Nozomi shinkansen marks 25 years as vital transport artery

Kyodo

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The Nozomi bullet train service, a crucial transport artery connecting major cities — making more than 200 trips every day between Tokyo to Osaka alone — marked its 25th anniversary Tuesday.

Nozomi trains from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka arrive every few minutes at major stations such as Shinagawa and Shin-Yokohama, reflecting the large number of passengers using the service for its speed and convenience.

The service between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka takes 2 hours and 22 minutes at its shortest. The trip from Tokyo to Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture takes 4 hours and 46 minutes.

Railway journalist Jun Umehara said the success of the Nozomi came through shortened travel times as it created room for additional train services.

“It created a virtuous cycle of more train services and enhanced convenience,” he said, calling it a “great success” from measures taken after the disbandment and privatization of the government-owned Japanese National Railways in 1987.

The Nozomi was introduced on the Tokaido Shinkansen operated by Central Japan Railway Co. in 1992 as the third train category on the line connecting Tokyo and Osaka. The Hikari and Kodama trains were in use from the line’s launch in 1964 under the National Railways, shortly before the Tokyo Olympic Games that year.

In 1992, the 300 series could travel at a maximum speed of 270 kph, 50 kph faster than the previous service, cutting trips between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka by 19 minutes to 2½ hours.

The Nozomi service was extended to Hakata on the Sanyo Shinkansen operated by West Japan Railway Co. in 1993. Following the introduction of the 500 series in 1997, the maximum speed reached 300 kph, making it the fastest train in the world at the time.

The Nozomi’s current mainstay N700A series has an improved braking system and can travel on the Tokaido Shinkansen at a maximum 285 kph. The N700S series is scheduled to be introduced from fiscal 2020.

The Nozomi has dominated shinkansen schedules since Shinagawa Station opened in 2003, with expanded services on Fridays to meet an increase in passenger numbers.

Masato Shinoyama, the JR Central official in charge of transport scheduling, said he tried to arrange convenient timetables to always enable people reserve seats. “We hope to continue improving the Nozomi to make the train more comfortable,” he said.