The government, looking to take advantage of the global concern over climate change, is getting on board with the private sector in promoting the sale of “super express” bullet trains in the United States and Brazil.
In the short term, the government is expected to devote itself to public relations activities on behalf of Japanese businesses with the Americas as its target.
The Foreign Ministry believes government promotion of energy-efficient high-speed railway systems will become a drawing card in its diplomatic efforts to brand Japan as an environmentally friendly nation.
During his summit with President Barack Obama in Washington in February, Prime Minister Taro Aso expressed Japan’s readiness to offer bullet-train technology.
Obama, who in April outlined a sweeping environment-oriented stimulus package, said, “I’m announcing my administration’s efforts to transform travel in America with a historic investment in high speed rail.”
The initiative foresees a grandiose super-express network linking major cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Tokio Kano, senior vice minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, visited Washington May 4 and asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to “actually ride a shinkansen bullet train.” LaHood reportedly told Kano he wants Japan to “teach” him about the field of high-speed rail.
Meanwhile, Brazil is believed to be ahead of the U.S. in starting the construction of a high-speed train system. The country is gearing up toward opening a fast rail line some 550 km long ahead of hosting the World Cup soccer finals in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. The system is to include a link between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city.
It could turn into a colossal project worth around ¥2 trillion.
Aso made himself the nation’s top salesman when meeting with Sao Paulo Mayor Gilbert Kassab on May 14, briefing him on Japanese railway technology.
Japanese companies, including trading house Mitsui & Co. — with the cooperation of the Japan Railway group — are likely to participate in bidding expected to be held in July.
Yoshiyuki Kasai, chairman of Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), urged the U.S. on Monday to choose the state-of-the-art N700 bullet-train system for its proposed high-speed passenger rail network.
Kasai said he made the appeal during a meeting with transportation chief LaHood. Kasai said he told LaHood the N700 series is the best of the high-speed rail systems in the world. He quoted LaHood as saying Washington is keen to generate U.S. jobs via its selection of a high-speed rail system.
In a related lecture Kasai gave to officials in the U.S. public transportation sector, he briefed them on the N700’s speed, safety and environmentally friendly features.
European companies are also eager to advance into the U.S., raising the stakes for Japanese officials and companies aware that their global profile will get a major boost if they can win over the Americans.
“We’d like to make shinkansen trains a symbol of transformation from a car-based society,” one official said.
Another official said the government is offering Japanese businesses all the help they need to win overseas bids, and ministries and agencies are working energetically, sending people to Brazil every month.
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