standing passengers) with a minimum headway of three minutes between trains.[9]

The Shinkansen network of Japan had the highest annual passenger ridership (a maximum of 353 million in 2007) of any high-speed rail network until 2011, when the Chinese high-speed railway network surpassed it at 370 million passengers annually, reaching over 2.3 billion annual passengers in 2019.[10]

Etymology edit

Shinkansen (新幹線) in Japanese means 'new trunk line' or 'new main line', but this word is used to describe both the railway lines the trains run on and the trains themselves.[11] In English, the trains are also known as the bullet train. The term bullet train (弾丸列車, dangan ressha) originates from 1939, and was the initial name given to the Shinkansen project in its earliest planning stages.[12] Furthermore, the name superexpress (超特急, chō-tokkyū), used exclusively until 1972 for Hikari trains on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, is used today in English-language announcements and signage.

History edit

A JNR map from the October 1964 English-language timetable, showing the then-new Tokaido Shinkansen line (in red) and conventional lines
A 0 series set in front of Mt Fuji

Japan was the first country to build dedicated railway lines for high-speed travel. Because of the mountainous terrain, the existing network consisted of 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow-gauge lines, which generally took indirect routes and could not be adapted to higher speeds due to technical limitations of narrow-gauge rail. For example, if a standard-gauge rail has a curve with a maximum speed of 145 km/h (90 mph), the same curve on narrow-gauge rail will have a maximum allowable speed of 130 km/h (81 mph).[13] Consequently, Japan had a greater need for new high-speed lines than countries where the existing standard gauge or broad gauge rail system had more upgrade potential.

Among the key people credited with the construction of the first Shinkansen are Hideo Shima, the Chief Engineer, and Shinji Sogō, the first President of Japanese National Railways (JNR) who managed to persuade politicians to back the plan. Other significant people responsible for its technical development were Tadanao Miki, Tadashi Matsudaira, and Hajime Kawanabe based at the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI), part of JNR. They were responsible for much of the technical development of the first line, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. All three had worked on aircraft design during World War II.[14]

Early proposals edit

The popular English name bullet train is a literal translation of the Japanese term dangan ressha (弾丸列車), a nickname given to the project while it was initially discussed in the 1930s. The name stuck because of the original 0 Series Shinkansen's resemblance to a bullet and its high speed.

The Shinkansen name was first formally used in 1940 for a proposed standard gauge passenger and freight line between Tokyo and Shimonoseki that would have used steam and electric locomotives with a top speed of 200 km/h (120 mph). Over the next three years, the Ministry of Railways drew up more ambitious plans to extend the line to Beijing (through a tunnel to Korea) and even Singapore, and build connections to the Trans-Siberian Railway and other trunk lines in Asia. These plans were abandoned in 1943 as Japan's position in World War II worsened. However, some construction did commence on the line; several tunnels on the present-day Shinkansen date to the war-era project.[15]

Construction edit

Following the end of World War II, high-speed rail was forgotten for several years while traffic of passengers and freight steadily increased on the conventional Tōkaidō Main Line along with the reconstruction of Japanese industry and economy. By the mid-1950s the Tōkaidō Line was operating at full capacity, and the Ministry of Railways decided to revisit the Shinkansen project. In 1957, Odakyu Electric Railway introduced its 3000 series SE Romancecar train, setting a world speed record of 145 km/h (90 mph) for a narrow gauge train.[16] This train gave designers the confidence that they could safely build an even faster standard gauge train. Thus the first Shinkansen, the 0 series, was built on the success of the Romancecar.[citation needed]

In the 1950s, the Japanese national attitude was that railways would soon be outdated and replaced by air travel and highways as in the United States.[17] However, Shinji Sogō, President of Japanese National Railways, insisted strongly on the possibility of high-speed rail, and the Shinkansen project was implemented.[18]

Government approval came in December 1958, and construction of the first segment of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka started in April 1959. The cost of constructing the Shinkansen was at first estimated at nearly 200 billion yen,[a] which was raised in the form of a government loan, railway bonds and a low-interest loan of US$80 million from the World Bank. Initial estimates, however, were understated and the actual cost was about 380 billion yen.[19] As the budget shortfall became clear in 1963, Sogo resigned to take responsibility.[20]

A test facility for rolling stock, called the Kamonomiya Model Section, opened in Odawara in 1962.[21]

Initial success edit

1964 JNR Passenger Timetable, Table 1, showing shinkansen service on the New Tokaido Line

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen began service on 1 October 1964, in time for the first Tokyo Olympics.[22] The conventional Limited Express service took six hours and 40 minutes from Tokyo to Osaka, but the Shinkansen made the trip in just four hours, shortened to three hours and ten minutes by 1965. It enabled day trips between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, significantly changed the style of business and life of the Japanese people, and increased new traffic demand. The service was an immediate success, reaching the 100 million passenger mark in less than three years on 13 July 1967, and one billion passengers in 1976. Sixteen-car trains were introduced for Expo '70 in Osaka. With an average of 23,000 passengers per hour in each direction in 1992, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen was the world's busiest high-speed rail line.[23] As of 2014, the train's 50th anniversary, daily passenger traffic rose to 391,000 which, spread over its 18-hour schedule, represented an average of just under 22,000 passengers per hour.[24]

The first Shinkansen trains, the 0 series, ran at speeds of up to 210 km/h (130 mph), later increased to 220 km/h (137 mph). The last of these trains, with their classic bullet-nosed appearance, were retired on 30 November 2008. A driving car from one of the 0 series trains was donated by JR West to the National Railway Museum in York, United Kingdom in 2001.[25]

Network expansion edit

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen's rapid success prompted an extension westward to Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka (the San'yō Shinkansen), which was completed in 1975.[26] Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was an ardent supporter of the Shinkansen, and his government proposed an extensive network paralleling most existing trunk lines. Two new lines, the Tōhoku Shinkansen and Jōetsu Shinkansen, were built following this plan. Many other planned lines were delayed or scrapped entirely as JNR slid into debt throughout the late 1970s, largely because of the high cost of building the Shinkansen network. By the early 1980s, the company was practically insolvent, leading to its privatization in 1987.

Development of the Shinkansen by the privatised regional JR companies has continued, with new train models developed, each generally with its own distinctive appearance (such as the 500 series introduced by JR West). Since 2014, Shinkansen trains run regularly at speeds up to 320 km/h (200 mph) on the Tōhoku Shinkansen; only the Shanghai maglev train, China Railway High-speed networks, and the Indonesian Jakarta-Bandung High-speed railway have commercial services that operate faster.[27][28][needs update]

Since 1970, development has also been underway for the Chūō Shinkansen, a planned maglev line from Tokyo to Osaka. On 21 April 2015, a seven-car L0 series maglev trainset set a world speed record of 603 km/h (375 mph).[7]

Technology edit

To enable high-speed operation, Shinkansen uses a range of advanced technology compared with conventional rail, achieving not only high speed but also a high standard of safety and comfort. Its success has influenced other railways in the world, demonstrating the importance and advantages of high-speed rail.

