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OSAKA (Kyodo) The Sanyo Shinkansen Line connecting Osaka and Fukuoka marked the 30th anniversary of its opening Thursday with ceremonies at both ends — JR Shin-Osaka and Hakata stations.

The number of passengers on the line has dropped 20 percent, or more than 10 million, during the last 10 years amid rising competition from airlines.

But Japan Railway has tried to maintain competitiveness by increasing the number of hourly Nozomi services and plans to launch the new N700 series trains, which have a maximum speed of 300 kph, in 2007, it said.

The line served 57 million passengers in fiscal 2003, JR said, adding that the number rose 4 percent between last April and September from a year before due to an increase in Nozomi services.

The Nozomi is the fastest train in service on the Sanyo and Tokaido Shinkansen lines. The 500 series and 700 series trains can reach speeds of up to 300 kph, making it one of the fastest commercial services in the world.

A trip between Shin-Osaka and Hakata takes 2 hours and 20 minutes, compared with 3 hours and 40 minutes when bullet trains debuted 30 years ago, according to JR.

On Thursday, the zero series Hikari Shinkansen, the first bullet train launched, resumed service for one day only between Shin-Osaka and Hakata stations. The zero series was retired at the end of February.

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