Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda and other local leaders are making their case to Seibu Holdings Inc. to keep the Seibu Chichibu Line open as rumors swirl that the firm's biggest shareholder is demanding that the unprofitable railway section be abandoned.

"It would severely damage the Chichibu area" if the line is abolished, Ueda told reporters Monday after he and other leaders of municipalities along the line met in Tokyo with Takashi Goto, the president of Seibu Holdings.

Operated by group firm Seibu Railway Co., the 19-km Seibu Chichibu Line in southwest Saitama Prefecture connects Agano Station in Hanno with Seibu Chichibu Station in Chichibu. The six-station line, which opened in 1969, is used by about 10,000 people daily.