OSAKA – Kyoto’s leaders have formally asked the government to consider a new route for the planned Hokuriku Shinkansen Line extension between Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and Osaka that would see the new line stop in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, and the city of Kyoto.
The request brings the number of candidate routes to five. The bullet train line now terminates in Kanazawa, and will be extended to Tsuruga by 2025. Where to build the new route has become a key economic and political issue for the Kansai region.
With a project team from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expected to select the best candidate routes by May, and local leaders anxious to get a piece of the action, the issue is likely to have an influence on LDP and Komeito candidates in the Upper House election this summer.
Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada and Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa formally notified the ruling parties that Kyoto prefers a route that would take the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line from Tsuruga to Maizuru, which is home to a Maritime Self-Defense Force base and, Yamada hopes, a possible future liquefied natural gas project that would turn Maizuru into an important energy hub.
From Maizuru, the train would go to Kyoto Station. But after that, it would bypass JR Osaka Station in northern Osaka and go to the Tennoji area, before terminating at Kansai airport in south Osaka Prefecture.
Other leaders wasted no time in criticizing the plan.
“We want the new train to stop at Shin-Osaka, because Tennoji doesn’t connect to the Tokaido Shinkansen line,” which runs between Tokyo and Hakata, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui told reporters Wednesday. JR West has also said it would prefer to see the Hokuriku shinkansen pass through Shin-Osaka.
Heavily influencing the project team’s final recommendations is its leader, LDP policy chief and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confidante Tomomi Inada, whose electoral district includes the city of Fukui. In an interview earlier this month, she indicated that she prefers the JR West-proposed plan, which runs the train from Tsuruga to Obama and then to Kyoto, before heading on to Shin-Osaka, due to cost considerations.
On the other hand, the Maizuru plan is backed by LDP Upper House member Shoji Nishida, who represents Kyoto and is on the project team, and shares many of Inada’s far-right political views.
Thus, with Kansai’s local LDP or LDP-friendly leaders quarreling over routes, Inada will have to take into account sensibilities as well as cost.