East Japan Railway Co. on Thursday resumed services on the entire Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train line for the first time since a powerful earthquake hit the country’s northeastern region nearly a month ago.
Services were disrupted when a Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train traveling between Tokyo and Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, derailed following the magnitude 7.4 quake on March 16, with track infrastructure also damaged.
The high-speed trains have now resumed operating between Fukushima and Sendai stations, the only stretch of the line on which operations were still suspended, and passengers are now able to travel direct from Tokyo to Aomori, the capital of the northernmost prefecture of Japan’s main island.
Photo shows a bullet train bound for Tokyo following its departure from Sendai on April 14, 2022. East Japan Railway Co. the same day resumed services on the entire line of its Tohoku Shinkansen, connecting Tokyo and Aomori, the northernmost prefecture of Japan’s main island, nearly a month after a powerful earthquake hit the country’s northeast and derailed one of its bullet trains. (Kyodo)
The resumption also enabled Hokkaido and Akita Shinkansen trains to reach Tokyo.
Tsuyoshi Waraya, a 52-year-old man who traveled for business from Morioka in Iwate Prefecture to Tokyo said he now better appreciates the importance of bullet trains as transport infrastructure.
“It has now become easier to plan my work schedule as there is no hassle of changing trains anymore, thanks to service resumption on the entire line,” he said.
However, the operator known as JR East said that efforts to restore infrastructure are still under way and that its bullet trains will operate at a reduced speed and on temporary timetables for the moment.
East Japan Railway Co. workers hold up a banner showing the resumption of services on the entire Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train line on April 14, 2022, at a platform in JR Sendai Station in northeastern Japan, nearly a month after a powerful earthquake hit the country’s northeast and derailed one of its bullet trains. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
The resumption of services on the entire line came earlier than the initially planned date of next Wednesday because there were no major aftershocks, which expedited repair work, the company said.
The Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train derailed in Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture, causing suspension of services in areas stretching from Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, to Iwate Prefecture. JR East has gradually restored its services in the affected areas since.
Damage to trains and infrastructure such as railway tracks was estimated to reach 15 billion ($120 million) to 20 billion yen, with the company also expecting hit to revenue of 12 billion yen.
File photo taken on March 20, 2022 shows workers engaging an operation to put derailed shinkansen train cars back on the tracks in Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan. (Kyodo)
The suspension was the longest since the M9.0 quake that hit the northeastern region on March 11, 2011. Then, it took about a month and half for the company to resume operations on the entire line.
Sixteen of the train’s 17 cars derailed in the incident last month. Six of the 78 people aboard were injured, marking the first time passengers were hurt in a Shinkansen derailment.
Tohoku Shinkansen trains will run at reduced speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour, half their normal maximum speed, between Koriyama Station in Fukushima Prefecture and Ichinoseki Station in Iwate Prefecture, with the number of trains reduced to 80 to 90 percent of normal operations.
Passengers get on a bullet train bound for Tokyo at JR Morioka Station in Morioka, northeastern Japan, on April 14, 2022. East Japan Railway Co. the same day resumed services on the entire Tohoku Shinkansen line, nearly a month after a powerful earthquake hit the country’s northeast and derailed one of its bullet trains. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Under the curbed operations, it will take about 30 minutes longer to travel from Tokyo to Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, and about one hour longer from Tokyo to Morioka, the capital of Iwate.
Timetables are expected to return to normal after the Golden Week holidays in early May, the company said.
Tohoku Shinkansen lines to resume services April 14 after quake
Bullet trains back in service between Iwate and Miyagi after quake