Routing edit

Shinkansen routes never intersect with slower, narrow-gauge conventional lines (except mini-shinkansen, which runs along these older lines). Consequently, the shinkansen is not affected by slower local or freight trains (except for Hokkaido Shinkansen while traveling through the Seikan Tunnel), and has the capacity to operate many high-speed trains punctually. In addition, shinkansen routes (excluding mini-shinkansen) are completely grade separated from roads and highways, meaning railway crossings are almost eliminated. Tracks are strictly off-limits with penalties against trespassing strictly regulated by law. The routes use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles rather than around them, with a minimum curve radius of 4,000 m (13,123 ft) (2,500 m (8,202 ft) on the oldest Tōkaidō Shinkansen).[13]

Track edit

Shinkansen standard gauge track, with welded rails to reduce vibration

The Shinkansen uses 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge in contrast to the 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge of most other lines in Japan. Continuous welded rail and swingnose crossing points are employed, eliminating gaps at turnouts and crossings. Long rails are used, joined by expansion joints to minimize gauge fluctuation due to thermal elongation and shrinkage.

A combination of ballasted and slab track is used, with slab track exclusively employed on concrete bed sections such as viaducts and tunnels. Slab track is significantly more cost-effective in tunnel sections, since the lower track height reduces the cross-sectional area of the tunnel, reducing construction costs up to 30%.[29] However, the smaller diameter of Shinkansen tunnels, compared to some other high-speed lines, has resulted in the issue of tunnel boom becoming a concern for residents living close to tunnel portals.

The slab track consists of rails, fasteners and track slabs with a cement asphalt mortar. On the roadbed and in tunnels, circular upstands, measuring 400–520 mm (16–20 inches) in diameter and 200 mm (7.9 inches) high, are located at 5-metre intervals. The prefabricated upstands are made of either reinforced concrete or pre-stressed reinforced concrete; they prevent the track slab from moving latitudinally or longitudinally. One track slab weighs approximately 5 tons and is 2,220–2,340 mm (87–92 inches) wide, 4,900–4,950 mm (193–195 inches) long and 160–200 mm (6.3–7.9 inches) thick.[30]

Signal system edit

Braking curve for the original ATC-1 used on the Tokaido Shinkansen (Vertical axis represents the speed of the train whereas the horizontal axis represents the distance.)
Replica of the Shinkansen CTC as seen at the Kyoto Railway Museum

The Shinkansen employs an ATC (Automatic Train Control) system, eliminating the need for trackside signals. It uses a comprehensive system of Automatic Train Protection.[20] Centralized traffic control manages all train operations, and all tasks relating to train movement, track, station and schedule are networked and computerized.

Electrical systems edit

Shinkansen uses a 25 kV AC overhead power supply (20 kV AC on Mini-shinkansen lines), to overcome the limitations of the 1,500 V direct current used on the existing electrified narrow-gauge system. Power is distributed along the train's axles to reduce the heavy axle loads under single power cars.[20] The AC frequency of the power supply for the Tokaido Shinkansen is 60 Hz.

Trains edit

Japanese loading gauge legend. Green: Shinkansen loading gauge
Grey: Conventional loading gauge
Blue: Rural loading gauge
Figures in brackets are former limits.

Shinkansen trains are electric multiple units (EMUs), offering fast acceleration, deceleration and reduced damage to the track because of the use of lighter vehicles compared to locomotives or power cars. The coaches are air-sealed to ensure stable air pressure when entering tunnels at high speed.

Shinkansen trains (excluding mini-Shinkansen) are also built to a larger loading gauge compared to conventional-speed rolling stock.[31] This larger loading gauge permits wider coaches, allowing for 5-abreast seating (2+3) in Standard Class coaches, compared to the more common 4-abreast (2+2) seating usually found elsewhere. On occasions, this wider loading gauge was also used to allow 6-abreast seating (3+3) on certain trains, such as the E1 and E4 series sets. This, combined with a lack of power cars, allows for a higher passenger capacity within a shorter train length. However, since mini-Shinkansen lines are effectively track-regauged conventional lines, the conventional loading gauge for 1,067mm lines still applies on mini-Shinkansen lines.

Shinkansen N700A Series, car 01

Traction edit

The Shinkansen has used EMUs from the outset, with the 0 Series Shinkansen having all axles powered. Other railway manufacturers were traditionally reluctant or unable to use distributed traction configurations (Talgo, the German ICE 2 and the French (and subsequently South Korean) TGV (and KTX-I and KTX-Sancheon) use the locomotive (also known as power car) configuration with the Renfe Class 102 and continues with it for the Talgo AVRIL because it is not possible to use powered bogies as part of Talgo's bogie design, which uses a modified Jacobs bogie with a single axle instead of two and allows the wheels to rotate independently of each other, on the ICE 2, TGV and KTX it is because it easily allows for a high ride quality and less electrical equipment.[32]) In Japan, significant engineering desirability exists for the electric multiple unit configuration. A greater proportion of motored axles permits higher acceleration, so the Shinkansen does not lose as much time if stopping frequently. Shinkansen lines have more stops in proportion to their lengths than high-speed lines elsewhere in the world.

Lines edit

Map of shinkansen service in the Chūbu and Kantō regions as of March 2024

The main Shinkansen lines are:

Line Start End Operating speed Length Operator Opened Annual passengers (2018) [33]
Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo Shin-Osaka 285 km/h (177 mph) 515.4 km (320 mi)   JR Central 1964 174,171,000
San'yō Shinkansen Shin-Osaka Hakata 300 km/h (186 mph) 553.7 km (344 mi)   JR West 1972–1975 76,007,000
Tōhoku Shinkansen Tokyo Shin-Aomori 320 km/h (199 mph) 674.9 km (419 mi)   JR East 1982–2010 93,489,000
Jōetsu Shinkansen Tokyo Niigata 275 km/h (171 mph) 269.5 km (167 mi) 1982 44,452,000
Hokuriku Shinkansen Takasaki Tsuruga 260 km/h (162 mph) 470.6 km (292 mi)   JR East
  JR West
1997–2024 31,670,000
Kyushu Shinkansen Hakata Kagoshima-Chūō 260 km/h (162 mph) 256.8 km (160 mi)   JR Kyushu 2004–2011 14,488,000
Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen Takeo-Onsen Nagasaki 260 km/h (162 mph) 66.0 km (41 mi) 2022
Hokkaido Shinkansen Shin-Aomori Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto 260 km/h (162 mph) 148.8 km (92 mi)   JR Hokkaido 2016 1,601,000

In practice, the Tokaido, San'yō, and Kyushu lines form a contiguous west/southbound line from Tokyo, as train services run between the Tokaido and San'yō lines and between the San'yō and Kyushu lines, though the lines are operated by different companies.

The Tokaido Shinkansen tracks are not physically connected to the lines of the Tohoku Shinkansen at Tokyo Station, as they use different electrification standards, signaling systems, and earthquake mitigation devices. There also exists a dispute between JR East and JR Central about the use of the two platforms which were added to the Tokaido line's half of Tokyo station. Before JNR's privatization, they were conceived as being shared with the Tohoku line, and their construction used funds allocated to the Tohoku line's extension to Tokyo; however, the extension was finished after privatization, by which time the platforms were owned by JR Central. Therefore, there is no through service between those lines. All northbound services from Tokyo travel along the Tohoku Shinkansen until at least Ōmiya before splitting off towards Sendai or Takasaki.

Two further lines, known as Mini-shinkansen, have also been constructed by re-gauging and upgrading existing sections of line:

There are two standard-gauge lines not technically classified as Shinkansen lines but run Shinkansen trains as they use tracks leading to Shinkansen storage/maintenance yards:

Lines under construction edit

The following lines are under construction. These lines except Chūō Shinkansen, called Seibi Shinkansen [ja] or planned Shinkansen, are the Shinkansen projects designated in the Basic Plan of the Shinkansen Railway [ja] decided by the government.

