SAPPORO--Financially troubled Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) is jumping on board new multipurpose express trains to help improve the company's management.
JR Hokkaido unveiled the design and other outlines for the train cars, which will be introduced from next year.
The company will build train cars adaptable to a broad range of uses on a moment-to-moment basis. The vehicles will be used as sightseeing trains and also to serve as regular express trains and offer special services during busy times.
The new trains are replacing the Crystal Express sightseeing train that was retired in September and the North Rainbow Express, which is due for retirement in a few years. They will be remodeled from the 261 series express diesel multiple units used for the Super Tokachi and other services. Two five-car trains, called Hamanasu and Lavender, will be produced at a total cost of 4 billion yen ($36.8 million) in a rough estimate.
The Hamanasu will go into operation in or around October 2020 and the Lavender in or around April 2021.
Car No. 1 of both trains will be installed with booths and counter seats so that it can be used as a restaurant. There will also be a sales counter, in addition to a multipurpose room, which can be used privately.
Free Wi-Fi will be available in cars No. 2 through 5, and each seat will have an electric outlet. Tray tables will remain usable even after the seats are turned to face each other.