Rail transport services in Japan
are provided by more than 100 private companies, including
Railways Group (JR) regional companies which provide passenger services to
most parts of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu;
nationwide JR freight company; and
regional companies which provide railway services as part of their corporate
operations. There are also dozens of smaller local private railways.
Many of the private rail
companies rank among the top corporations in the country. Railways were built
by private corporations developing integrated communities along the railway
lines, allowing them to achieve profitability by diversifying into real estate,
retail, and numerous other businesses. Regional governments, and companies
funded jointly by regional governments and private companies, also provide rail
There are 27,268 km of rail
crisscrossing the country. JR (a group of companies formed after privatization
of JNR) controlled 20,135 km of these lines as of March 31, 1996,
with the remaining 7,133 km in the hands of private enterprise local
railway companies. Japan's railways carried 7.289 billion passengers (260
billion passenger-kilometres) in the year 2013-14. In comparison, Germany
has over 40,000 km of railways, but carries only 2.2 billion passengers
per year. Because of the massive use of its railway system, Japan is home
to 46 of the world's 50 busiest stations.
The major usage is of urban and
intercity lines, and around the time of the privatisation of JNR, many
unprofitable local and rural lines were closed, especially in Hokkaido and
Kyushu. However with patronage on many non-urban local lines continuing to
decline due to factors such as rising levels of car ownership and declining
rural populations, further closures are planned. For example, On 16 October
2015, JR West announced that it was considering closing the 108 km Sanko
Line due to poor patronage, and was in discussion with the two prefectures
served by the line, Shimane and Hiroshima, as well as other municipalities
served, concerning future plans. In fiscal 2014, the line carried an
average of 50 passengers per km per day, compared to 458 per km per day in
1987. On 29 September 2016, JR West announced that the entire line will
close on 31 March 2018.
On 19 November 2016, JR
Hokkaido's President announced plans to further rationalise its network by up
to 1,237 km, or ~50% of the current network, including closure of the
remaining section of the Rumoi Main Line (the Rumoi - Mashike section
closed on 4 December 2016), the Shin-Yubari - Yubari section of the Sekisho
Line, the non-electrified section of the Sassho Line and the Nemuro
Line between Furano and Kami-Ochiai Junction. Other lines including
the Sekihoku Main Line, Senmo Main Line, the Naroyo - Wakkanai
section of the Soya Line and Kushiro - Nemuro section of the Nemuro
Line are proposed for conversion to Third Sector operation, but if
local governments are not agreeable, such sections will also face closure.
Fukuoka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo and Yokohama have subway systems.
However, unlike Europe, the vast majority of passenger traffic is on suburban
commuter trains that criss-cross metropolitan areas. In addition, many cities
have streetcar and monorail networks.
Japan pioneered the
high-speed shinkansen or "bullet train", which now links
Japan's largest cities at speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph).
However, other trains running on the conventional line or "zairaisen"
remain relatively slow, operating at fastest 160 km/h and mostly under
Japan's railways carried 31
million tons (21 billion tonne-kilometres) of goods in 2013-14.
Classification of Rail Transport in Japan
Types of operators
Railways) :- The Japan
Railways Group, more commonly known as JR Group, is a group of successors of
the government-owned Japanese
National Railways (JNR). The JR
Group lies at the heart of Japan's railway network, operating almost all
intercity rail services and a large proportion of commuter rail services.
The six passenger
operating companies of the JR Group are separated by region, but many operate
long-distance train services beyond their regional boundaries. The six
companies are: Hokkaido Railway
Company, East Japan Railway
Company, Central Japan Railway
Company, West Japan Railway
Company, Shikoku Railway Company,
and Kyushu Railway Company.
belongs to Japan Freight Railway
Company or JR Freight which
operates all freight network previously owned by JNR.
railways :- Japan also features
multiple competing private railway systems. In post-war Japan, the Japanese
government encouraged private corporations to develop their own mass transit
systems in order to quickly rebuild the country's urban transport networks.
Private rail lines
were encouraged to compete with each other as well as the national rail lines
with the government's role limited to regulation of fares. In exchange for
developing rail lines, private corporations were given business opportunities
to diversify their operations and develop the real estate surrounding their
private corporations to control transit oriented developments as well as
railway lines, planned communities were facilitated allowing private railway
operators to establish a vertically integrated business of developing
residential, business, industrial and retail land and the commuting methods
used by the populace to travel between such areas.
As such, through
diversification of their business, the majority of the private railways in
Japan are financially independent and their railway operations are usually
profitable, in sharp contrast to most transit networks in other countries.
following 16 companies are classified as the major
private railways and are
operating 2,870.1 kilometers of railways. In a one-year period from April 2009,
a total of 9.46 billion passengers (118 billion passenger kilometers) traveled on
these major railways.
Subways & Light Rail Transit :- There are two primary subway operators in Tokyo:
Tokyo Metro –
Formerly the Teito Rapid Transit Authority (TRTA), it was privatized in 2004.
It currently operates 179 stations on nine lines and 195.1 kilometers
(121.2 mi) of route.
Toei Subway –
run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation, an agency of
the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. It operates 106 stations on four lines
and 109.0 kilometers (67.7 mi) of route.
As of 2015, the combined subway
network of the Tokyo and Toei metros comprises 285 stations and 13 lines
covering a total system length of 304.1 kilometers (189.0 mi). The Tokyo
Metro and Toei networks together carry a combined average of over eight million
passengers daily. Despite being ranked first in worldwide subway
usage, subways make up a small fraction of heavy rail rapid transit in Tokyo
alone—only 274 out of 882 railway stations, as of 2007. The Tokyo subway
at 8.7 million daily passengers only represents 22% of Tokyo's 40 million daily
rail passengers. Other urban commuter rail systems include Keihin
Electric Express Railway, Keio Corporation, Keisei Electric
Railway, Odakyu Electric Railway, Seibu Railway, Tobu
Railway and Tokyu Corporation.
Shinkansen :- The Shinkansen ( new trunk line) is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by five Japan Railways Group companies. Starting with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (515.4 km, 320.3 mi) in 1964,
the network has expanded to
currently consist of 2,764.6 km (1,717.8 mi) of lines with maximum
speeds of 240–320 km/h (150–200 mph), 283.5 km (176.2 mi)
of Mini-shinkansen lines with a maximum speed of
130 km/h (80 mph), and 10.3 km (6.4 mi) of spur lines with
Shinkansen services. The network
presently links most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu,
and Hakodate on northern island of Hokkaido, with an extension to Sapporo
under construction and scheduled to commence in March 2031. The nickname bullet train is
sometimes used in English for these high-speed trains.
operating speed is 320 km/h (200 mph) (on a 387.5 km section of
the Tōhoku Shinkansen). Test runs have reached 443 km/h
(275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 603 km/h (375 mph) for maglev trains in April 2015.
Shinkansen literally means new trunk line, referring to the high-speed rail line
network. The name Superexpress , initially used for Hikari trains.
Tōkaidō Shinkansen, connecting the largest cities of Tokyo and Osaka,
is the world's busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 151 million passengers
per year (March 2008), and at
over 5 billion total passengers it has transported more passengers than any other high-speed line in the
world. The service on the line operates much larger trains and at higher
frequency than most other high speed lines in the world. At peak times, the
line carries up to thirteen trains per hour in each direction with sixteen cars
each (1,323-seat capacity and occasionally additional standing passengers) with
a minimum headway of three minutes between trains.
Though largely a
long-distance transport system, the Shinkansen also serves commuters who travel
to work in metropolitan areas from outlying cities one or two stops removed
from the main cities, and there are some services dedicated to this market.