East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) may be forced to scrap all of the 120 Hokuriku Shinkansen cars that were damaged in flooding caused by Typhoon Hagibis, which ravaged mainly central and eastern Japan over the weekend.
The 19th named storm this year brought torrential rains, flooding a train yard in the city of Nagano and inundating 10 trains, each with 20 cars, making up about one-third of the Hokuriku Shinkansen’s fleet. The line connects Tokyo and Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, via Nagano.
According to JR East, which operates the line jointly with West Japan Railway Co. (JR West), flood waters have subsided almost completely from the train yard. Two cars were found to have derailed, but specific damage to each car has yet to be confirmed.
Although equipment and devices installed in the undercarriages of the train cars are waterproof, it is unknown whether the cars will be able to run safely after being submerged for a long period, sources said.
“If water entered the equipment, it won’t work anymore,” an official of a train parts maker said.
“Large-scale part replacement and repair will be necessary, so recovery work won’t be easy,” an official of a shinkansen-maker said.
Kogakuin University Professor Ryo Takagi, a railway systems specialist, said the affected cars “may have suffered fatal damage to their core parts including motor speed control inverters.”
“It would take less time to produce new cars than to replace all (damaged parts),” Takagi said.
Each Hokuriku Shinkansen train car is estimated to cost some ¥300 million to manufacture.
If all the affected cars are scrapped, the damage bill is projected to top ¥30 billion.
For the time being, JR East and JR West have to operate the line with the remaining fleet between Tokyo and Nagano and between Toyama and Kanazawa.
The entire line is expected to reopen in one to two weeks. But the number of train services will be 50 percent to 60 percent of pre-disaster levels.
Hokuriku Shikansen cars cannot be substituted with ones running on other lines because they are specifically designed to travel through areas with different electrical frequencies, according to experts.