  • Hokkaido Shinkansen from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Sapporo is under construction and scheduled to open by March 2031.[5]
  • Chūō Shinkansen (Tokyo–Nagoya–Osaka) is the first maglev Shinkansen line, which has been under construction since 2014. JR Central has abandoned a previously announced 2027 target date for the line from Tokyo to Nagoya due to a dispute with the prefecture of Shizuoka, and as of 2023 there is no official target date.[34]
Line Route Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
Hokkaido Shinkansen Phase 2 Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto – Sapporo 260 km/h (162 mph) 211.3 km (131 mi) 2012 FY2030

Planned lines edit

Line Route Speed Length Construction proposed Expected start of revenue services
Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen Phase 2 Takeo-Onsen - Shin-Tosu 260 km/h (162 mph) TBD TBD TBD
Hokuriku Shinkansen Phase 4 Tsuruga – Obama – Kyoto – Shin-Osaka 260 km/h (162 mph) TBD 2030 FY2045
Chūō Shinkansen Phase 1 Shinagawa – Nagoya 505 km/h (314 mph) 285.6 km (177 mi) 2014 Unknown[37] (Originally 2027)
Chūō Shinkansen Phase 2 Nagoya – Shin-Osaka 505 km/h (314 mph) 152.4 km (95 mi) TBD Unknown[37] (Originally 2037)

Cancelled lines edit

The Narita Shinkansen project to connect Tokyo to Narita International Airport, initiated in the 1970s but halted in 1983 after landowner protests, has been officially cancelled and removed from the Basic Plan governing Shinkansen construction. Parts of its planned right-of-way were used by the Narita Sky Access Line which opened in 2010, and the Keiyo Line reused space originally set aside for the Narita Shinkansen terminus at Tokyo Station. Although the Sky Access Line uses standard-gauge track, it was not built to Shinkansen specifications and there are no plans to convert it into a full Shinkansen line.

Proposed lines edit

Map of proposed Shinkansen lines

Many Shinkansen lines were proposed during the boom of the early 1970s but have yet to be constructed and have subsequently been shelved indefinitely.

  • Hokkaido Shinkansen northward extension: Sapporo–Asahikawa
  • Hokkaido South Loop Shinkansen (北海道南回り新幹線, Hokkaidō Minami-mawari Shinkansen): OshamanbeMuroran–Sapporo
  • Uetsu Shinkansen (羽越新幹線): Toyama–Niigata–Aomori
    • Toyama–Jōetsu-Myōkō exists as part of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, and Nagaoka–Niigata exists as part of the Jōetsu Shinkansen, with provisions for the Uetsu Shinkansen at Nagaoka.
  • Ōu Shinkansen (奥羽新幹線): Fukushima–Yamagata–Akita
    • Fukushima–Shinjō and Ōmagari–Akita exist as the Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen, respectively, but as "Mini-Shinkansen" upgrades of existing track, they do not meet the requirements of the Basic Plan.
  • Hokuriku-Chūkyō Shinkansen (北陸・中京新幹線): Nagoya–Tsuruga
  • Sanin Shinkansen (山陰新幹線): Osaka–Tottori–Matsue–Shimonoseki
  • Trans-Chūgoku Shinkansen (中国横断新幹線, Chūgoku Ōdan Shinkansen): Okayama–Matsue
  • Shikoku Shinkansen (四国新幹線): Osaka–Tokushima–Takamatsu–Matsuyama–Ōita
  • Trans-Shikoku Shinkansen (四国横断新幹線, Shikoku Ōdan Shinkansen): Okayama–Kōchi–Matsuyama
    • There have been some activity regarding the Shikoku and Trans-Shikoku Shinkansen in recent years. In 2016, the Shikoku and Trans-Shikoku Shinkansen were identified as potential future projects in a review of long-term plans for the Shikoku area and funds allocated towards the planning of the route.[38] A profitability study has also been commissioned by the city of Oita in 2018 that found the route to be potentially profitable[39]
  • East Kyushu Shinkansen (東九州新幹線, Higashi-Kyushu Shinkansen): Fukuoka–Ōita–Miyazaki–Kagoshima
  • Trans-Kyushu Shinkansen (九州横断新幹線, Kyushu Ōdan Shinkansen): Ōita–Kumamoto

In addition, the Basic Plan specified that the Jōetsu Shinkansen should start from Shinjuku, not Tokyo Station, which would have required building an additional 30 km (19 mi) of track between Shinjuku and Ōmiya. While no construction work was ever started, land along the proposed track, including an underground section leading to Shinjuku Station, remains reserved. If capacity on the current Tokyo–Ōmiya section proves insufficient, at some point, construction of the Shinjuku–Ōmiya link may be reconsidered.

In December 2009, then transport minister Seiji Maehara proposed a bullet train link to Haneda Airport, using an existing spur that connects the Tōkaidō Shinkansen to a train depot. JR Central called the plan "unrealistic" due to tight train schedules on the existing line, but reports said that Maehara wished to continue discussions on the idea.[40] The current minister has not indicated whether this proposal remains supported. While the plan may become more feasible after the opening the Chūō Shinkansen (sometimes referred to as a bypass to the Tokaido Shinkansen) frees up capacity, construction is already underway for other rail improvements between Haneda and Tokyo station expected to be completed prior to the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so any potential Shinkansen service would likely offer only marginal benefit beyond that. Despite these plans ultimately not being realized (owing in part due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic), various rail projects in the vicinity of Haneda Airport, including the Haneda Airport Access Line and the Tokyo Rinkai Subway Line, continue to undergo planning.[41]

Services edit

Tokyo Station Tokaido Shinkansen platforms, September 2021
The Shinkansen fare system is integrated with Japan's low-speed intercity railway lines, but a surcharge is required to ride the Shinkansen. Here, an ordinary ticket from Tokyo to Takamatsu is coupled with a Shinkansen surcharge ticket from Tokyo to Okayama, allowing use of the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Okayama and use of local lines from Okayama to Takamatsu. For trips exclusively on one Shinkansen, the ordinary fare and Shinkansen surcharge may be combined on one ticket.

Originally intended to carry passenger trains by day and freight trains by night, the Shinkansen lines carried exclusively passengers for the first five and a half decades of their operation. Since 2019 light freight has been carried on some passenger services, and there are plans to expand this with freight-only trains in the future.[42][43]

The system shuts down between midnight and 06:00 every day for maintenance. The few overnight passenger trains that still run in Japan run on the older narrow gauge network that the Shinkansen parallels.

There are three principal service types on the Shinkansen:

  • Express services – these stop at only the very largest stations and, as a result, are the fastest Shinkansen services measured by average speed.
  • Semi-express services – these stop at certain smaller stops alongside stopping at all the largest stations. These allow for faster connections from smaller stops to larger stations than would be otherwise possible with a local service.
  • Local services – these stop at every station along the Shinkansen line. Consequently, local services are the slowest Shinkansen services measured by average speed. Frequently, these services only operate on a part of the line, instead of covering the entirety.

Tōkaidō, San'yō and Kyushu Shinkansen edit

Tōhoku, Hokkaido, Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen edit

Jōetsu Shinkansen edit

Hokuriku Shinkansen edit

Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen edit

Train types edit

Trains are up to sixteen cars long. With each car measuring 25 m (82 ft) in length, the longest trains are 400 m (14 mile) end to end. Stations are similarly long to accommodate these trains. Some of Japan's high-speed maglev trains are considered Shinkansen,[45] while other slower maglev trains (such as the Linimo maglev train line serving local community near the city of Nagoya in Aichi, Japan) are intended as alternatives to conventional urban rapid transit systems.

