The Shinkansen (新幹線 "New Main Line" ) also known as "the bullet train" is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group companies. Starting with the 210 km/h (130 mph) Tōkaidō Shinkansen in 1964, the now 2,459 km (1,528 mi) long network has expanded to link most major cities on the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets in 2003.
Shinkansen literally means "New Trunk Line", referring to the tracks, but the name is widely used inside and outside Japan to refer to the trains as well as the system as a whole. The name "Superexpress" (超特急 chō-tokkyū ), initially used for Hikari trains, was retired in 1972 but is still used in English-language announcements and signage.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world's busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 151 million passengers a year (March 2008), it has transported more passengers (over 6 billion) than any other high speed line in the world. Between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, up to ten trains per hour with 16 cars each (1,300 seats capacity) run in each direction with a minimum of 3 minutes between trains. Though largely a long-distance transport system, the Shinkansen also serves commuters who travel to work in metropolitan areas from outlying cities.
To enable high-speed operation, Shinkansen uses advanced technologies compared with conventional rail, and it achieved not only high speed but also a high standard of safety and comfort. Its success has influenced other railways in the world and the importance and advantage of high-speed rail has been revalued consequently.
The Shinkansen is very reliable, and in 2003, JR Central reported that the Shinkansen's average arrival time was within six seconds of the scheduled time. This includes all natural and human accidents and errors and is calculated over roughly 160,000 Shinkansen trips completed. The previous record, from 1997, was 18 seconds.
Japan was the first country to build dedicated railway lines for high speed travel. Because of the mountainous terrain, the existing network consisted of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge lines, which generally took indirect routes and could not be adapted to higher speeds. Consequently, Japan had a greater need for new high speed lines than countries where the existing standard gauge or broad gauge rail system had more upgrade potential.
The popular English name bullet train is a literal translation of the Japanese term dangan ressha (弾丸列車), a nickname given to the project while it was initially being discussed in the 1930s. The name stuck because of the Shinkansen locomotive's resemblance to a bullet and its high speed.
The "Shinkansen" name was first formally used in 1940 for a proposed standard gauge passenger and freight line between Tokyo and Shimonoseki that would have used steam and electric locomotives with a top speed of 200 km/h (120 mph). Over the next three years, the Ministry of Railways drew up more ambitious plans to extend the line to Beijing (through a tunnel to Korea) and even Singapore, and build connections to the Trans-Siberian Railway and other trunk lines in Asia. These plans were abandoned in 1943 as Japan's position in World War II worsened. However, some construction did commence on the line; several tunnels on the present-day Shinkansen date to the war-era project.
Following the end of World War II, high speed rail was forgotten for several years while traffic of passengers and freight steadily increased on the conventional Tōkaidō Main Line along with the reconstruction of Japanese industry and economy. By the mid-1950s the Tōkaidō Line was operating at full capacity, and the Ministry of Railways decided to revisit the Shinkansen project. In 1957, Odakyu Electric Railway introduced its Romancecar 3000 SE service, setting a world speed record of 145 km/h (90 mph) for a narrow gauge train. This train gave designers the confidence that they could safely build an even faster standard gauge train. Thus the first Shinkansen, the 0 Series, was built on the success of the Romancecar.
In 1950s, it was widely believed that railways would soon be outdated and replaced by air travel and highways in America and many countries in Europe. However, Sogō Shinji, President of Japan National Railways, insisted strongly on the possibility of high-speed rail, and the Shinkansen project was implemented.
Government approval came in December 1958, and construction of the first segment of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka started in April 1959. Some of the construction was financed by an US$80 million loan from the World Bank. A test facility for rolling stock, now part of the line, opened in Odawara in 1962.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen began service on 1 October 1964, in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The conventional Limited Express service took six hours and 40 minutes from Tokyo to Osaka, but the Shinkansen made the trip in just four hours, shortened to three hours and ten minutes by 1965. It enabled day trips between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, changed the style of business and life of Japanese people significantly, and increased new traffic demand. The service was an immediate success, reaching the 100 million passenger mark in less than three years on 13 July 1967, and one billion passengers in 1976. Sixteen-car trains were introduced for Expo '70 in Osaka. With an average of 23,000 passengers per hour per direction in 1992, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world's busiest high-speed rail line.
