Kyushu Shinkansen – Wikipedia
High-speed railway line in Japan
The Kyushu Shinkansen (九州新幹線, Kyūshū Shinkansen) is a line of the Japanese Shinkansen high-speed rail network. It is an extension of the San’yō Shinkansen from Honshu, connecting the cities of Fukuoka (Hakata Station) in the North and Kagoshima (Kagoshima-Chuo Station) in the South of Japan’s Kyushu island. It runs parallel to the existing Kagoshima Main Line and is operated by the Kyushu Rail Company (JR Kyushu). With the upcoming western route connecting Fukuoka and Nagasaki (Nagasaki Station)
The southernmost 127 km (79 mi) section of the track was constructed first, opening on 13 March 2004. The dual-track offered a significant improvement in transit time over the equivalent single-track section of the Kagoshima Main Line, despite the need for passengers to change to a Relay Tsubame narrow gauge train at Shin-Yatsushiro for the remainder of the journey to Hakata Station. The northernmost 130 km (81 mi) section opened on 12 March 2011 (however, opening ceremonies were cancelled due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami), enabling through-services to Shin-Osaka (and with an interchange, to Tokyo).
The construction of the first section of the West Kyushu Shinkansen route to Nagasaki (from Takeo-Onsen to Isahaya), approximately 45.7 km (28.4 mi) in length, began in 2008, with construction of the 21 km (13 mi) section from Isahaya to Nagasaki commencing in 2012. The entire line is due to be opened by Fiscal 2022. Services were proposed to be provided by Gauge Change Train (GCT) trainsets, which are designed to operate on both existing narrow gauge lines and standard gauge Shinkansen lines; however, technical issues with the bogies resulted in the cancellation of the GCT.
On 28 October 2020 JR Kyushu announced it would utilize a 6-car version of the N700S series for the isolated section from Nagasaki, named West Kyushu Shinkansen, with a cross platform interchange to a relay service called ‘Relay Kamome’ at Takeo-Onsen station to connect to Hakata. JR Kyushu also announced it would continue to use the name ‘Kamome’ for the Hakata-Nagasaki service, which has been in use since 1961.
Construction of the Kagoshima Route (鹿児島ルート) began in 1991, and the first segment between Kagoshima and Shin-Yatsushiro opened on 13 March 2004. This initial section cut travel times between the two cities from 2 hours and 10 minutes to 35 minutes and reduced the time between Hakata and Kagoshima from 4 hours to 2 hours. When the entire line was completed, the travel time from Hakata to Kagoshima was further reduced to about an hour and 20 minutes. As of 2012, the maximum line speed is 260 km/h (160 mph) between Hakata and Kagoshima. Like all Shinkansen lines, the Kyushu Shinkansen is standard gauge.
The line’s Sakura and Mizuho services often operate through to Shin-Ōsaka Station via the San’yō Shinkansen. All-stop trains are named Tsubame (“Swallow”), the name of the former Hakata-Kagoshima limited express service, and are solely truncated to the Kyushu Shinkansen.
In September 2011, six months after the line’s completion, JR Kyushu reported a year-over-year increase in ridership of 64 percent to the southern part of Kyushu (between Kumamoto and Kagoshima), easily surpassing the 40 percent increase projected by the company. By the first anniversary, ridership had increased, mainly from tourists from Kansai and Chugoku. In northern Kyushu, where there is fierce competition with conventional JR rapid service, the private Nishi-Nippon Railroad, and expressway buses, Shinkansen ridership increased by only 38 percent (compared to the now-discontinued conventional express Relay Tsubame), falling short of estimates.
2016 Kumamoto earthquakes
On the evening of 14 April 2016, the entire length of the Kagoshima Route was shut down after the first of two powerful earthquakes struck Kumamoto prefecture. There was extensive damage along the route, including cracks in elevated support structures at 25 locations and collapsed sound insulation walls at around 80 locations.
An 800 Series train was deadheading derailed near Kumamoto Station after the first tremor. On 18 April, JR Kyushu began attempts to return the derailed train to the tracks.
On 27 April 2016, the line reopened with reduced speed and service frequency.
Nagasaki (West Kyushu) Route
The N700S Series “Kamome” Shinkansen pictured at the Nagasaki Station on May 2022 during its test run
A Shinkansen line from Fukuoka to Nagasaki, initially known as the Nagasaki Shinkansen (長崎新幹線), was laid out in the 1973 Basic Plan. Renamed as the Nagasaki Route (長崎ルート), then changed to the West Kyushu Route (西九州ルート, Nishi Kyūshū rūto) in 1995, the planning of the line had been slowed down by concerns over the necessity of duplicating the existing narrow-gauge Nagasaki Main Line and Sasebo Line between Shin-Tosu and Takeo-Onsen, and local opposition over the final section in Nagasaki city.