Passenger trains edit

Tokaido and San'yō Shinkansen edit

  • 0 series: The first Shinkansen trains which entered service in 1964. Maximum operating speed was 220 km/h (135 mph). More than 3,200 cars were built. Withdrawn in December 2008.
  • 100 series: Entered service in 1985, and featured bilevel cars with restaurant car and compartments. Maximum operating speed was 230 km/h (145 mph). Later used only on San'yō Shinkansen Kodama services. Withdrawn in March 2012.
  • 300 series: Entered service in 1992, initially on Nozomi services with maximum operating speed of 270 km/h (170 mph). Withdrawn in March 2012.
  • 500 series: Introduced on Nozomi services in 1997, with an operating speed of 300 km/h (185 mph). Since 2008, sets have been shortened from 16 to 8 cars for use on San'yō Shinkansen Kodama services.
  • 700 series: Introduced in 1999, with maximum operating speed of 285 km/h (175 mph). The JR Central owned units were withdrawn in March 2020, with the JR West owned units continuing to operate on the San'yō Shinkansen line between Shin-Osaka and Hakata.
  • N700 series: In service since 2007, with a maximum operating speed of 300 km/h (185 mph).
  • N700A series: An upgraded version of N700 series with improved acceleration & deceleration and quieter traction motors. All N700 series sets are now converted to N700A.
  • N700S series: An evolution of the N700 series. First trainset was rolled out in 2019 with passenger services commencing on 1 July 2020.

Kyushu and Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen edit

Tohoku, Hokkaido, Joetsu, and Hokuriku Shinkansen edit

  • 200 series: The first type introduced on the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen in 1982 and withdrawn in April 2013. Maximum speed was 240 km/h (150 mph). The final configuration was as 10-car sets. 12-car and 16-car sets also operated at earlier times.
  • E1 series: Bilevel 12-car trains introduced in 1994 and withdrawn in September 2012. Maximum speed was 240 km/h (150 mph).
  • E2 series: 8/10-car sets in service since 1997 with a maximum speed of 275 km/h (170 mph).
  • E4 series: Bilevel 8-car trains introduced in 1997 and withdrawn in October 2021. Maximum speed was 240 km/h (150 mph).
  • E5 series: 10-car sets in service since March 2011 with a maximum speed of 320 km/h (200 mph).
  • H5 series: The cold weather derivative of the E5 series. 10-car sets entered service from March 2016 on the Hokkaido Shinkansen with a maximum speed of 320 km/h (200 mph).[47][48]
  • E7 series: 12-car trains operated on the Hokuriku Shinkansen since March 2014, with a maximum speed of 260 km/h (160 mph).[49] In 2019, the E7 series began operating on the Joetsu Shinkansen.
  • W7 series: 12-car trains operated on the Hokuriku Shinkansen since March 2015, with a maximum speed of 260 km/h (160 mph).[49]

Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen edit

Experimental trains edit

Maglev trains edit

Note that these trains were and currently are used only for experimental runs, though the L0 series could be a passenger train.

  • LSM200 – 1972
  • ML100 – 1972
  • ML100A – 1975
  • ML-500 – 1977
  • ML-500R – 1979
  • MLU001 – 1981
  • MLU002 – 1987
  • MLU002N – 1993
  • MLX01 – 1996
  • L0 series – 2012

Maintenance vehicles edit

  • 911 Type diesel locomotive
  • 912 Type diesel locomotive
  • DD18 Type diesel locomotive
  • DD19 Type diesel locomotive
  • 941 Type (rescue train)
  • 921 Type (track inspection car)
  • 922 Type (Doctor Yellow sets T1, T2, T3)
  • 923 Type (Doctor Yellow sets T4, T5)
  • 925 Type (Doctor Yellow sets S1, S2)
  • E926 Type (East i)

Speed records edit

Traditional rail edit

Class 955 "300X"
Speed[50] Train Location Date Comments
km/h mph
200 124 Class 1000 Shinkansen Kamonomiya test track in Odawara, now part of Tōkaidō Shinkansen 31 October 1962
256 159 Class 1000 Shinkansen Kamonomiya test track 30 March 1963 Former world speed record for EMU trains.
286 178 Class 951 Shinkansen San'yō Shinkansen 24 February 1972 Former world speed record for EMU trains.
319 198 Class 961 Shinkansen Oyama test track, now part of Tōhoku Shinkansen 7 December 1979 Former world speed record for EMU trains.
326 203 300 series Tōkaidō Shinkansen 28 February 1991
336 209 400 series Jōetsu Shinkansen 26 March 1991
345 214 400 series Jōetsu Shinkansen 19 September 1991
346 215 500-900 series "WIN350" San'yō Shinkansen 6 August 1992
350 217 500–900 series "WIN350" San'yō Shinkansen 8 August 1992
352 219 Class 952/953 "STAR21" Jōetsu Shinkansen 30 October 1992
425 264 Class 952/953 "STAR21" Jōetsu Shinkansen 21 December 1993
427 265 Class 955 "300X" Tōkaidō Shinkansen 11 July 1996
443 275 Class 955 "300X" Tōkaidō Shinkansen 26 July 1996

Maglev edit

L0 Series Shinkansen, unconventional world speed record holder (603 km/h or 374.7 mph)
Speed Train Location Date Comments
km/h mph
550 342 MLX01 Chūō Shinkansen (Yamanashi test track) 24 December 1997 Former world speed record
552 343 14 April 1999
581 361 2 December 2003
590 367 L0 series 16 April 2015[51]
603 375 21 April 2015[7] World speed record

Reliability edit

Punctuality edit

The Shinkansen is very reliable thanks to several factors, including its near-total separation from slower traffic. In 2016, JR Central reported that the Shinkansen's average delay from schedule per train was 24 seconds. This includes delays due to uncontrollable causes, such as natural disasters.[52] In April 2024, a train arriving to Nagoya was delayed by 17 minutes due to a report of small snakes slithering through a passenger carriage.[53]

Safety record edit

Over the Shinkansen's 50-plus year history, carrying over 10 billion passengers, there have been no passenger fatalities due to train accidents such as derailments or collisions,[3] despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons. Injuries and a single fatality have been caused by doors closing on passengers or their belongings; attendants are employed at platforms to prevent such accidents.[54] There have, however, been suicides by passengers jumping both from and in front of moving trains.[55] On 30 June 2015, a passenger committed suicide on board a Shinkansen train by setting himself on fire, killing another passenger and seriously injuring seven other people.[56]

There have been two derailments of Shinkansen trains in passenger service. The first one occurred during the Chūetsu earthquake on 23 October 2004. Eight of ten cars of the Toki No. 325 train on the Jōetsu Shinkansen derailed near Nagaoka Station in Nagaoka, Niigata. There were no casualties among the 154 passengers.[57]

Another derailment happened on 2 March 2013 on the Akita Shinkansen when the Komachi No. 25 train derailed in blizzard conditions in Daisen, Akita. No passengers were injured.[58]

In the event of an earthquake, an earthquake detection system can bring the train to a stop very quickly; newer trainsets are lighter and have stronger braking systems, allowing for quicker stopping. A new anti-derailment device was installed after detailed analysis of the Jōetsu derailment.[59][60]

Several months after the exposure of the Kobe Steel falsification scandal, which is among the suppliers of high-strength steel for Shinkansen trainsets, cracks were found upon inspection of a single bogie, and removed from service on 11 December 2017.[61]

On 23 January 2024, a massive power outage struck the Tohoku, Hokuriku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines, resulting in the cancellation of 283 trains and affecting about 120,000 passengers. JR East said that the outage was caused by the Kagayaki train touching an overhead power cable which was left dangling after the metal rod supporting it fractured between Omiya Station in Saitama and Ueno Station in Tokyo. The incident damaged the train's pantographs and a window,[62] while two railway employees were hospitalized following an explosion that occurred at the site during repairs.[63] Most Shinkansen services were restored the following morning.[64]

