FUKUSHIMA – After nine long years, service on the Joban Line is fully back on track.
The reopening of a 20.8 kilometer stretch between Tomioka and Namie near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant means that all Tohoku train lines have now completely reopened following the March 2011 triple disaster.
While some anticipate that the improvement of public transport in disaster-hit areas along Fukushima Prefecture’s Pacific coast will lead to an increase in visitors and regional revitalization, others say the impact will be limited as cars remain the mode of transportation of choice for most residents.
Prior to reopening, JR East had offered bus services for the closed section of the Joban Line, a 344-kilometer route that connects Tokyo and Miyagi Prefecture.
Nine JR and private railway lines took more than a year to reopen following the disaster, according to the transport ministry.
The Rias Line, operated by Sanriku Railway Co., had been repaired following the 2011 disaster but was again damaged by Typhoon Hagibis last October.
With services fully resumed, limited express trains linking Tokyo with Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, will make three round-trips per day.
Among the five stations along the recently reopened section, three are in the towns of Futaba and Okuma, which host the crippled plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., as well as Tomioka.
The three municipalities had been designated by the government as a no-go zone due to high radiation levels. The entry ban was gradually lifted in Okuma and Tomioka and the restrictions for areas near the stations in the three towns were newly removed earlier this month.
As of March 1, only 1,943 people reside in Okuma and Tomioka, while no one lives in Futaba. The three towns had a combined population of around 34,000 prior to the disaster.
Repair work on the damaged stretch of the Joban Line was long-delayed as most of it was located in a zone marked as having high levels of radiation, JR East said.
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