Hayabusa bullet trains began running Saturday at a new top speed of 320 kph on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, equalling France’s TGV as the world’s fastest train in operation.
Meanwhile, a new red E6 series bullet train debuted on the Akita Shinkansen Line the same day and part of local train lines in Miyagi Prefecture resumed operation for the first time in two years, providing a sliver of good news for the disaster-hit Tohoku region.
The E5 series Hayabusa, which links Tokyo with Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Honshu, now reaches speeds of 320 kph between Utsunomiya and Morioka — the capitals of Tochigi and Iwate prefectures.
The Hayabusa’s previous maximum speed — 300 kph — was eclipsed Saturday as operator East Japan Railway Co. revised its service schedules. The bullet trains now cover the 714-km distance between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations in two hours and 59 minutes — 11 minutes faster than before.
“I felt the scenery fly by. If more people come and go (to Tohoku) it will help revive the disaster-hit areas,” said Kazuo Saga, a 39-year-old company worker who rode the Hayabusa from Sendai to Tokyo.
The maximum speed of the new E6 series, dubbed Super Komachi, is 300 kph — up from the 275 kph clocked by the E3 series.
Many train enthusiasts took photos as the first Super Komachi departed from Tokyo Station at 6:56 a.m. Saturday.
Also Saturday, operations resumed between Watari and Hamayoshida stations on the Joban Line and between Watanoha and Urashuku stations on the Ishinomaki Line, both of which were badly damaged by the March 2011 quake and tsunami.