On 16 April 2024, Shinkansen services between Tokyo and Osaka were delayed by 17 minutes after a snake was found inside a train compartment.[65]

Effects edit

Economics edit

The Shinkansen has had a significant beneficial effect on Japan's business, economy, society, environment and culture beyond mere construction and operational contributions.[66] The results in time savings alone from switching from a conventional to a high-speed network have been estimated at 400 million hours, and the system has an economic contribution of ¥500 billion per year.[66] That does not include the savings from reduced reliance on imported fuel, which also has national security benefits. Shinkansen lines, particularly in the very crowded coastal Taiheiyō Belt megalopolis, met two primary goals:

  • Shinkansen trains reduced the congestion burden on regional transportation by increasing throughput on a minimal land footprint, therefore being economically preferable compared to modes (such as airports or highways) common in less densely populated regions of the world.
  • As rail was already the primary urban mode of passenger travel, from that perspective it was akin to a sunk cost; there was not a significant number of motorists to convince to switch modes. The initial megalopolitan Shinkansen lines were profitable and paid for themselves. Connectivity rejuvenated rural towns such as Kakegawa that would otherwise be too distant from major cities.[66]

However, upon the introduction of the 1973 Basic Plan the initial prudence in developing Shinkansen lines gave way to political considerations to extend the mode to far less populated regions of the country, partly to spread these benefits beyond the key centres of Kanto and Kinki. Although in some cases regional extension was frustrated by protracted land acquisition issues (sometimes influenced by the cancellation of the Narita Shinkansen following fierce protests by locals), over time Shinkansen lines were built to relatively sparsely populated areas with the intent the network would disperse the population away from the capital.

Such expansion had a significant cost. JNR, the national railway company, was already burdened with subsidizing unprofitable rural and regional railways. Additionally it assumed Shinkansen construction debt to the point the government corporation eventually owed some ¥28 trillion, contributing to it being regionalised and privatized in 1987.[67] The privatized JRs eventually paid a total of ¥9.2 trillion to acquire JNR's Shinkansen network.[66]

Following privatization, the JR group of companies have continued Shinkansen network expansion to less populated areas, but with far more flexibility to spin-off unprofitable railways or cut costs than in JNR days. Currently, an important factor is the post bubble zero interest-rate policy that allows JR to borrow huge sums of capital without significant concern regarding repayment timing.

A UCLA study found that the presence of a Shinkansen line had helped with housing affordability by making it more realistic for lower-income city workers to live in exurban areas much further away from the city, which tends to have cheaper housing options. That in turn helps the city to "decentralise" and thus reduce the city property prices from what they could have otherwise been.[68]

Environment edit

Traveling by the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka produces only around 16% of the carbon dioxide of the equivalent journey by car, a saving of 15,000 tons of CO2 per year.[66]

Challenges edit

Noise pollution edit

Noise pollution concerns have made increasing speed more difficult. In Japan, population density is high and there have been severe protests against the Shinkansen's noise pollution. Its noise is now limited to less than 70 dB in residential areas.[69] Improvement and reduction of the pantograph, weight saving of cars, and construction of noise barriers and other measures have been implemented. Current research is primarily aimed at reducing operational noise, particularly the tunnel boom phenomenon caused when trains transit tunnels at high speed.

Earthquake edit

Because of the risk of earthquakes in Japan, the Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System (UrEDAS) (an earthquake warning system) was introduced in 1992. It enables automatic braking of Shinkansen trains in the event of large earthquakes.

Heavy snow edit

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen often experiences heavy snow in the area around Maibara Station between December and February, requiring trains to reduce speed thus disrupting the timetable. Snow-dispersing sprinkler systems have been installed, but delays of 10–20 minutes still occur during snowy weather. Snow-related treefalls have also caused service interruptions. Along the Jōetsu Shinkansen route, snow can be very heavy, with depths of two to three metres; the line is equipped with stronger sprinklers and slab track to mitigate the snow's effects. Despite having multiple days with delays longer than 30 minutes, the Tōhoku Shinkansen still presents a slight advantage in reliability compared to air travel on days with significant snowfall.[70]

Ridership edit

Annual edit

Annual ridership figures for selected years (in millions of passengers)[71]
Tokaido Tohoku San'yō Joetsu Nagano Kyushu Hokkaido Sum* Total
(excl. transfers)
FY2007 151.32 84.83 64.43 38.29 10.13 4.18 - 353.18 315.77
FY2015 162.97 90.45 72.06 42.96 31.84 13.65 **0.10 414.03 365.71
FY2016 167.72 91.09 72.53 43.06 30.75 13.27 2.11 420.53
FY2017 170.09 91.98 74.46 43.80 31.03 14.24 2.19 427.78
FY2018 174.105 93.44 75.92 44.53 31.755 14.6 1.64 436.00

* The sum of the ridership of individual lines does not equal the ridership of the system because a single rider may be counted multiple times when using multiple lines, to get proper ridership figures for a system, in the above case, is only counted once.

** Only refers to 6 days of operation: 26 March 2016 (opening date) to 31 March 2016 (end of FY2015).

Until 2011, Japan's high-speed rail system had the highest annual patronage of any system worldwide, China's HSR network's patronage reached 1.7 billion and is now the world's highest.[72][unreliable source?][73]

Cumulative comparison edit

Cumulative high-speed rail passengers (in millions of passengers)[74][unreliable source?][75]
Year Shinkansen (see notes) Asia (other) Europe World Shinkansen share (%)
1964 11.0 0 0 11.0 100%
1980 1,616.3 0 0 1,616.3 100%
1985 2,390.3 0 45.7 2,436.0 98.1%
1990 3,559.1 0 129.9 3,689.0 96.5%
1995 5,018.0 0 461 5,479 91.6%
2000 6,531.7 0 1,103.5 7,635.1 85.5%
2005 8,088.3 52.2 2,014.6 10,155.1 79.6%
2010 9,651.0 965 3,177.0 15,417 70.8%
2012 10,344 2,230 3,715 16,210 64.5%
2014 11,050 3,910 4,300 19,260 57.4%


  • Data in italics includes extrapolated estimations where data is missing. Turkey and Russia data here is included in "Europe" column, rather than split between Asia and Europe. Only systems with 200 km/h or higher regular service speed are considered.
  • "Shinkansen share(%)" refers to percent of Shinkansen ridership (including fully assembled exported trainsets) as a percent of "World" total. Currently this only pertains to Taiwan, but may change if Japan exports Shinkansen to other nations.
  • "Shinkansen" column does not include Shinkansen knock down kits made in Japan exported to China for assembly, or any derivative system thereof in China)
  • "Asia (other)" column refers to sum of riderships of all HSR systems geographically in Asia that do not use Shinkansen. (this data excludes Russia and Turkey, which geographically have parts in Asia but for sake of convenience included in Europe column)
  • For 2013, Japan's Ministry of Transport has not updated data, nor is summed European data available (even 2012 data is very rough), however Taiwan ridership is 47.49 million[76] and Korea with 54.5 million[77] and China with 672 million in 2013.[78]

Cumulative ridership since October 1964 is over 5 billion passengers for the Tokaido Shinkansen Line alone and 10 billion passengers for Japan's entire shinkansen network.[72][unreliable source?] Nevertheless, China's share is increasing fast, as close to 9.5 billion passengers in that nation have been served by the end of 2018 and is projected to pass Japan's cumulative numbers by as early as 2020.[79]

Future edit

Speed increases edit

Tōhoku Shinkansen edit

E5 series trains, capable of up to 320 km/h (200 mph), initially limited to 300 km/h (186 mph), were introduced on the Tōhoku Shinkansen in March 2011. Operation at the maximum speed of 320 km/h (200 mph) between Utsunomiya and Morioka on this route commenced on 16 March 2013. It reduced the journey time to around 3 hours for trains from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, a distance of 674 km (419 mi).

