Published by Railfuture

Railwatch is the quarterly magazine of Railfuture, which is free to members.

Non-members can subscribe to Railwatch, receiving it by post.


Railwatch 075 - April 1998

Letter from Japan

by Chris Packham

World attention was focused on Japan in February when the winter Olympics were staged at Nagano. Railways played a part in the success of the Games as the country’s newest Shinkansen route opened in October allowing sports fans to travel on high-speed trains from Tokyo to Nagano at 170mph.

Although regarded by some as wasteful and unnecessary just to serve a sporting project, it is intended to form part of a planned Hokuriku Shinkansen, continuing via the Japan Sea coast to Osaka.

Construction of this, and two other routes, will start soon with completion expected early next decade.

Other recent Shinkansen developments include 1600-seat double-deck trains on routes north from Tokyo and new 187mph trains on the Tokyo-Fukuoka line which cover the 735 miles in four hours, fifty minutes.

Japan’s position as a leader in high-speed rail technology is reinforced by its experimental Maglev train which has reached 344mph on trial. The test track is the first segment of a planned Tokyo-Osaka Maglev route but the huge financial and environmental costs make this a very long-term prospect at best. Although Shinkansen travel is expensive (a one way ticket for the 345 miles from Tokyo to Osaka costs £70), it is competitive with air travel and road (because of high motorway tolls).

Bad weather sometimes delays the Shinkansen but technical failure is very rare. The system is also extremely safe. No-one has been killed riding the Shinkansen in over 30 years of operation.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

[Issue 75 Index]

[Railwatch Home] [Prev Issue (74)] [Railwatch Issues] [RIS Progress Reports] [SRUBLUK Progress Reports] [Next Issue (76)] [Railfuture Home]

Rail users are encouraged to join Railfuture to help us campaign for a bigger and better railway - membership for individuals is just £20 per year

Railfuture is an independent, voluntary group representing rail users in Britain with 20,000 affiliated and individual members. It is not funded by train companies, political parties or trade unions, and all members have an equal say.

Railfuture campaigns for cheap and convenient rail services for everyone; better links for buses, bikes and pedestrians; policies to get more heavy lorries on to rail; new lines, stations and freight terminals. In short, a better rail service and a bigger rail system for both passengers and freight.

Railfuture is pro-rail but not anti-road or anti-air. However, we campaign for a switch from road and air to rail. We do not interfere in the running of the railway - we campaign for the quality and range of services provided, not how they are delivered. We are the only champion of all rail users.

Railfuture is the campaigning name of Railfuture Ltd.

A not-for-profit Company Limited by Guarantee.

Registered in England and Wales No. 05011634.

Registered Office: Edinburgh House, 1-5 Bellevue Road, Clevedon, North Somerset BS21 7NP (for legal correspondence only).

All other correspondence to 14 Ghent Field Circle, Thurston, Suffolk IP31 3UP

© Copyright Railfuture Ltd 2024.

Railfuture is happy for extracts to be used by journalists, researchers and students. We would, however, appreciate a mention of Railfuture in any article, website or programme. Except with Railfuture's express written permission, no one should distribute or commercially exploit the content.

Privacy Statement

Click Privacy to read Railfuture's GDPR statement on how we treat your data.


This site does not use its own cookies, although Google Analytics does. Hosted by TSO Host (cPanel) and maintained for Railfuture by Billing Specialists Ltd.