• Kyodo

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A railway line stretching more than 160 kilometers along Iwate Prefecture’s Pacific Coast resumed regular services Sunday for the first time since sustaining heavy damage caused by the 2011 tsunami and massive earthquake that devastated the Tohoku region.

The service between Miyako and Kamaishi stations in the prefecture officially reopened Saturday with a single train journey. The operator, Sanriku Railway Co., took control of the section of track from East Japan Railway Co., completing the opening of the entire 163-kilometer-long Rias Line. Two sections of the coastal-rail line had previously resumed operations.

At Unosumai Station in the city of Kamaishi on Sunday, local students welcomed train cars adorned with the design they helped create, featuring English and French words of appreciation for the support they received from overseas during the reconstruction efforts.

“It looks better than I expected. I hope more people will smile and cheer up our town when they see this train in operation,” said Mana Kawasaki, a 14-year-old from Kamaishi-Higashi Junior High School, as she viewed the brightly-colored train.

In the 2011 disaster, the Unosumai Station building was completely destroyed. Unosumai will become the closest station to the stadium serving as one of the venues for the Rugby World Cup that starts this September.

The Rias Line, which links Kuji and Sakari stations further to the north and south in the prefecture, is the longest railroad in Japan operated by a public-private venture.

Among Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures — all significantly damaged by the March 11, 2011 disasters — the only train service that remains suspended is between JR Namie and Tomioka stations in Fukushima, a result of the nuclear crisis that occurred there.

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