ON MARCH 11 West Japan Railway launches its own Series 700 shinkansen trainsets between Shin Osaka and Hakata. The eight-car sets have a maximum speed of 285 km/h and are similar to the 16-car Series 700 units already in service with JR Central (RG 10.98 p697).

Marketed as Hikari Rail Star, the trains have seats for 571 passengers. Three cars have unreserved seating arranged 3+2, but the other five have 2+2. There is no green car accommodation, but Car 8 has four four-seat compartments, for which premium fares are charged unless all four seats are booked together. Power sockets are provided in these compartments, but there are also ’office seats’ with sockets for laptop computers in Cars 5, 6 and 7. Car 4 is branded a ’silence car’, in which there are no on-train announcements except in emergency; special holders for tickets are fitted on the seat backs so that train staff do not have to disturb passengers. ’Tabi Shinan’ travel information terminals and vending machines are available in Cars 3 and 7.

Bodyshells are constructed of welded double-skin aluminium extrusions, and bogies are bolsterless with semi-active dampers. A shielded single-arm pantograph draws power at 25 kV 60Hz which passes through a VVVF inverter with IGBTs to three-phase induction motors on all four axles of six cars. Nominal power rating is 6600 kW.

CAPTION: Hikari Rail Star on a trial run at Okayama

All photos: Mikio Miura

CAPTION: Top right: Shrouded pantograph

Centre right: Passengers can check the timings of connecting trains on information terminals in two cars

Right: Office seats for laptop users are fitted in three cars