PROSPECTS for JR Freight's M250 freight EMU (RG 5.03 p265) look encouraging given that the Japanese government has decided to impose new regulations on heavy lorries from September, forcing road haulage companies to fit speed limiters which will cut fuel supply if they exceed 90 km/h. Intended to reduce the number of road accidents and cut pollution, the move is certain to boost demand for faster rail container services on major trunk lines.

This should cheer the otherwise rather gloomy outlook for JR Freight. JR Central President Yoshiyuki Kasai remarks in his book on the privatisation of JNR (p402) that repair costs for damage caused by freight trains to track, overhead line and other facilities on the 1067mm gauge Tokaido line between Tokyo and Osaka are estimated to cost ¥30bn a year, whereas JR Freight pays only around ´3·5bn in access charges to operate about 200 freight trains a day. Kasai says that there is a legal obligation for JR Freight to aim for a stock market listing, but he dismisses this as 'completely unrealistic'.

Kasai ascribes much of the track damage on the Tokaido line to JR Freight's heavy locomotives and wagons, so the FEMU's 12·5 tonne axleload would go some way towards meeting his objections. Total loaded weight is about 730 tonnes, and top speed will be 130 km/h, allowing the train to run between Tokyo and Osaka in less than 6h. The current fastest timing for a loco-hauled container express is 6h 40min, offering an end-to-end average speed including crew change stops of 83 km/h.