Ceremonies were held Friday marking 40 years since the Tokaido Shinkansen Line opened, pioneering the bullet train service linking Tokyo and Osaka just ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Events were held in the morning at Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station, the end points of the 553-km line that is an enduring symbol of Japan’s postwar high economic growth and state-of-the-art technology.

Since opening on Oct. 1, 1964, as the first bullet train line, Tokaido Shinkansen trains have carried 4.16 billion passengers and traveled 1.5 billion km — enough to circle the globe 38,000 times. They currently carry about 360,000 passengers a day.

The line has never had a serious accident like a derailing, and boasted an average delay for departure and arrival of only 6 seconds per train in fiscal 2003.

Operator Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) faces the task of strengthening line equipment against natural disasters, including the powerful earthquake predicted to strike central Japan someday.

“It is difficult to predict disasters, so the only thing that can be done is to improve our equipment to obtain quake and meteorological information as quickly as possible,” JR Tokai President Masayuki Matsumoto said.

JR Tokai has also developed a new quake detection and warning system that can swiftly locate even the smallest crustal movements at the initial stage of an earthquake and stop all trains.

The Tokaido Shinkansen Line was inaugurated in 1964 with 60 runs a day using Series 0 bullet trains that reached a maximum speed of 210 kph. Today, the newest trains reach 270 kph, cutting the ride between Tokyo and Osaka from four hours to two hours and 30 minutes and increasing services to 300 runs a day.

The latest Series 700 trains, introduced in 1999 and featuring more streamlined bodies to provide a quieter and smoother ride, will be used in Taiwan for the island’s bullet train line to open in fall 2005.

The Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama services on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line stop at such stations as Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya and Kyoto between Tokyo and Osaka.

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