MORIOKA, IWATE PREF. – Tsunami-hit Sanriku Railway Co. in Iwate Prefecture is on the verge of a full recovery from the damage caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake of March 11, 2011.
On Saturday, the public-private railway resumed services on the 15-km-long section between Kamaishi and Yoshihama stations on the coastal Minami-Riasu Line, restoring it to full operations.
The line, which links Kamaishi and Sakari stations, is 36.6 km long. The suspended 10.5-km-long section between Omoto and Tanohata stations on the Kita-Riasu Line is meanwhile set to reopen Sunday.
Sanriku Railway launched operations in 1984, becoming a key mode of transportation for local residents. Its restart will serve as a symbol of the area’s recovery.
Yuka Sato, 20, who works for an animal hospital in Kamaishi, boarded a Minami-Riasu Line train at Ryori Station on Saturday morning for her commute. She was using Sanriku Railway to get to her high school when the quake and tsunami hit just before her third year there.
“The railway services will now be back to normal in three years after the disasters, and I suppose the restoration work has been completed early,” Sato said, adding she is happy that she can once again go to work on Sanriku Railway trains.
The disasters disrupted the railway’s entire operation, washing away many of its station buildings and tracks. Since then, Sanriku Railway gradually restored operations on its northern and southern lines and taken measures to protect facilities from future tsunami.