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2014年10月 6日 (月)

新幹線50年 安全で正確な運行これからも

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Efforts must be made to extend life of safe, punctual Shinkansen lines
新幹線50年 安全で正確な運行これからも

Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the Tokaido Shinkansen line. When it was put into service, the bullet train was called “the superexpress train of our dreams.”

Shinkansen service at a speed of up to 210 kph reduced the time required for a train trip between Tokyo and Osaka to four hours, compared with the 6½ hours the same trip took on a limited express train.

The latest Shinkansen model, which runs at 270 kph, has shortened the time to less than 2½ hours. A train evolving through incessant efforts, the Shinkansen should be considered a good example to other nations seeking to build similar high-speed railway systems.

The Tokaido Shinkansen line served as the main artery connecting the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kansai region, a development essential for underpinning our country’s successful efforts to achieve high economic growth.

Later, the Shinkansen system was expanded to include the Sanyo, Tohoku and Joetsu routes, which tremendously widened the range of destinations for one-day trips. All this greatly contributed to improving the efficiency of doing business in this country while also promoting tourism in many parts of the nation.

A popular topic of conversation related to the Shinkansen was a TV commercial featuring a young couple who had a long-distance romantic relationship. The serialized “Cinderella Express” spot depicted the couple using the Shinkansen to meet over the weekend and say bittersweet goodbyes to each other on the platform before taking Sunday’s last Shinkansen to return home. The commercial seemed to show that the Shinkansen service had considerably affected the lifestyle of people in this country.

It deserves special mention that the Shinkansen network has maintained a high degree of safety over a half century. During that period, not one passenger has died due to such accidents as derailments or crashes on the high-speed network.

Nevertheless, in 1995 a schoolboy died after his fingers were caught in a closing Shinkansen door and he was dragged by the train. Derailments also took place in the 2004 Chuetsu Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Safety mustn’t be assumed

The Shinkansen network should never be considered perfectly safe, which could lead to dangerous complacency about the system’s safety. We hope consistent efforts will be made to further improve the safety of the Shinkansen network.

Another feature of the Shinkansen system is its precise operation control system. No parallel can be found among railway systems in other nations.

For instance, delays in Tokaido Shinkansen services average less than one minute, including those caused by bad weather. This precision makes it possible to run Shinkansen trains at high speeds. But it also guarantees an extremely congested schedule for Shinkansen operations, as indicated by the fact that such trains depart once every three minutes during peak hours.

It is said that many foreign visitors to Japan are amazed to see a Shinkansen train arrive at its last stop and its interior immediately cleaned during a period of less than 10 minutes for a new run.

Not only the capacity and safety of Shinkansen trains but their excellent operational control system is something Japan can boast to the rest of the world as one of the nation’s assets.

It is essential to properly pass on our nation’s accumulated Shinkansen technology and expertise to the next generation.

Projects have been prepared to build and improve high-speed railway systems in more than 10 locations around the world. The Shinkansen technology can become a centerpiece of our nation’s infrastructure export drive as a pillar of the growth strategy pursued by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The government and the private sector need to join hands to succeed in this endeavor.

The government and the ruling parties are studying the idea of opening three new Shinkansen routes that will cover Hokkaido and the Hokuriku and Kyushu regions, respectively, earlier than initially planned. If the idea is translated into action, it would increase the amount of construction costs by a sizable ¥540 billion.

We believe priority should be placed on projects to repair and refurbish obsolete railway tracks and bridges instead of hastening to complete the new routes, thereby making it possible to safely extend the life of the existing Shinkansen lines.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2014)Speech


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