Most direct line for maglev gets panel OK

Kyodo News

A government panel approved a plan Wednesday to build a magnetically levitated train line over the shortest proposed Tokyo-Osaka route.

The panel at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry gave the green light to a midterm report that states Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) is responsible for constructing and operating the route on a virtual straight line through the Southern Alps.

Because it has a more favorable cost-benefit ratio, the panel favors that route over other proposals that would divert the line north of the mountain range.

The travel time between Tokyo and Osaka under the plan is expected to be 67 minutes at the shortest.

The railway, known as JR Tokai, said it plans to start construction in fiscal 2014, complete the line between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 and finish the full line reaching Osaka in 2045.

But a number of issues remain, such as whether the schedule for starting operations in Osaka can be moved up and whether local governments will help JR Tokai pay the costs of organizing stations between major stops.

The panel plans to gather opinions of the public and submit its final decision around next spring.

The maglev train is projected to reach a top speed of about 500 kph. Fares are expected to be about ¥15,000, compared with about ¥14,000 for the Tokaido Shinkansen Line.

JR Tokai allowed reporters and photographers for the first time Monday to view the construction site of an experimental maglev line in Yamanashi Prefecture, which will be extended by 24.4 km by the end of March 2014.

Some 57 percent of the extended section will be in 10 tunnels. As of Friday, 57 percent of the tunnel construction had been finished, the railway said.

After the extension, the experimental line will be 42.8 km in total, along which the test maglev train will run at a speed of about 500 kph.

“So far, (the construction has) been smooth. We’d like to continue while focusing on safety and the environment, ” said Takashi Watanabe, 43, head of the line’s construction office.