in Japan- Introduction
the heart of Japan's railway system is the Japan Railways
Group, a government-subsidized group of eight companies that
took over most of the assets, operations, and liabilities of
the government-owned Japanese National Railways in 1987.
Initially, the companies remained in the public domain, but
privatization began for some of the companies in the early
1990s. There were six passenger companies: the East Japan,
West Japan, and Central Japan railroad companies, which
operated in Honshu, and the Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido
railroad companies, which operated on the islands for which
the companies were named. In addition, the East Japan Railway
Company, since the opening of the Seikan Tunnel between Honshu
and Hokkaido in 1988, also provided express service to
Sapporo. Similarly, the Central Japan Railway Company started
serving Shikoku after the 1990 completion of the Seto-Ohashi
bridges, a system of seven bridges linking Honshu and Shikoku.
The six companies had 18,800 kilometers of routes (mostly
1.1-meter track) in use in the late 1980s. About 25 percent of
the routes were in double-track and multitrack sections, and
the rest were single-track. In 1988 about 51 percent of the
six companies' 1,000 locomotives were diesel, and the rest
were electric. Another company, Japan Freight Railway Company,
owned its locomotives (295 diesel and 569 electric locomotives
in 1988), rolling stock, and stations but hired track from the
six passenger companies. It ran fewer trains on less track
than Japanese National Railways freight service did before its
demise but at increased revenues and higher productivity. The
eighth company, the Shinkansen Property Corporation, leased
Shinkansen ("bullet" train) railroad
facilities--including 2,100 kilometers of 1.4-meter gauge
highspeed track--to the passenger companies on Honshu. Some of
the Shinkansen electric-powered trains operated at speeds up
to 240 kilometers per hour.
nearly 3,400 kilometers of routes, mostly 1.1-meter gauge,
were operated by major private railroads and by what are known
in Japan as third-sector railroads--new companies, financed
with private and local government funds--which absorbed some
of Japanese National Railways' rural lines. There were
twenty-seven private and third-sector companies in 1989.
remained of the debt-ridden Japanese National Railways after
its 1987 breakup was named the Japanese National Railways
Settlement Corporation. Its purpose was to dispose of assets
not absorbed by the successor companies and to execute other
activities relating to the breakup, such as reemployment of
former personnel. The demise of the government-owned system
came after charges of serious management inefficiencies,
profit losses, and fraud. By the early 1980s, passenger and
freight business had declined, and fare increases failed to
keep up with higher labor costs. The new companies introduced
competition, cut their staffing, and made reform efforts.
Initial public reaction to these moves was good: the combined
passenger travel on the Japan Railways Group passenger
companies in 1987 was 204.7 billion passenger-kilometers, up
3.2 percent from 1986, while the passenger sector previously
had been stagnant since 1975. The growth in passenger
transport of private railroads in 1987 was 2.6 percent, which
meant that the Japan Railways Group's rate of increase was
above that of the private sector railroads for the first time
since 1974. Demand for rail transport was improved, although
it still accounted for only 28 percent of passenger
and only 5 percent of cargo transportation in 1990. Rail passenger
transportation was superior to automobiles in terms of energy efficiency and
of speed in longdistance transportation.
addition to its extensive railroads, Japan has an impressive number of
subway systems. The largest is in Tokyo, where the subway network in 1989
consisted of 211 kilometers of track serving 205 stations. Two subway
systems served the capital: one run by the Teito Rapid Transit Authority,
with seven lines (the oldest of which was built in 1927), and the other
operated by the Tokyo metropolitan government's Transportation Bureau, with
three lines. Outlying and suburban areas were served by seven private
railroad companies whose lines intersected at major stations with the subway
system. More than sixty additional kilometers of subway were under
construction in 1990 by the two companies. As of 1989, there also were full
subway systems in Fukuoka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Sendai, and Yokohama.
Hiroshima and Kobe had light rail systems, and Osaka, in addition to its
subway, had an intermediate capacity transit system (rubber-tired motor cars
running on concrete guideways). Like Tokyo, all of these cities also were
well served by public.
Trains and their Routes
regular operation, Shinkansen, or bullet trains, can reach speeds of up to
300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour. There are plans to raise this limit to
around 330 kph to 350 kph (205 mph to 217 mph) in the near future. The
Shinkansen was inaugurated in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympic Games. It
operated for 515 kilometers (319 miles) between Tokyo and Osaka via Nagoya.
In 1975 the line was extended southwest to Fukuoka, Kyushu, more than
doubling the total length to 1,069 kilometers (663 miles).
new lines were introduced in 1982: a 497-kilometer (308-mile) route from
Tokyo to Morioka in the northeast, and a 342-kilometer (212-mile) stretch
from Tokyo to northwestern Niigata along the Sea of Japan coast. And in 1992
the northeastern route gained a new link between Yamagata and Fukushima.
another new line has been built to link Tokyo with Nagano, which hosted the
Olympic Winter Games in February 1998. There is also a plan to cover the
entire nation with a network of bullet train lines.
Shinkansen was designed to provide a high-speed means of transporting large
numbers of people over long distances. They proved popular not only among
business workers but also tourists. For this reason, dining cars and cars
with special compartments for families and groups have been introduced. The
trains are now equipped with pay telephones.
recent years, a growing number of people have begun using the Shinkansen to
commute to work. To meet the demands for more seats,
"double-decker" cars have been introduced.
trains are operated with the most advanced technology available to guarantee
efficiency and safety. There are systems to automatically and centrally
control the trains' speed and the distance between trains, and the trains
can be stopped or slowed in emergencies.
Network of Expressways
the end of 1996 Japan's expressways stretched for a total of 5,932
kilometers (3,687 miles), traversing the archipelago. Aomori Prefecture at
the northern tip of Honshu and Kagoshima Prefecture at the southern tip of
Kyushu are linked by a 2,150-kilometer (1,333-mile) uninterrupted stretch of
Train and Subways System
passenger-carrying railway companies that emerged after the break-up and
privatization of the Japanese National Railways in 1987 have lines covering
20,061 kilometers (12,468 miles) nationwide. An additional 16,980 kilometers
(10,553 miles) are operated by 190 private railway companies.
systems are also extensive; lines stretch for a total of 570 kilometers (354
miles) in nine major cities, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. The total
for Tokyo alone is 240 kilometers (149 miles), the fourth longest in the
world after New York, London, and Paris.
rail networks are well developed in greater Tokyo and other urban areas, and
residents use trains as their main means of getting around, including going
to work and school.