The first Shinkansen trains, the 0 series, ran at speeds of up to 210 km/h (130 mph), later increased to 220 km/h (137 mph). The last of these trains, with their classic bullet-nosed appearance, were retired on 30 November 2008. A driving car from one of the 0 series trains is now in the British National Railway Museum in York, England.
Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was an ardent supporter of the Shinkansen, and his government proposed an extensive network paralleling most existing trunk lines. Two new lines, the Tōhoku Shinkansen and Jōetsu Shinkansen, were built following this plan. Many other planned lines were delayed or scrapped entirely as Japan National Railways slid into debt throughout the late '70s, largely because of the high cost of building the Shinkansen network. By the early 1980s, the company was practically insolvent, leading to its privatization in 1987.
Development of the Shinkansen continued despite this setback, however. Several new train models followed the first, each generally with its own distinctive appearance. Shinkansen trains now run regularly at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph), placing them alongside the French TGV, Italian TAV, Spanish AVE, and German ICE among the fastest trains in the world.
Since 1970, development has also been underway for the Chūō Shinkansen, a planned maglev line from Tokyo to Osaka. On 2 December 2003, the 3-car maglev trainset JR-Maglev MLX01 reached a world speed record of 581 km/h (361 mph).
Japan celebrated 40 years of high speed rail in 2004, with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line alone having carried 4.16 billion passengers. According to Japanrail.com, the website for companies that operate Shinkansen, the network has carried over 6 billion passengers.
During the Shinkansen's 45-year, nearly 7 billion-passenger history, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions, despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons. Injuries and a single fatality have been caused by doors closing on passengers or their belongings; attendants are employed at platforms to prevent such mishaps. There have, however, been suicides by passengers jumping both from and in front of moving trains.
The only derailment of a Shinkansen train in passenger service occurred during the Chūetsu Earthquake on 23 October 2004. Eight of ten cars of the Toki No. 325 train on the Jōetsu Shinkansen derailed near Nagaoka Station in Nagaoka, Niigata. There were no casualties among the 154 passengers. In the event of an earthquake, an earthquake detection system can bring the train to a stop very quickly. Experimental Fastech 360 trains have ear-like air resistance braking flaps to assist emergency stops at high speeds. A new anti-derailment device was installed after detailed analysis of the derailment.
The Shinkansen has had a great effect on Japan's business, economy, society, environment and culture. The time savings alone from switching from a conventional to a high-speed network have been estimated at 400 million hours, an economic impact of ¥ 500 billion per year. Shinkansen connectivity has regenerated rural towns such as Kakegawa that would otherwise be too distant from major cities. Travelling Tokyo-Osaka by Shinkansen produces only around 16% of the carbon dioxide of the equivalent journey by car, a savings of 15,000 tons of CO2 per year.
However, the vast construction costs of the Shinkansen network, particularly the later, less profitable lines often driven more by political interference than actual demand, imposed vast debt servicing costs on JNR that, by 1971, made JNR unprofitable even before depreciation. JNR's Shinkansen-fueled debt eventually ballooned to ¥28 trillion and was an instrumental factor in the company's eventual privatization and breakup. The privatized JRs eventually paid a total of only ¥9.2 trillion to acquire JNR's Shinkansen network.
Noise pollution concerns mean that increasing speed is becoming more difficult. In Japan, the population density is high and there have been severe protests against noise pollution of Shinkansen, and now the Shinkansen noise is regulated less than 70 dB in residential area. Hence, improvement and reduction of pantograph, weight saving of cars, and construction of noise barrier and other measures have been implemented. Current research is primarily aimed at reducing operational noise, particularly the "tunnel boom" phenomenon caused when trains exit tunnels at high speed.
Because of the risk of earthquakes, Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System (UrEDAS) (earthquake warning system) was introduced in 1992. It enables automatic braking of bullet trains in the case of large earthquakes.
