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High-Speed Service Starts on Yatsushiro-Kagoshima Section (April 5, 2004)

Tsubame bullet train
The Tsubame Shinkansen (KYUSHU RAILWAY COMPANY)
A section of the Kyushu Shinkansen railway line linking Shin-Yatsushiro Station (in the city of Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture) and Kagoshima-Chuo Station (in the city of Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture), a distance of about 127 kilometers (74.6 miles), opened on March 13, with the Tsubame bullet train providing the high-speed service. As a result, the rail journey from Hakata (Fukuoka) in the north of Kyushu to Kagoshima-Chuo in the south using this Shinkansen section takes just 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is 1 hour and 40 minutes quicker than by conventional service. Eventually the Shinkansen line will stretch all the way from Fukuoka to Kagoshima. Local people in Kyushu hope that bringing the northern and southern parts of the island closer together will have an economic effect, stimulate the tourist industry (Kyushu's attractions include many hot springs), and boost the sale of local specialties, such as distilled liquor.

Kagoshima Gets Closer
Work on the Shin-Yatsushiro - Kagoshima-Chuo section of the Kyushu Shinkansen commenced in 1991, and total construction costs amounted to ¥640 billion ($5.8 billion at ¥110 to the dollar). The Tsubame, which operates on this section, has a maximum speed of 260 kilometers per hour (161.6 mph) and takes just 35 minutes to cover the distance, compared with 2 hours and 10 minutes by conventional special express. The section runs through extremely undulating topography, with the gap between the highest and lowest points amounting to about 200 meters (656 feet). In order for the Shinkansen train to run smoothly over such terrain, each of the six coupled carriages carries a motor and various other high-tech apparatus, including a device to ease horizontal shaking.


The second half of the Kyushu Shinkansen route, linking Hakata and Shin-Yatsushiro over a distance of about 130 kilometers (80.8 miles), is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2012. When the whole line is open, the journey from Hakata to Kagoshima-Chuo will take just 1 hour and 20 minutes. Until the opening of the whole line, there will be a shuttle train service operating on the Hakata - Shin-Yatsushiro section that links up with the Tsubame for the rest of the journey to Kagoshima. For the convenience of passengers, these services use the same platform at Shin-Yatsushiro. The single reserved-seat fare for the journey between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chuo using the new Shinkansen section is ¥9,420 ($85.60), ¥1,150 ($10.50) more than the conventional special express fare.

The Tsubame carriages have a simple exterior design of white with red stripes. In contrast, the interior is Japanese style. The passenger seats are covered in traditional Nishijin brocade, the armrests are made of wood, the windows have cherry-wood blinds to shut out the sunlight, and the lavatories are located behind rope curtains.

The Kyushu Shinkansen is proving to be extremely popular. According to Kyushu Railway Co., or JR Kyushu, the 270 reserved seats for the first Tsubame to leave Kagoshima-Chuo at 06:00 on the opening day were completely sold out in just three seconds after they went on sale from 10:00 a month before that date. Within a couple of hours, 80% of the reserved-seat tickets for all 64 journeys up and down the route on that day had been sold.

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Related Web Sites
Tsubame bullet train (site is Japanese only)
Nishijin in Japan Atlas

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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