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2012年7月 8日 (日)

整備新幹線 3区間の着工をなぜ急ぐのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 8, 2012)
Repair old roads and bridges instead of extending Shinkansen lines
整備新幹線 3区間の着工をなぜ急ぐのか(7月7日付・読売社説)

Expanding the nation's Shinkansen network is hardly a high-priority public works project, considering its high need for financial resources and its modest prospects of profitability. Giving it the green light was apparently a hasty decision. We question it.
 建設財源や事業の採算性を考慮すれば、優先度の高い公共事業とは思えない。あまりにも拙速で疑問が残る決定だ。

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Yuichiro Hata has approved the construction of three stretches of bullet train lines, projects that had been virtually frozen by the Democratic Party of Japan since it took the reins of government in 2009.
 政権交代で事実上、凍結されていた整備新幹線の未着工区間について、国土交通相が建設を認可した。

The stretches will link Sapporo with Shin-Hakodate on the Hokkaido Line, Kanazawa with Tsuruga on the Hokuriku Line and Isahaya with Nagasaki on the Kyushu Line. The stretches are parts of construction projects for which planning dates back to 1973.
北海道・新函館―札幌、北陸・金沢―敦賀、九州・諫早―長崎の3区間である。

Late last year, the government and the DPJ suddenly changed their minds and decided to launch the construction of the three stretches. Hata decided to approve the construction after receiving a go-ahead from a transport ministry panel that assessed the cost-effectiveness of the construction projects.
 政府・与党が昨年末に一転、着工方針を決め、投資効果を審査した国交省の審議会がゴーサインを出したことを受けたものだ。

Local governments and businesspeople around the three stretches hope the bullet trains will be a catalyst to rejuvenate local communities and their economies. However, it is not certain whether the construction would really lead to a rosy future.
 沿線の自治体や経済界は、新幹線を地域活性化の起爆剤と期待している。だが、必ずしもバラ色の展望が開けるとは言い難い。

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Cost-effectiveness questioned

About 70 percent of the projects' expenses, which are estimated to be about 3 trillion yen, will be shouldered by the central and local governments.
 3兆円にのぼる事業費の7割程度は、国と自治体が負担する。

The transport ministry has decided to extend the construction period of the three stretches to minimize annual expenses. "We had to consider maintaining fiscal discipline, so we decided to take time in constructing the three sections," Hata said.
 国交省は1年当たりの事業費を抑えるために通常より工期を延ばす。羽田国交相は「時間をかけて整備することで、財政規律に配慮した」と説明した。

As a result, the opening of the three sections will be delayed significantly. It will take 10 years for the Kyushu Line section to open, 14 years for the Hokuriku Line section and 24 years for the Hokkaido Line section.
 その結果、開業は九州10年後、北陸14年後、北海道に至っては24年後と大幅にずれ込む。

By a back-of-the-envelope calculation, that means the central and local governments will have to pay about 100 billion yen annually for more than two decades of construction.
 単純計算でも、国と地方は20年以上にわたり年1000億円の巨費を投じ続けることになる。

If the construction periods are prolonged, there is no guarantee that the expenses will stay within the budget. Recall the bitter experience of construction expenses for the Nagano Line's section connecting Takasaki and Nagano ballooning to about 140 percent of the initial budget.
 工期が長引けば、建設費が予定通りに収まる保証はない。かつて長野新幹線・高崎―長野間の費用が当初計画の1・4倍に膨らんだことは苦い教訓だ。

For local governments, deciding what to do with railway lines that run parallel to Shinkansen lines will also be difficult. The operation of such railway lines will be entrusted to entities such as "third sector" companies--business ventures jointly financed by the public and private sectors. However, it will be difficult for such companies to make a profit, so it is likely they will have to raise fares in the future.
 地元にとっては、新幹線と並行して走る在来線の扱いも難しい。第3セクターなどに運営が委託されるが、採算確保は厳しく、運賃の値上げは避けられまい。

In the first place, the government's outlook on the three sections' balance of payments after the opening is overly optimistic. The government has estimated that the number of people who travel on the three sections will increase as travel time decreases due to the introduction of bullet trains. However, the overall benefit of the projects is expected to outweigh expenses only slightly.
 そもそも開業後の収支見通しが甘過ぎるのではないか。所要時間短縮で利用者が増えると試算したが、全体の投資効果は事業費をわずかに上回るに過ぎない。

Budget airlines have begun entering the nation's aviation market recently, connecting the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kansai region with Sapporo, Fukuoka and other local cities at extremely low prices. The government did not take into account the impact of such budget carriers on the new Shinkansen sections, and the likely intensification of competition in the near future.
 参入が相次ぐ格安航空会社は首都圏、関西圏と札幌、福岡などを超低価格で結ぶ。この影響や競争激化も考慮していない。

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Repairing roads more urgent

The DPJ-led government has continuously made pledges to cut budgets for public works projects, but failed to set a clear standard on how to sort out necessary projects and to differentiate the money allotted to each project. This is the underlying problem of this issue.
 民主党政権は公共事業予算の削減を掲げるばかりで、事業の「選択と集中」について明確な方針がない。それが問題だ。

The most important thing for the government to do is efficiently allocate the limited budget to necessary projects. It is totally opposite to this principle to accelerate the construction of Shinkansen lines, which involves lavish public spending on certain local cities and villages.
 最も重要なのは、限られた予算を必要な事業に効率的に投入することだろう。地方へのバラマキ色が強い新幹線の着工を急ぐことは本末転倒である。

A more urgent task facing the central government is rather to maintain, repair and upgrade roads and other infrastructure built during the period of high economic growth. Such costs are estimated to be about 190 trillion yen over the next 50 years. If the government lets old bridges and roads decay without taking necessary measures, they could break down in the future and disrupt the daily lives of the people.
 むしろ、高度成長期に造られ、老朽化したインフラの維持・更新が緊急の課題だ。50年間で190兆円の費用が必要とされる。放置すれば、古い橋や道路が壊れ、日常の生活にも支障が出よう。

This is exactly why the government should have the courage not to start new projects that are neither necessary nor urgent.
 だからこそ、不要不急の新規事業は切り込まねばならない。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 7, 2012)
(2012年7月7日01時23分  読売新聞)

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