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2011年8月23日 (火)

リニア新幹線 最先端技術を国益に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 23, 2011)
Maglev train project must serve national interests
リニア新幹線 最先端技術を国益に生かせ(8月22日付・読売社説)

Central Japan Railway Co.'s ongoing project to build a maglev train system linking Tokyo and Osaka is finally in full swing.

Early this month, JR Tokai released a list of probable locations for intermediate stations in four prefectures--Aichi excluded--through which its envisaged magnetically levitated train would run on the Tokyo-Nagoya section of its route.
The proposed sites include one on the border between Takamorimachi and Iida in Nagano Prefecture.

Aiming to begin construction of its Chuo Shinkansen system in fiscal 2014, the railway firm is set to start an environmental impact study covering areas along the planned route as early as the end of this year.

JR Tokai plans to start service along a portion of the envisaged route in 2027, extending its maglev train services to Osaka in 2045. The megaproject, which would link Tokyo and Osaka through a 67-minute ride, would cost a staggering 9 trillion yen.

The safety of buildings and facilities is under increasing public scrutiny due to the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear crisis.

Therefore, JR Tokai's first priority should be to ensure the new train system will operate safely.

The ultrahigh-speed train line would also serve as a bypass for the current Tokaido Shinkansen line.

Given this, thorough safety measures must be taken so the new system will be able to serve as Japan's main transportation artery if a major natural disaster strikes.


Hitting the brakes at 500 kph

The new Shinkansen--in which magnetic force is used to levitate a train about 10 centimeters above the ground--runs at 500 kph.

A focus of particular attention is how the system would respond to such emergencies as a powerful earthquake and power outage.

According to JR Tokai, the system would apply multiple types of brakes if it detected seismic waves, thus safely halting trains at a deceleration speed double that of the current Shinkansen system.

This is also true with a safety mechanism that would be triggered in the event of an electric power failure. The new bullet train would maintain levitation on the strength of magnetic force, supported by side walls along a railway track to prevent a derailment.

After studying the earthquake resistance of the maglev train, an advisory body to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has confirmed that the system's safeguards will serve their intended purposes.

However, a major disaster could hit facilities to an extent beyond the expectations of the operators, as illustrated by the series of accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

With this in mind, we hope JR Tokai will continue to make technological improvements in the safety of the new Shinkansen system.

The proposed route runs through the Southern Japanese Alps. About 70 percent of the line would be in underground tunnels.

This makes it necessary to implement measures aimed at guiding passengers to safety in the event that the maglev train comes to a sudden stop.


Stations will be expensive

Another task for JR Tokai is to achieve a consensus with local governments affected by the project over the construction costs for the intermediate stations.

JR Tokai plans to pay for the construction of three key facilities: one terminal in Tokyo, another in Osaka and another major station in Nagoya. However, the railway firm has asked the four prefectural governments--each of which would host one intermediate station along the route--to pay the full cost of constructing those stations.

It would cost an estimated 35 billion yen to build an aboveground intermediate station.
The bill for the construction of an underground station would amount to a hefty 220 billion yen.

The local governments have demanded a reduction in their financial burdens, citing their own fiscal straits.

The maglev Shinkansen system is expected to provide a great economic boon, contributing to the economic and other development of areas along its route.

It is important for JR Tokai and the local governments to fully discuss every aspect the project and build cooperative relations.

It is also necessary to pay full consideration to the environmental impact of the project.

Areas along the proposed route are dotted with rich natural surroundings.

We hope every effort will be made to minimize the impact of construction work on the ecosystem, water sources and all other environmental assets.

The maglev train system is a remarkable feature of Japan's state-of-the-art technology.
The system's technological excellence is bound to boost the nation's infrastructure export drive.

It is essential to obtain support and trust from the public for the Chuo Shinkansen project if the maglev train--which many regard as "a superexpress of the 21st century"--is to benefit the whole nation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2011)
(2011年8月22日01時03分  読売新聞)


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