JAPANESE Transport Minister Jiro Kawasaki attended ceremonies on January 11 to mark the opening of the 38·4 km Ibara Railway, linking Kiyone on JR West’s Hakubi line with Kannabe on the Fukuen line Also attending were Governor Masahiro Ishii of Okayama Prefecture, and the President of Japan Railway Construction Public Corp Sumio Shioda.

Construction of the Ibara line was started by JNR in 1966 but suspended in 1980. The third-sector Ibara Railway Co was founded in 1986 by the prefectures of Okayama and Hiroshima, 12 local communities, five local financial institutions and some 70 local companies with a capital of ´700m. Construction was undertaken by JRCC for both JNR and IR.

The line has 269 bridges and viaducts totalling 23·9 km, and seven tunnels totalling 3·2 km. The steepest gradient is 3·3%, and the minimum curve radius is 400m. The single-track line is not electrified. Seven of the 12 intermediate stations have passing loops controlled remotely from Ibara, which is the only manned station; the depot is nearby.

A fleet of 12 railcars operates 23 services daily in each direction; they also run over 3·3 km of the Hakubi line from Kiyone to Soja. Some trains continue beyond Kannabe to Fukuyama on the Sanyo main line. IR expects to handle 2 million passengers per year. It has 68 staff, including 26 drivers.

CAPTION: The dramatic IR station at Ibara was funded by the local municipality Photo: JRCC