FUKUSHIMA – East Japan Railway Co. on Saturday partially reopened a section of the Joban Line in Fukushima Prefecture that had been suspended since the March 2011 mega-quake, tsunami and nuclear disasters struck.
Services resumed on a 6.9-km-long stretch between Tomioka Station in the town of Tomioka and Tatsuta Station in Naraha. But the remaining 20.8 km remains unconnected and JR East aims to reopen it by March 2020.
Around 30 people boarded the first train of the day, which left Tatsuta Station at 6:05 a.m.
“It must have been really difficult to recover to this phase. It is a happy development,” said Atsuko Kusano, 60, who rode it.
Kusano returned to Naraha in July last year after fleeing to Iwaki to take shelter.
“The tunnel looks the same as it was in the old days,” Kusano nostalgically recounted.
On the reopened section, the train passed close to a temporary storage place where plastic bags containing waste material from demolition work are stacked.
“Many residents were looking forward to the resumption of operation. We hope this will give a boost to the recovery of the town,” Tomioka Mayor Koichi Miyamoto said at a ceremony held to mark the resumption of service.
JR East began restoration work in June 2016 and began test runs in September.
The trains will make 11 round trips every day on the reopened section.
The remaining 20.8 km of track runs through an area near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.