The initial plan involved utilizing the existing narrow gauge track from Shin-Tosu to Takeo-Onsen (as well as duplicating the 13.7 km (8.5 mi) Hizen Yamaguchi to Takeo-Onsen section) and building a new Shinkansen line from Takeo-Onsen to Nagasaki. It was proposed that Gauge Change Trains (GCT) be used, however technical issues resulted in the cancellation of the GCT, requiring the consideration of other options. The GCT was expected to allow travel times of around 1 hour 20 minutes between Hakata to Nagasaki, versus the 1 hour 50 minutes currently operated by the 885 series. If the entire route was constructed to Shinkansen standards, the travel time would be 51 minutes.
Saga Prefecture, through which the line was planned to pass with a stop at Saga Station, has refused to allow the construction of the full line to Shin-Tosu. The reasons stated by Saga’s prefectural governor are the lack of advantages gained by the prefecture compared to the price of building and maintaining the full Shinkansen line. Saga Prefecture estimates that their burden would be over 240 billion yen, much higher than that of Nagasaki Prefecture’s estimated burden of 100 billion yen. In addition, the travel time from Saga to Hakata would only be shortened by around 15 minutes. There is also the issue of the status of the conventional Nagasaki Main Line after the construction of the West Kyushu route. Saga Prefecture would prefer that JR Kyushu continue to operate the line as opposed to transferring them over to a third-sector company, as commonly practiced around the country after the construction of a Shinkansen line. Saga Prefecture and Nagasaki Prefecture are working with JR Kyushu on a business plan regarding the section between Hizen-Yamaguchi and Isahaya. As such, Saga Prefecture has proposed to the government that the full line be built either north near the Nagasaki Expressway, or south connecting to Chikugo-Funagoya Station via Saga Airport.
Construction of the first 45.7 km (28.4 mi) segment between Takeo-Onsen and Isahaya began on 28 April 2008. Debate over the final section between Isahaya and Nagasaki continued for several years, before construction was approved by the government in December 2011. The scheduled opening date is 23 September 2022. The current plan is to continue using the existing narrow gauge track with a cross platform interchange at Takeo-Onsen Station until the finalization of the remaining section to Shin-Tosu. In addition, the initial plan of duplicating 13.7 km (8.5 mi) of the section between Takeo-Onsen to Hizen-Yamaguchi has been reduced to 6.3 km (3.9 mi) between Ōmachi to Takahashi.
Other planned routes
According to the Shinkansen Basic Plan laid out in 1973, the Kagoshima and West Kyushu (Nagasaki) routes would be accompanied by two other routes: the East Kyushu Shinkansen, from Hakata to Kagoshima-Chūō via Ōita and Miyazaki, paralleling the Nippō Main Line; and the Trans-Kyushu Shinkansen, linking Kumamoto and Ōita, and connecting with the also-planned Shikoku Shinkansen to Matsuyama, Takamatsu and Osaka. These plans have been shelved indefinitely, and are unlikely to be reconsidered until the completion of Shinkansen lines already under construction.
Tsubame trains stop at all stations. For Mizuho and Sakura, all trains stop at stations marked “●”, while some trains stop at those marked “▲”. All trains stop at Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chūō.
|●||All trains stop|
|▲||Some trains stop|
|｜||All trains pass|
Services not leaving the Kyushu Shinkansen are operated by 6-car 800 Series trains, with a maximum speed of 260 kilometers per hour (160 mph). The trains were developed by Hitachi, and based on the 700 series trains already in service on the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen line.
8-car N700-7000 and N700-8000 series trains are used on through-running services between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chūō. The first set (S1) was delivered to Hakata Depot in October 2008.
Three services operate on the line, in order of speed: Mizuho, Sakura, and Tsubame. The Mizuho makes two return trips between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chūō during the morning hours, and two return trips during the evening, with an end-to-end journey time of 3 hours 45 minutes. Sakura services run once per hour throughout the day between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chūō making additional stops, with an end-to-end travel time of 4 hours 10 minutes. There are also one to two Sakura services every hour between Hakata and either Kumamoto or Kagoshima-Chūō. Tsubame trains operate the all-stations shuttle service between Hakata and Kumamoto 1–2 times per hour, with some services operating to/from Kagoshima-Chūō.Mizuho trains are not valid for foreign passengers traveling with a Japan Rail Pass.
West Kyushu route
Services will be operated by 6-car N700S series trains, at a maximum speed of 260 kilometres per hour (160 mph). Initially, there will only be one service type, named Kamome. All Kamome services will stop at every station.
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