Tōkaidō Shinkansen frequently encounters snow around Sekigahara, Gifu and Maibara Station in winter. Trains have to reduce speed during that time, and cars initially got disordered frequently. Later, sprinkler systems were equipped and the situation has become better, but delays of 10 to 20 minutes still occur during snowy weather. Along the route of the Jōetsu Shinkansen, winter snows can be very heavy, with snow depths of two to three metres, so the line is equipped with stronger sprinklers and slab track, to mitigate the effects of deep snow.
JR East has announced that the E5 Series of trains, capable of up to 320 km/h (199 mph), is to be introduced coinciding with the opening of the Tōhoku Shinkansen extension from Hachinohe to Shin-Aomori in early 2011. Extensive trials using the Fastech 360 test trains has shown that operation at 360 km/h (224 mph) is not currently feasible because of problems of noise pollution, overhead wire wear, and braking distances. This may indicate the limits to railed Shinkansen technology, and eventually maglev or another technology will need to replace it. Operation at speeds of up to 320 km/h between Utsunomiya and Shin-Aomori is expected to allow journey times of around 3 hours for trains from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori (a distance of approximately 675 km (419 mi)).
The Kyūshū Shinkansen from Kagoshima to Yatsushiro opened in March 2004. Four more extensions are currently under construction: Hakata-Yatsushiro and Hachinohe-Aomori are planned to open by 2010, Nagano-Kanazawa by 2014, and Aomori-Hakodate (through the Seikan Tunnel) by 2015. There are also long-term plans to extend the network, including a new Hokkaidō Shinkansen from Hakodate to Sapporo, a branch of the Kyūshū Shinkansen to Nagasaki, and a link from Kanazawa back to Osaka, although none of these are likely to be completed by 2020.
The Narita Shinkansen project to connect Tokyo to Narita International Airport, initiated in the 1970s but halted in 1983 after landowner protests, has been officially cancelled and removed from the Basic Plan governing Shinkansen construction. Parts of its planned right-of-way will be utilized by the Narita Sky Access Line when it opens in 2010. Although the Sky Access Line will use standard-gauge track, it will not be built to Shinkansen specifications and there are no plans to convert it into a full Shinkansen line.
The CEO of JR Central announced plans to have the maglev Chūō Shinkansen operating from Tokyo to Nagoya (366 km/227 mi) by 2025. Following the shortest route (through the Japanese Alps), JR Central estimates that it will take 40 minutes to run from Tokyo to Nagoya. However, Nagano Prefecture prefers a routing that swings north to serve the city of Chino and either Ina or Kiso-Fukushima. However, this will increase both the travel time (from Tokyo to Nagoya) and the cost of construction. Maglev trains have been doing test runs on the Yamanashi test tracks since 1997, running at speeds of over 500 km/h. Because of this extensive testing, maglev technology is almost ready for public usage.
Experiments are taking place with a Gauge Change Train to enable direct operation between standard-gauge Shinkansen and narrow-gauge conventional lines; this could be useful for the Kyūshū Shinkansen branch to Nagasaki and other conventional lines. Future implementation awaits practical operational tests.
The main Shinkansen lines are:
|Tōkaidō Shinkansen||Tokyo||Shin-Osaka||515.4 km||JR Central||1964||151,320,000|
|Sanyō Shinkansen||Shin-Osaka||Hakata||553.7 km||JR West||1972||63,432,000|
|Tōhoku Shinkansen||Tokyo||Hachinohe||593.1 km||JR East||1982||84,833,000|
|Jōetsu Shinkansen||Ōmiya||Niigata||269.5 km||1982||38,294,000|
|Nagano Shinkansen (Hokuriku Shinkansen)||Takasaki||Nagano||117.4 km||1997||10,135,000|
|Kyūshū Shinkansen Kagoshima Route||Shin-Yatsushiro||Kagoshima-Chūō||126.8 km||JR Kyūshū||2004||4,184,000|
Two further lines, known as "Mini-shinkansen", have also been constructed by upgrading existing sections of line:
There are two standard-gauge lines not technically classified as Shinkansen lines but with Shinkansen services:
Many Shinkansen lines were proposed during the boom of the early 1970s but have yet to be constructed. These are called Seibi Shinkansen (整備新幹線) or "planned Shinkansen". One of these lines, the Narita Shinkansen to Narita Airport, has been officially cancelled, but a few remain under development.
