Special run marks 30th anniversary of Joetsu shinkansen

Kyodo

East Japan Railway Co. celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Joetsu Shinkansen Line by laying on a special bullet train service Saturday from Niigata to Tokyo with one of its latest E5-series trains that normally run on the Tohoku line.

A 200-series train that has been running since services started was also used at JR Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture for a special service to Niigata.

The Joetsu section of the shinkansen network opened Nov. 15, 1982, covering a 303.6-km stretch between the cities of Omiya and Niigata. The 30.3-km section between Omiya and Tokyo now shares the tracks with the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, linking the capital and Niigata in a little under 100 minutes on its fastest service.

The line had carried a total of 850 million passengers as of September.

Bullet trains on the Joetsu line run through one of the most heavily snow-covered regions in the country. In areas north of JR Echigo-Yuzawa Station, the tracks are equipped with hot water sprinklers and trains are mounted with snow plows.

JR Gala Yuzawa Station opened in 1990 for seasonal winter services, directly linking travelers with ski and snowboard slopes. The double-decker E1-series trains, called Max, debuted four years later, targeting commuters. They were retired in September and replaced with the E4-series, a 16-car train with 1,634 seats — a world record for a high-speed rail link, according to JR East.

In 2004, the Toki No. 325 service was derailed by a major earthquake that struck Niigata Prefecture, the first such incident in the history of the shinkansen network. No one was injured and the line reopened in about two months.