FUTABA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – East Japan Railway Co. conducted trial operations on Wednesday on a section of the Joban Line in Fukushima Prefecture that has been closed since the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
JR East aims to fully reopen the Joban Line, which connects Tokyo and Miyagi Prefecture, by the end of March next year.
Part of the test run on the 20.8-kilometer section between Tomioka Station and Namie Station was shown to members of the press waiting at Futaba Station. During the test, a five-car train ran at a speed of 30 kilometers an hour.
Futaba is one of the host towns of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
“After taking about nine years to reopen the line following the disasters, we can finally bring joy to local people,” said Junichi Horigome, an official at a JR East branch.
Repair work on tracks and station buildings damaged by the tsunami has been largely completed, according to the company.
The suspended section mainly runs through areas highly contaminated by radioactive substances as a result of the nuclear disaster, and many residents in the area have yet to return home. JR East has completed decontamination work along the railway line.
At one point, aerial radiation levels exceeded 20 millisieverts per hour at some points along the section. But an investigation conducted by the government at the end of July found that there were no spots registering more than 2.5 millisieverts per hour.
The central government plans to remove evacuation advisories in areas near stations on the suspended Joban Line section by next spring.
In Futaba, where evacuation advisories have not been lifted for all residents, repair work for the station building and others has been progressing.