The following lines were also proposed in the 1973 plan, but have subsequently been shelved indefinitely.
In addition, the Basic Plan specified that the Jōetsu Shinkansen should start from Shinjuku, not Tokyo Station, which would require building an additional 30 km of track between Shinjuku and Ōmiya. While no construction work was ever started, land along the proposed track, including an underground section leading to Shinjuku Station, remains reserved. If capacity on the current Tokyo - Ōmiya section proves insufficient once the Hokkaidō and Hokuriku Shinkansen are operational, construction of the Shinjuku - Ōmiya link may be restarted.
In December of 2009, transport minister Seiji Maehara proposed a bullet train link to Haneda Airport, using an existing spur that connects the Tōkaidō Shinkansen to a train depot. JR Central called the plan "unrealistic" due to tight train schedules on the existing line, but reports said that Maehara wished to continue discussions on the idea.
Railways using Shinkansen technology are not limited to those in Japan.
The China Railways CRH2 EMU, built by CSR Sifang Loco & Rolling stocks corporation, with the license purchased from a consortium formed of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Hitachi, is based on the E2-1000 Series design.
Japan is currently promoting its Shinkansen technology to the Government of Brazil for use on the planned high speed rail link system set to link Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Campinas. On 14 November 2008, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva talked about this rail project. President Lula asked a consortium of Japanese companies to participate in the bidding process. Prime Minister Aso concurred on the bilateral cooperation to improve rail infrastructure in Brazil, including the Rio-São Paulo-Campinas high-speed rail line. The Japanese consortium includes the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Mitsui & Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Toshiba.
Vietnam Railways will use Shinkansen technology for a high-speed rail link between the capital Hanoi and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, citing an interview with Chief Executive Officer Nguyen Huu Bang. The Vietnamese government had already given basic approval for the Shinkansen system, although it still required financing and formal consent from the prime minister. Funding for the 56-billion-dollar project remained riddled with uncertainties, the report said, with Hanoi seeking Japanese Official Development Assistance and funds from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The 1,560-kilometre (970 mile) line would replace the current colonial-era rail line. Vietnam hopes to launch the high-speed trains by 2020 and plans to start by building three sections, including a 90-kilometre stretch between the central coastal cities of Da Nang and Hue, seen as potentially most profitable. Vietnam Railways began dispatching engineers to Central Japan Railway Company for technical training.
Trains can be up to sixteen cars long. With each car measuring 25 m (82 ft) in length, the longest trains are 400 m (1/4 mile) end to end. Stations are similarly long to accommodate these trains. Some of Japan's high-speed maglev trains are considered Shinkansen, while other slower maglev trains (such as Linimo maglev train line serving local community near the city of Nagoya in Aichi, Japan) are intended as alternatives to conventional urban Rapid transit systems.
Originally intended to carry passenger and freight trains by day and night, the Shinkansen lines carry only passenger trains. The system shuts down between midnight and 06:00 every day for maintenance. The few overnight trains that still run in Japan run on the older narrow gauge network that the Shinkansen parallels.
|200 (124.3)||Class 1000 Shinkansen||Kamonomiya test track in Odawara, now part of Tōkaidō Shinkansen||31 October 1962|
|256 (159.1)||Class 1000 Shinkansen||Kamonomiya test track||30 March 1963||Former world speed record for EMU trains.|
|286 (177.7)||Class 951 Shinkansen||Sanyō Shinkansen||24 February 1972||Former world speed record for EMU trains.|
|319.0 (198.2)||Class 961 Shinkansen||Oyama test track, now part of Tōhoku Shinkansen||7 December 1979||Former world speed record for EMU trains.|
|325.7 (202.4)||300 series test train||Tōkaidō Shinkansen||28 February 1991|
|352.0 (218.7)||Class 952/953 (STAR21) test train||Jōetsu Shinkansen||30 October 1992|
|425.0 (264.1)||Class 952/953 (STAR21) test train||Jōetsu Shinkansen||21 December 1993|
|426.6 (265.1)||Class 955 (300X) test train||Tōkaidō Shinkansen||11 July 1996|
|443.0 (275.3)||Class 955 (300X) test train||Tōkaidō Shinkansen||26 July 1996|
Compared with air transport, the Shinkansen has several advantages, including scheduling frequency and flexibility, punctual operation, comfortable seats, and convenient city-center terminals.
