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Central Japan Railway Co., or JR Tokai, will offer the general public the experience of riding on an improved test train car for the planned Chuo Shinkansen magnetic levitation line for the first time this spring, President Shin Kaneko said in a recent interview.

The improved maglev train car, which started test runs in Yamanashi Prefecture in August 2020, will provide “a more comfortable ride with the improved interior and seats,” Kaneko said. “We hope you will experience the future of maglev transportation.”

The previous test car had been used for test rides by the public until 2019. After the improved one was introduced, the company suspended such opportunities to focus on collecting data on the new car.

Meanwhile, Kaneko reiterated the view that it will be difficult to open the Chuo Shinkansen line in 2027 as scheduled, referring to a construction delay on a section in Shizuoka Prefecture due to a water resource issue involving the Oi River.

“We’re sorry for failing to meet expectations,” the JR Tokai chief said. He stressed, however, that the necessity of the maglev train line “will not change,” given risks from any disasters affecting the existing Tokaido Shinkansen high-speed rail line.

As for the Shizuoka section, the company president said, “We’ll work to dispel the concerns of local communities.”

He declined to mention a new construction schedule for the maglev line.

“Considering the nature of the (water-related) issue, we can’t set a deadline” for opening the maglev line, he said.

On rail passenger demand, Kaneko said “psychological constraints” on traveling could remain for a while even if the pandemic is contained.

He added, however, “We don’t expect this year to see as tough a situation as last year or the year before that,” citing progress on COVID-19 vaccinations and on the development of oral drugs against the coronavirus disease.

Also in the interview, Kaneko revealed a plan to introduce “business booths” on Tokaido Shinkansen trains on a trial basis to allow passengers to work with their personal computers and have meetings.

“We would like passengers to spend their time according to their work styles,” he said.

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