Extensive trials using the Fastech 360 test trains have shown that operation at 360 km/h (224 mph) is not currently feasible because of problems of noise pollution (particularly tunnel boom), overhead wire wear, and braking distances. On 30 October 2012, JR East announced that it was pursuing research and development to increase speeds to 360 km/h (224 mph) on the Tohoku Shinkansen by 2020.[80] The ALFA-X is currently undergoing testing.

Hokkaido Shinkansen edit

Upon commencement of services in 2016, the maximum speed on the approximately 82 km (51 mi) dual gauge section of the Hokkaido Shinkansen (including through the Seikan Tunnel) was 140 km/h (85 mph), which was increased to 160 km/h (100 mph) by March 2019.[81] There are approximately 50 freight trains using the dual gauge section each day, so limiting the travel of such trains to times outside of Shinkansen services is not an option. Because of this and other weather-related factors cited by JR East and JR Hokkaido, the fastest journey time between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto is currently 3 hours, 57 minutes.

During the 2020-21 New Year Holiday period, certain Shinkansen services were operated at 210 km/h (130 mph) on the dual gauge section and was proposed again for the Golden Week Holiday period from 3–6 May 2021, due to fewer freight trains operating.[81]

To achieve the full benefit of Shinkansen trains travelling on the dual gauge section at 260 km/h (160 mph) (the maximum speed proposed through the tunnel), alternatives are being considered, such as a system to automatically slow Shinkansen trains to 200 km/h (125 mph) when passing narrow-gauge trains, and/or loading freight trains onto special "Train on Train" standard-gauge trains (akin to a covered piggyback flatcar train) built to withstand the shock wave of oncoming Shinkansen trains traveling at full speed. This would enable a travel time from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto of 3 hours and 45 minutes, a saving of 12 minutes on the current timetable.

Hokuriku extension edit

Construction of the Hokuriku Shinkansen in Fukui

The Hokuriku Shinkansen was extended from Kanazawa to Tsuruga on 16 March 2024.[82]

There are further plans to extend the line from Tsuruga to Osaka, with the Obama-Kyoto route chosen by the government on 20 December 2016,[35] after a government committee investigated the five nominated routes.[83]

Construction of the extension beyond Tsuruga is not expected to commence before 2030, with a projected 15-year construction period. On 6 March 2017 the government committee announced the chosen route from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka is to be via Kyotanabe, with a station at Matsuiyamate on the Katamachi Line.[84][85]

Abandoned interim Gauge Change plans edit

To extend the benefits of the Hokuriku Shinkansen to stations west of Tsuruga before the line to Osaka is completed, JR West was working in partnership with Talgo on the development of a Gauge Change Train (CGT) capable of operating under both the 25 kV AC electrification used on the Shinkansen and the 1.5 kV DC system employed on conventional lines. A trial of the proposed bogie was undertaken on a purpose-built 180 m (590 ft) gauge-changer at Tsuruga, but it was unsuccessful and the plans were abandoned.[86]

Tohoku extension/Hokkaido Shinkansen edit

The Hokkaido Shinkansen forms an extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen north of Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station (north of the Hokkaido city of Hakodate) through the Seikan Tunnel, which was converted to dual gauge as part of the project, opening in March 2016.

JR Hokkaido is extending the Hokkaido Shinkansen from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Sapporo to open by March 2031,[5] with tunnelling work on the 5.27 km (3.27 mi) Murayama tunnel, situated about 1 km (0.62 mi) north of Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, commencing in March 2015, and due to be completed by March 2021. The 211.3 km (131.3 mi) extension will be approximately 76% in tunnels, including major tunnels such as Oshima (~26.5 km (16.5 mi)), Teine (~26.5 km (16.5 mi)) and Shiribeshi (~18 km (11 mi)).[87]

Although an extension from Sapporo to Asahikawa was included in the 1973 list of planned lines, at this time it is unknown whether the Hokkaido Shinkansen will be extended beyond Sapporo.

Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen edit

JR Kyushu opened the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen from Takeo-Onsen to Nagasaki (built to full Shinkansen standard) on 23 September 2022, with the existing narrow gauge section between Shin-Tosu and Takeo Onsen proposed to be upgraded as part of this project.

This proposal initially involved introducing Gauge Change Trains (GCT) travelling from Hakata to Shin-Tosu (26.3 km (16.3 mi)) on the existing Kyushu Shinkansen line, then passing through a specific gauge changing (standard to narrow) section of track linking to the existing Nagasaki Main Line, along which it would travel to Hizen Yamaguchi (37.6 km (23.4 mi)), then onto the Sasebo Line to Takeo-Onsen (13.7 km (8.5 mi)), where another gauge changing section (narrow to standard) would lead onto the final Shinkansen line to Nagasaki (66 km (41 mi)). However, significant technical issues with the axles of the GCT resulted in its cancellation.

On 28 October 2020, JR Kyushu announced it would utilize a 6-car version of the N700S for the isolated Shinkansen section from Nagasaki, with 'cross platform' change to a relay service at Takeo Onsen station to connect to Hakata.[46] JR Kyushu also announced the service would continue to use the name 'Kamome' for the Hakata-Nagasaki service, which has been in use since 1961.[44]

The Shinkansen line shortens the distance between Hakata and Nagasaki by 6.2% (9.6 km (6.0 mi)), and while only 64% of the route is built to full Shinkansen standards, it eliminated the slowest sections of the previous narrow gauge route.

As part of the GCT proposal, the current 12.8 km (8.0 mi) section of single track between Hizen Yamaguchi and Takeo Onsen was proposed to be duplicated. However, due to the issues with the development of the GCT, the proposal has not advanced.

The initial section between Nagasaki and Takeo Onsen opened on 23 September 2022.[88]

Maglev (Chūō Shinkansen) edit

Maglev trains have been undertaking test runs on the Yamanashi test track since 1997, running at speeds of over 500 km/h (310 mph). As a result of this extensive testing, maglev technology is almost ready for public usage.[89] An extension of this test track from 18.4 to 42.8 km (11.4 to 26.6 mi) was completed in June 2013, enabling extended high-speed running trials to commence in August 2013. This section will be incorporated into the Chūō Shinkansen which will eventually link Tokyo to Osaka. Construction of the Shinagawa to Nagoya section began in 2014, with 86% of the 286 km (178 mi) route to be in tunnels. Plans were approved in 2017 for the Chūō Shinkansen to begin at Tokyo Station, rather than Shinagawa Station as initially planned due to difficulties in securing land.[90]

The CEO of JR Central originally announced plans to have the maglev Chūō Shinkansen operating from Tokyo to Nagoya by 2027,[89] with a subsequent extension to Osaka by 2037. However, as of 2022, continuing controversy over routing across the Ōi River has prevented the start of construction in Shizuoka, and there is currently no target date for opening.[91]

Following the shortest route (through the Japanese Alps), JR Central estimates that it will take 40 minutes to run from Shinagawa to Nagoya. The planned travel time from Shinagawa to Shin-Osaka is 1 hour 7 minutes. Currently the Tokaido Shinkansen has a minimum connection time of 2 hours 19 minutes.[92]

While the government has granted approval[93] for the shortest route between Tokyo and Nagoya, some prefectural governments, particularly Nagano, lobbied to have the line routed farther north to serve the city of Chino and either Ina or Kiso-Fukushima. However, that would increase both the travel time (from Tokyo to Nagoya) and the cost of construction.[94] JR Central has confirmed it will construct the line through Kanagawa Prefecture, and terminate at Tokyo Station.

