ON JANUARY 9 the Japanese government announced a go-ahead for construction of three further sections of shinkansen high-speed line. The decision was taken by an executive committee of the ruling LDP and their coalition partners, which had commissioned a report last year into future shinkansen priorities (RG 2.97 p69).

The government indicated that engineering work on the three sections would get under way next month, although budget constraints mean that work this financial year will be largely symbolic. Construction costs and final alignments will be announced later.

The three sections comprise the northern extension of the Tohoku shinkansen from Hachinohe to Shin-Aomori, the central part of the Hokuriku shinkansen from Nagano to Joetsu, and the first stage of the Kyushu shinkansen from Funagoya to Shin-Yatshushiro. All are part of the shinkansen extension programme launched in September 1991 (RG 4.92 p251).

The government has still to reach agreement with the various local authorities over the fate of the existing narrow-gauge lines which the new routes will replace. It must also negotiate track access charges for use by JR East and JR Kyushu, although the companies have indicated that they will only be able to pay to the extent that they will benefit from the new lines. In any case, completion of the routes is expected to take around 20 years. o