High-speed trains may solve more than timing problems

OKAYAMA — Building better bullet trains will be the solution to difficult environmental issues and other industrial problems, participants at the two-day International High-Speed Railway Conference 1997 said Mar. 12.

About 350 experts on railway systems gathered with government officials at the conference, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the inauguration of the Sanyo Shinkansen line. It was jointly sponsored by West Japan Railway Co. and Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai).

The participants hailed from 12 nations and regions, including Germany, Italy, China, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Britain, and many of them stressed the importance of cooperating with each other in developing high-speed railway systems. Some of the participating countries, such as China, are planning to introduce high-speed trains in their countries, and the conference was a good opportunity to exchange information on the latest railway system technologies, according to officials of JR Tokai.

Jolene Molitoris, administrator of the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, said that developing high-speed railways can be a solution to many issues that the U.S. currently faces, such as sustained economic growth, environmental problems, and the high cost of building airports. “You (Japan) have taught us that one of the answers to all of these problems is a high-speed train,” he said. President Bill Clinton has disclosed a plan to introduce high-speed trains on American rail firm Amtrak’s Boston-Washington line by 1999, he said.

Satoru Sone, a professor of engineering at the University of Tokyo, said that Japan, which achieved success in developing high-speed railways, should now shift its focus from people of the nation’s younger generations to its older ones. Japan’s railway service should put more emphasis on accommodating the needs of the elderly and the weak, he said.