Japan To Move Up Opening Of New Bullet Train Lines In Hokkaido, Hokuriku

Japan to move up opening of new bullet train lines in Hokkaido, HokurikuThe Abe administration plans to move up the startup schedules for high-speed Shinkansen lines in Hokkaido and Hokuriku by five and three years, respectively, sources said.

The decision was reached on Jan. 8 during a meeting between the government and the ruling coalition, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to spread economic recovery benefits throughout the nation.

Under the new timetable, the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line’s section connecting Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station and Sapporo Station will start operations in fiscal 2030, five years ahead of the original schedule.

The Tsuruga-Kanazawa route of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line will open in fiscal 2022, three years earlier than planned.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party campaigned on pushing forward the opening schedules for high-speed railways during the Dec. 14 Lower House election.

The transport ministry had been reluctant to move up the startup dates. However, after the LDP swept to victory in the poll, the ministry bowed to pressure from the Abe administration.

At the Jan. 8 meeting, government and ruling coalition officials also agreed to open the Kyushu Shinkansen Line’s section between Takeo-Onsen and Nagasaki as early as possible.

The officials also said they will make a decision by this summer as to whether to begin operations of the Kanazawa-Fukui route of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line in 2020, prior to the opening of other sections.

The Abe administration plans to use taxpayer money to cover 90 billion yen ($753 million) of the 540 billion yen needed to accelerate the schedules.

Although the central government intends to budget 3.5 billion yen each year for 16 years from fiscal 2015, local prefectures and municipalities also need to secure more than 1 billion yen annually.

“The total costs for the projects will not increase,” a transport ministry official said. “We will just invest funds to be covered by the state and local governments earlier than originally planned.”