Reevaluation of Japanese High-Speed Rail Construction: Recent Situation of the North Corridor Shinkansen and Its Way to Completion

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - track, planning - route design, economics - appraisal/evaluation, technology - intelligent transport systems, mode - rail


Routes and routing, Rapid transit extensions, Railroad construction, Passenger volume, Passenger trains, Passenger traffic, Line extensions (Rail transit), Line construction, Japan, High speed trains, High speed track, High speed rail, Cost benefit analysis, Case studies, Benefit cost analysis


Since the inauguration of the first "Shinkansen" high-speed railway line in Japan--the Tokaido Shinkansen--in 1964, Japan's high-speed railway lines have been a great success. On the other side of the coin, however, Japan's second phase of constructing high-speed lines, which was first planned in 1973, has made little progress over many years. It is thus interesting to consider why such a contrast between the former success and latter stagnation of Shinkansen construction has come about. While the competitiveness of high-speed railways has been reevaluated, and as various countries around the world introduce high-speed rail lines, this matter has become one of great interest. In our current research, first, it is shown that under an environment that has become surrounded by railways in Japan over recent years, these high-speed rail lines--which in Japan in the past have been called unnecessary public work projects--in fact have a significant competitive edge over other projects. As one of these lines, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, which links Tokyo and Osaka via a northern route from Tokyo that passes through the Hokuriku region, is taken up by this study and reevaluated. In doing so, considering that the reason for not precisely evaluating this line is the fact that the layout of the 100 km section of line near Osaka is not yet determined, the authors present and compare several routes for this section. As regards the evaluation of these routes, several distinctive ideas-such as routes utilizing part of the Tokaido Shinkansen line and using gauge-changeable trains are incorporated. As well as performing a detailed cost-benefit analysis, this study investigates all conceivable technical problems concerning the line. Furthermore, in the event of further increasing train speed, it is clearly shown that passenger flow through the central region of Japan will change significantly, thus generating significant demand and increasing user benefits. By precisely evaluating a high-speed railway line, this analysis has revealed the prospect of introducing such a line. Moreover, by presenting the finding of Japan--which has accumulated an extensive knowledge of high-speed railway lines--it will contribute to the evaluation of the high-speed railway lines being considered under the key transport policies of many countries around the world.


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