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[Japan]The shinkansen reaches Hokkaido
The shinkansen reaches Hokkaido
From: The Japan Times
Date: 23/03/16

The opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen service this Saturday will mark a symbolic moment for development of the super-express railway network across Japan. The new 149 km section between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto stations — roughly one third of it going through the undersea Seikan Tunnel — for the first time links the nation’s northernmost prefecture with the shinkansen service that stretches through Honshu all the way down to Kagoshima on the southern end of Kyushu — 52 years after the bullet train service was launched between Tokyo and Osaka.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the latest extension of the shinkansen network will bring economic and other benefits worth the investments. Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido), the operator of the new section, expects to incur about ¥5 billion in annual losses in the first three years of its first shinkansen service, due chiefly to the huge maintenance cost of the aging Seikan Tunnel. It will take 15 more years for the service to be extended to Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo, possibly spreading its economic impact throughout the prefecture. The new service takes passengers from Tokyo to the port city on the southern tip of Hokkaido in four hours and two minutes at its fastest — 53 minutes faster than under the current timetable but how it will compete with air travel is unclear.

Railway services between Hokkaido and Aomori used to be linked by ferries across the Tsugaru Strait that carried the trains as well. A 1954 disaster in which five ships sank and capsized in a heavy storm, killing 1,430 people aboard, built momentum for the construction of an undersea tunnel — which was begun in 1964 and completed in 1987, paving way for the launch of train services through the tunnel the following year. But the plan to build a shinkansen line to Hokkaido, originally approved by the government in 1973, was put on hold by the time the 54 km tunnel was built at a massive cost of ¥750 billion. It was in 2005 that the final nod was given to construction of the section that opens this weekend, five years after the shinkansen service was extended to Shin-Aomori.

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Japan's luxury bullet trains take on airlines with sake and dinner
From: Straits Times
Date: 25/03/16

TOKYO (Bloomberg) - Dinner with sake, an airport-like lounge and roomier seats.

That's the offer on bullet trains as the Shinkansen rolls into Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, home to some of the country's best ski resorts, for the first time.

Starting Saturday, Hokkaido Railway Co. will whisk Tokyo passengers to Hakodate in first class for 38,280 yen (S$464) in just over four hours. The journey will take only about an hour longer than flying business class on All Nippon Airways Co., which costs 44,900 yen, after including check-in and transfers.

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Hokkaido Shinkansen Line opens, cutting Tokyo-Hakodate travel time by 53 minutes
From: The Japan Times
Date: 26/03/16

SAPPORO – The first shinkansen bullet train line directly linking Hokkaido with Honshu officially opened Saturday, promising faster travel times between cities on the two islands and introducing slick new cars.

The Hayate 91 was the first scheduled train to run on a section of the new Hokkaido Shinkansen Line, leaving Shin-Aomori Station in Aomori Prefecture for Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto terminal in Hokkaido at 6:32 a.m.

It was followed by the Hayabusa 10, which left from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto at 6:35 a.m., traveling in the opposite direction, where it arrived at Tokyo Station shortly after 11 a.m.

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