The Shinkansen system and airlines often compete with each other for the business of city-to-city domestic travelers. If the Shinkansen connects two cities in less than three hours, most passengers choose the Shinkansen, but if it takes more than four hours by Shinkansen, the majority choose air. Some examples are as follows.
[[File:|right|210px|thumb|Shinkansen 700 Series at Tokyo Station]]
The Shinkansen are run by the many companies of Japan Railway. In the past, Japan Railway was called Japanese National Railways It is now one group of private companies.
The name "Bullet Train" is a Western translation of the Japanese word dangan ressha (弾丸列車), which was the name given to the project while it was being made in the 1940s. Nowadays, the trains are called Shinkansen trains. The name Shinkansen means "New Trunk Line". The trains are called "Super Expresses".
Japan was the first country to build railway lines for high speed travel. Because Japan has many mountains, the network that already existed was made of 3'6" gauge (1067 mm) narrow gauge lines, which tended to take non-direct routes and could not be adapted to higher speeds. Because of this, Japan had a greater need for new high speed lines than countries where the existing standard gauge or broad gauge rail system could be upgraded easily. Unlike the older lines, Shinkansen lines are standard gauge, and use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles, rather than around them.
Construction of the first section of the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka started in 1959. The line opened on October 1, 1964, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The line was an immediate success, reaching the 100 million passenger mark in less than three years on July 13, 1967 and one billion passengers in 1976.
The first Shinkansen trains ran at speeds of up to 200 km/h (125 mph), later increased to 220 km/h (135 mph). Some of these trains, with their classic bullet-nosed appearance, are still in use for stopping services between Hakata and Osaka. A driving car from one of the original trains is now in the British National Railway Museum in York.
Many more advanced models of train followed the first type, generally each with its own distinctive appearance. Shinkansen trains now run regularly at speeds of up to 300 km/h (185 mph), putting them among the fastest trains running in the world, along with the French TGV and German ICE trains.
Originally meant to carry passenger and freight trains by day and night, the Shinkansen lines carry only passenger trains. The system shuts down between midnight and 6:00 every day to allow maintenance to take place, including the running of Doctor Yellow test trains. The few overnight trains that still run in Japan run on the old narrow gauge network which the Shinkansen runs parallel to.
In 2003, JR Tokai reported that the Shinkansen's average arrival time was within 6 seconds of the scheduled time. This includes all natural and human accidents and errors and is calculated from about 160,000 trips Shinkansen made. The previous record was from 1997 and was 18 seconds.
The first derailment of a Shinkansen train in passenger service occurred during the Chuetsu Earthquake on October 23, 2004. 6 of the total of 8 cars of the train on the Joetsu Shinkansen derailed near Nagaoka Station in Nagaoka, Niigata.
In recent years, due to noise pollution, increasing speed is getting harder. Thus, the current research is aimed to reduce the amount of noise, mainly when trains exit a tunnel.
The Kyushu Shinkansen from Kagoshima to Yatsushiro opened in March 2004. Three more extensions are planned for opening by 2013: Hakata-Yatsushiro, Nagano-Kanazawa, and Hachinohe-Aomori. There are also long-term plans to extend the network to Sapporo (through the Seikan Tunnel) and Nagasaki, as well as complete a link from Kanazawa back to Osaka, although none of these are likely to be completed by 2020.
The Shinkansen goes up to 300km/h.
Two further lines, known as Mini-Shinkansen (ミニ新幹線), have also been constructed by upgrading existing sections of line:
Another standard gauge line using Shinkansen trains is not considered to be a Shinkansen line:
The following lines are under development:
Most Shinkansen lines that were proposed during the boom of the early 1970s have been postponed indefinitely. These include a link to Shikoku by the Honshu-Shikoku bridge system, a link from Tokyo to New Tokyo International Airport, and a route covering the entire Sea of Japan coast of Honshu.
|Error creating thumbnail: sh: convert: command not found|