• Jiji

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Hokkaido Railway Co., or JR Hokkaido, said that it will scrap 18 of its unmanned train stations due to a decrease in users amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The stations to be closed down in line with the spring 2021 revision of its timetable are on four lines, including the Soya Main Line, according to the company, which serves the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido.

The number of JR Hokkaido stations to be scrapped through a timetable revision is the largest since the company was born out of the breakup and privatization of Japanese National Railways in April 1987, which also created other Japan Railways, or JR, Group firms. The upcoming move will reduce the number of stations in JR Hokkaido’s service area to 372.

JR Hokkaido will also review the operations of 14 limited express trains next spring. For the Hokuto, which links Sapporo and Hakodate stations, the last train of the day in each direction will be scrapped, while some of the eight trains connecting Asahikawa Station with stations including Abashiri and Wakkanai will be suspended on off-season weekdays. The operations of four trains between Sapporo and Asahikawa will be limited to weekends, public holidays, the year-end and New Year period and the Bon summer holiday season in August.

A total of 20 local service trains will also be scrapped. Annual cost savings of some ¥620 million yen are expected from all these changes, according to JR Hokkaido.

“As our revenue has dropped significantly due to the novel coronavirus, we must cut fixed costs in order to continue operations,” JR Hokkaido President Osamu Shimada said at a news conference.

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