The route for the Nagoya to Osaka section is also contested. It is planned to go via Nara, about 40 km (25 mi) south of Kyoto. Kyoto is lobbying to have the route moved north and be largely aligned with the existing Tokaido Shinkansen, which services Kyoto and not Nara.[95]

Mini-Shinkansen edit

Mini-shinkansen (ミニ新幹線) is the name given to the routes where former narrow gauge lines have been converted to standard gauge to allow Shinkansen trains to travel to cities without the expense of constructing full Shinkansen standard lines.

Two mini-shinkansen routes have been constructed: the Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen. Shinkansen services to these lines traverse the Tohoku Shinkansen line from Tokyo before branching off to traditional main lines. On both the Yamagata/Shinjo and Akita lines, the narrow gauge lines were regauged, resulting in the local services being operated by standard gauge versions of 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) suburban/interurban rolling stock. On the Akita line between Omagari and Akita, one of the two narrow gauge lines was regauged, and a section of the remaining narrow gauge line is dual gauge, providing the opportunity for Shinkansen services to pass each other without stopping.

The maximum speed on these lines is 130 km/h (81 mph), however the overall travel time to/from Tokyo is improved due to the elimination of the need for passengers to change trains at Fukushima and Morioka respectively.

As the Loading gauge (size of the train that can travel on a line) was not altered when the rail gauge was widened, only Shinkansen trains specially built for these routes can travel on the lines. At present they are the E3 and E6 series trains.

As some of the E3 series on the Yamagata Shinkansen will be retiring soon, they will be replaced by the new E8 Series Shinkansen trains from Spring 2024 with an increased speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), up from the current 275 km/h (171 mph) on the E3 Series trains.[citation needed]

Whilst no further Mini-shinkansen routes have been proposed to date, it remains an option for providing Shinkansen services to cities on the narrow gauge network.

Proposed Ou Base Tunnel edit

Construction of a Base tunnel on the Yamagata Shinkansen is proposed, with JR East having undertaken a survey of a planned route from Niwasaka to Sekine, just south of Yonezawa station.[96] 23.1 km (14.4 mi) of the proposed 24.9 km (15.5 mi) line would be in tunnel, mostly to the north of the existing 88 km (55 mi) Fukushima – Yamagata section. To be built on an improved alignment, the tunnel would lower journey times between Fukushima and Yamagata by ~10 min due to a proposed line speed of up to 200 km/h.

The tunnel would avoid the Itaya Toge pass through the Ou mountains west of Fukushima. Gradients range from 3.0% to 3.8% and the line reaches an altitude of 548 m (1,798 ft). The curvature and steep grades limit train speeds to 55 km/h (34 mph) or less, and the line is vulnerable to heavy rain and snowfall as well as high winds. Between 2011 and 2017 a total of 410 Yamagata mini-Shinkansen services were either suspended or delayed, and 40% of these incidents occurred on the line over the Itaya Toge pass.

If the ¥150 billion base tunnel is authorised, detailed design would take five years and construction another 15 years. The cost could increase by ¥12 billion if the tunnel were to be built with a cross-section large enough to permit the line to be upgraded to the full Shinkansen loading gauge.

Gauge Change Train edit

This is the name for the concept of using a single train that is specially designed to travel on both 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge railway lines and the 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge used by Shinkansen train services in Japan. The trucks/bogies of the Gauge Change Train (GCT) allow the wheels to be unlocked from the axles, narrowed or widened as necessary, and then relocked. This allows a GCT to traverse both standard gauge and narrow gauge tracks without the expense of regauging lines.

Three test trains have been constructed, with the second set having completed reliability trials on the Yosan Line east of Matsuyama (in Shikoku) in September 2013. The third set was undertaking gauge changing trials at Shin-Yatsushiro Station (on Kyushu), commencing in 2014 for a proposed three-year period, however testing was suspended in December 2014 after accumulating approximating 33,000 km (21,000 mi), following the discovery of defective thrust bearing oil seals on the bogies.[97] The train was being trialled between Kumamoto, travelling on the narrow gauge line to Shin-Yatsushiro, where a gauge changer has been installed, so the GCT could then be trialled on the Shinkansen line to Kagoshima. It was anticipated the train would travel approximately 600,000 km (370,000 mi) over the three-year trial.

A new "full standard" Shinkansen line is under construction from Takeo Onsen to Nagasaki, with the Shin-Tosu – Takeo Onsen section of the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen to remain narrow gauge. GCTs were proposed to provide the Shinkansen service from the line's scheduled opening in fiscal 2022, however with the GCT now being cancelled, JR Kyushu has announced it will provide an interim 'relay' service.[46]

Competition with air edit

Compared with air transport, the Shinkansen has several advantages, including scheduling frequency and flexibility, punctual operation, comfortable seats, lower carbon emissions, and convenient city-centre terminals.

Shinkansen fares are generally competitive with domestic air fares. From a speed and convenience perspective, the Shinkansen's market share has surpassed that of air travel for journeys of less than 750 km (470 mi), while air and rail remain highly competitive with each other in the 800–900 km (500–560 mi) range and air has a higher market share for journeys of more than 1,000 km (620 mi).[98]

During snowy weather, the Shinkansen is known to face fewer delays compared to air travel due to snow. One study done in 2016 concluded that the Tohoku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Aomori had substantially fewer days with delays longer than 30 minutes compared to air travel.[70]

  • Tokyo – Nagoya (342 km; 213 mi), Tokyo – Sendai (325 km; 202 mi), Tokyo – Hanamaki (Morioka) (496 km; 308 mi), Tokyo – Niigata (300 km; 190 mi): There were air services between these cities, but they were withdrawn after Shinkansen services started. Shinkansen runs between these cities in about two hours or less.
  • Tokyo – Osaka (515 km; 320 mi): Shinkansen is dominant because of fast (2 hours 22 minutes) and frequent service (up to every 10 minutes by Nozomi); however, air travel has a certain share (~20–30%).
  • Tokyo – Okayama (676 km; 420 mi), Tokyo – Hiroshima (821 km; 510 mi): Shinkansen is reported to have increased its market share from ~40% to ~60% over the last decade.[99] The Shinkansen takes about three to four hours and there are Nozomi trains every 30 minutes, but airlines may provide cheaper fares, attracting price-conscious passengers.
  • Tokyo – Fukuoka (1,069 km; 664 mi): The Shinkansen takes about five hours on the fastest Nozomi, and discount carriers have made air travel far cheaper, so most people choose air. Additionally, unlike many cities, there is very little convenience advantage for the location of the Shinkansen stations of the two cities as Fukuoka Airport is located near the central Tenjin district, and Fukuoka City Subway Line 1 connects the Airport and Tenjin via Hakata Station and Haneda Airport is similarly conveniently located.
  • Osaka – Fukuoka (554 km; 344 mi): One of the most competitive sections. The Shinkansen takes about two and a half hours by Nozomi or Mizuho, and the JR West Hikari Rail Star or JR West/JR Kyushu Sakura trains operate twice an hour, taking about 2 hours and 40 minutes between the two cities. Again the location of the airports involved helps with the popularity of air travel.
  • Tokyo – Aomori (675 km; 419 mi): The fastest Shinkansen service between these cities is 3 hours. JAL is reported to have reduced the size of planes servicing this route since the Shinkansen extension opened in 2010.[99]
  • Tokyo – Hokuriku (345 km; 214 mi): The fastest Shinkansen service between these areas is 212 hours. ANA is reported to have reduced the number of services from Tokyo to Kanazawa and Toyama from 6 to 4 per day since the Shinkansen extension opened in 2015. The share of passengers travelling this route by air is reported to have dropped from 40% to 10% in the same period.[83]

Outside Japan edit

Shinkansen 700T train on a test run on the Taiwan High Speed Rail in September 2013
China Railways CRH2 based on the E2 Series Shinkansen, September 2018
Class 395 in the United Kingdom, September 2009

Railways using Shinkansen technology are not limited to those in Japan.

