EAST JAPAN Railway plans to open the 7·1 km rail link to Sendai airport early in 2007 - before the end of the current financial year. Seen as a key element in plans to open up the Tohoku region, the scheme takes the form of a public-private partnership which is being overseen by Sendai Airport Transit Co Ltd.

The 1067mm gauge line consists of a single-track branch running east from JR East’s Tohoku line at Natori, with intermediate stations at Sekinoshita and Shimomasuda. The alignment is mainly elevated, crossing the R4BP main road and the Masudagawa river shortly after leaving Natori. The Sendai East Expressway is crossed beyond Sekinoshita, and there is a second river crossing between Shimomasuda and the airport. Here the line dives into a short tunnel to reach the terminal where there is a two-track station with an island platform; both intermediate stations also have island platforms.

JR East plans to run an express service timed at 17min over the 17·5 km between Sendai main station and the airport, with a local service calling at the intermediate stations taking 23min. For comparison, the present airport bus service takes 40min. At Sendai main station passengers will be offered interchange to the Tohoku Shinkansen, JR East’s Tohoku main line, local services and the Sendai City subway.

Rolling stock will comprise four two-car E721 trainsets being built for JR East (RG 4.06 p182) and three SAT721 trainsets ordered by Sendai Airport Transit Co; the first of these is due for completion in October.

Much of the land along the route has been designated as a development area linked to the expansion of the airport, which is seen as a gateway to the Tohoku region. Both intermediate stops serve locations earmarked for commercial development; nearby there are residential areas and a medical and welfare facility.

CAPTION: Due to open in 2007, the 7·1 km Sendai airport line will serve development areas between Natori and the airport

CAPTION: Construction of the elevated sections of the alignment is well advanced, including the curve away from the main line (below), the intermediate station at Shimomasuda (centre) and the terminal at the airport which will have a distinctive canopy above the platforms

Photos: Sendai Airport Transit Co Ltd