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EDITORIAL | Maximize the Hokuriku Shinkansen for Noto Earthquake Recovery

Ensure that the economic effect of the new Hokuriku Shinkansen service, estimated at ¥60 billion JPY, also boosts recovery efforts for the Noto Peninsula.



Local idols and tourism officials welcome passengers arriving on the Hokuriku Shinkansen on the morning of March 16 in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. (© Sankei by Kan Emori)

Trains have started running on the extended section of the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Kanazawa to Tsuruga. Tokyo and Fukui Prefecture are finally connected, more than half a century after the plan for the rail link was approved. Moreover, the three prefectures in the Hokuriku region are now linked by the Shinkansen

The economic effect of the opening of the new Shinkansen service is estimated at ¥60 billion JPY ($396 million USD). Hopefully, it will provide a sorely needed economic boost for the recovery efforts from the New Year's Day Noto Peninsula earthquake

This is a time when the national government, as well as local governments and the private sector, need to demonstrate ingenuity. 

Crowds gather at Tsuruga Station to catch a glimpse of the Hokuriku Shinkansen's Kagayaki 501 train on March 16. (©Sankei by Kan Emori)

Improving Connections for Business, Tourism

The minimum amount of time it takes to travel by rail from Tokyo to Fukui has been reduced by 33 minutes to 2 hours and 51 minutes. Meanwhile, a passenger can now travel from the nation's capital to Tsuruga in 3 hours, 8 minutes. At 3 hours travel time each way, day trips now become feasible. We can expect to see an increase in the number of people coming and going for business, tourism, or other purposes. 

On the same day that the new rail section opened, the government's Hokuriku discount support campaign for tourism promotion in disaster-stricken areas also took effect. Some people have pointed out that this will likely increase the burden on disaster-hit areas. 

However, if the program is applied with the original purpose of supporting disaster-stricken areas in mind, it should create synergy with the opening of the Shinkansen extension. Efforts should also be made to ensure that this is not just a temporary boom.

Tsuruga Station ticket gate was temporarily crowded with passengers getting off the Hokuriku Shinkansen on the morning of March 16. (© Sankei by Kan Emori)

Shorter Time but Higher Cost

Meanwhile, the limited express trains that ran between Kanazawa and Osaka or Nagoya now stop at Tsuruga. This means that passengers will have to transfer there to the Hokuriku Shinkansen. 

The travel time for a trip between Osaka and Kanagawa has been reduced by 22 minutes. This means the fastest a passenger can now get from Osaka to Kanazawa by rail is just 2 hours and 9 minutes. However, the fare has risen by ¥1,620 ($10.70). 

According to the timetable, the shortest transfer time is 8 minutes. Nevertheless, a dry run conducted by JR West this January showed that it took 12 minutes for the roughly 900 passengers transferring there to finish filling a Shinkansen train. There is definitely room for improvement from the passenger's point of view. 

The Hokuriku Shinkansen elevated track ends at Tsuruga Station without concrete plans to extend the line to Osaka. March 8, Fukui Prefecture (© Kyodo)

Tough Conditions for Remaining Local Line

As a result of the Shinkansen extension, the operation of roughly 130 kilometers of conventional Hokuriku Line running parallel to it has been transferred. JR West had been operating the line. However, it will now be managed by a "third-sector" quasi-public corporation active in Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures. 

Operating conditions are expected to be brutal as the population of the region continues to decrease. Hopefully, ways to maintain local traffic will be thought of. 

The plan for the Hokuriku Shinkansen was adopted in 1973. Subsequently, the Tokyo-Nagano section was completed in 1997. That was just ahead of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics

The line was extended to Kanazawa in 2015. Eventually, the government envisions extending the Hokuriku Shinkansen through Kyoto to Shin Osaka Station by 2046. However, construction has not yet begun due to delays in environmental impact assessments. 

Hokuriku traditionally has had such close ties with Kansai that it is frequently referred to as "Kansai's oku zashiki  (backroom)." Once the direct link to the Kansai district is in place, the Hokuriku Shinkansen will be complete. We should start thinking flexibly about reconsidering costs and routes. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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