Existing edit

Taiwan edit

The first Shinkansen type exported outside Japan. Taiwan High Speed Rail operates 700T Series sets built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. 12-car trains based on 700 series entered service in 2007, with a maximum speed of 300 km/h (190 mph).

China edit

The China Railway CRH2, built by CSR Sifang Loco & Rolling stocks corporation, with the license purchased from a consortium formed of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Hitachi, is based on the E2-1000 series design.

United Kingdom edit

Class 395 EMUs were built by Hitachi based on Shinkansen technology for use on high-speed commuter services in Britain on the High Speed 1 line.

Class 800 bi-mode trains were built by Hitachi for Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway.[100]

Class 801 EMUs were built by Hitachi for London North Eastern Railway.[100]

Under contract edit

India edit

In December 2015, India and Japan signed an agreement for the construction of India's first high speed rail link connecting Mumbai to Ahmedabad involving E5 Series Shinkansen set, which will be the rolling stock of Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor. Funded primarily through Japanese soft loans, the link is expected to cost up to US$18.6 billion and should be operational in about 6 years.[101][102]

This followed India and Japan conducting feasibility studies on high-speed rail and Dedicated freight corridors in India.

The Indian Ministry of Railways' white-paper Vision 2020[103] submitted to Indian Parliament by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on 18 December 2009[104] envisages the implementation of regional high-speed rail projects to provide services at 250–350 km/h (160–220 mph).

During Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Tokyo in December 2006, Japan assured cooperation with India in creating a high-speed link between New Delhi and Mumbai.[105] In January 2009, the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad rode a bullet train travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto.[106]

In December 2013 a Japanese consortium was appointed to undertake a feasibility study of a ~500 km (310 mi) high-speed line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad by July 2015.[107] A total of 7 high-speed lines are in planning stages in India, and Japanese firms have now succeeded in winning contracts to prepare feasibility studies for three of the lines.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) was incorporated in 2017 to manage all HSR related activities in India. Under its management, a High Speed Rail Training Institute is being developed with Japanese assistance in Vadodara, Gujarat. After the laying of the foundation stone for the Mumbai and Ahmedabad by the Prime Ministers of India and Japan in September 2017, work began on preparatory surveys along the 508 km (316 mi) route. The route consists of approximately 477 km (296 mi) elevated viaduct through 11 districts of Gujarat and four districts of Maharashtra, a 21 km (13 mi) deep-sea tunnel starting from BKC in Mumbai, and approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) of at-grade alignment near the other terminus at Sabarmati, near Ahmedabad. Most of the civil works for the elevated viaduct shall be handled by Indian companies, while the deep-sea tunnel at Mumbai will be handled by a Japanese consortium (along with other technical aspects, such as safety, electricals, communication systems, signaling, and rolling stock). Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited of India and Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan have entered into a technology collaboration agreement to build and assemble the rolling stock (of E5 series) in India. Other potential joint ventures are being explored under the patronage of NHSRC. The line is expected to be operational by 2026.[108]

In March 2024, reports emerged that the first commercial operation run is scheduled in June-July 2026. A total of 24 trains are planned to be purchased while the deal for first six shall be signed by the end of the month.[109][110] Hitachi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries started talks with Indian Railways on design changes such as the modification of air conditioning system in order for it to operate efficiently at temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius. One of the goal of Indian Railways is to replace the high-end technical offerings on Japan's train sets with indigenous bio-toilets. Similarly, the primary languages for documentation of facility usage instructions must be Hindi and English.[111][112]

United States edit

In 2014, it was announced that Texas Central Railway would build a ~300 mi (480 km) long line using the N700 series rolling stock.[113] The trains are proposed to operate at over 320 km/h (200 mph).[114]

Proposed subject to funding edit

Thailand edit

Japan will provide Shinkansen technology for a high-speed rail link between Bangkok and Chiang Mai under an agreement reached with Thailand on 27 May 2015. Total project costs are estimated in excess of 1 trillion yen ($8.1 billion). Several hurdles remain, however, including securing the funding. If the project is realized, it would mark the fifth time Shinkansen technology has been exported.[115]

Potential opportunities edit

Australia edit

A private organisation dedicated to aiding the Australian Government in delivering high speed rail, Consolidated Land and Rail Australia, has considered purchasing Shinkansen technology or SC Maglev rolling stock for a potential Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane line.[116] A business case has been prepared for the government by Infrastructure Australia, and was awaiting confirmation of the project within the 2018 federal budget.[needs update]

Ireland edit

As part of the Ireland 2040 infrastructural upgrade scheme, a high-speed rail network using Shinkansen technology is being investigated along the Cork-Dublin-Belfast axis, spanning the island of Ireland from north to south.[citation needed]

United States and Canada edit

The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration was in talks with a number of countries concerning high-speed rail, notably Japan, France and Spain. On 16 May 2009, FRA Deputy Chief Karen Rae expressed hope that Japan would offer its technical expertise to Canada and the United States. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood indicated interest in test riding the Japanese Shinkansen in 2009.[117][118]

On 1 June 2009, JR Central Chairman, Yoshiyuki Kasai, announced plans to export both the N700 Series Shinkansen high-speed train system and the SCMaglev to international export markets, including the United States and Canada.[119]

Brazil edit

Japan had promoted its Shinkansen technology to the Government of Brazil for use on the once planned high-speed rail set to link Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Campinas.[120] On 14 November 2008, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Tarō Asō and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva talked about this rail project. President Lula asked a consortium of Japanese companies to participate in the bidding process. Prime Minister Aso concurred on the bilateral cooperation to improve rail infrastructure in Brazil, including the Rio–São Paulo–Campinas high-speed rail line.[121] The Japanese consortium included the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Mitsui & Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Toshiba.[122][123] Nothing was implemented.

Vietnam edit

Vietnam Railways was considering the use of Shinkansen technology for high-speed rail between the capital Hanoi and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, citing an interview with Chief Executive Officer Nguyen Huu Bang. The Vietnamese government had already given basic approval for the Shinkansen system, although it still requires financing and formal consent from the prime minister. Vietnam rejected a funding proposal in 2010, so funding for the $56 billion project is uncertain. Hanoi was exploring additional Japanese funding Official Development Assistance as well as funds from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The 1,560-kilometre (970 mi) line would replace the current colonial-era rail line. Vietnam hoped to launch high-speed trains by 2020 and planned to start by building three sections, including a 90 km (56 mi) stretch between the central coastal cities of Da Nang and Huế, seen as potentially most profitable. Vietnam Railways had sent engineers to Central Japan Railway Company for technical training.[124][125]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ 194,800 million yen

References edit

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Further reading edit

External links edit