BYLINE: Yoshihiko Sato

General Manager, Transport & Rolling Stock DepartmentEast Japan Railway

FOLLOWING THE inauguration of three new routes last year, JR East has ordered extra trains to expand its Series E2, E3 and E4 fleets, and has launched a drive to refurbish older units.

In March 1997 we opened the Akita mini-shinkansen, and at the same time a narrow-gauge cut-off was inaugurated to provide a link from the Joetsu Shinkansen to Toyama and Kanazawa along the Hokuriku line. October saw the start of revenue operations on the Nagano Shinkansen. With new rolling stock able to run at higher speeds, this has allowed us to cut journey times to many cities (Table I).

Growth of commuter and student traffic on the high-speed lines, up to a radius of 100 to 150 km from Tokyo, has required extra peak-hour capacity. Monthly season tickets for shinkansen services have increased year-on-year, from 2010 in 1987 to 20068 in 1997.

n Series E2 was developed for the mountainous Nagano Shinkansen with its 30 km of 3% grades. Each eight-car unit has six powered vehicles and two driving trailers, offering 630 seats including 51 in the Green car. Aluminium bodyshells and lighter electrical equipment cut the tare weight to 366 tonnes compared to 512 tonnes for a Series 200. As this line crosses the border between the 50Hz grid and the 60Hz used in southern Japan, the units can accept both frequencies. Each power car has four 300 kW asynchronous motors and PWM converter-inverter controls using GTOs or IGBTs. This allows operation on the steepest sections with two motor cars out of action.

The Series E2 has an aerodynamic nose profile designed to run at 315 km/h. However, it is limited to 275 km/h in commercial service because of environmental and economic constraints. Some sets are used on the Tohoku Shinkansen, where they run coupled with Series E3s. The fleet of 19 sets is to be expanded by a further nine units by March 2000.

n Series E3. Developed for the Akita mini-shinkansen, these sets have five 20 m long cars, with seats for 270 passengers including 23 Green car. The bodies are 2950mm wide compared to 3400 for a full-size set, but the traction equipment is common to the Series E2 apart from the 60Hz capability. Top speed is 275 km/h on the shinkansen and 130 km/h on the converted narrow gauge section.

The through journey of just 3h 49min from Tokyo to Akita generated a 30% increase in traffic during the first year of operation. By the end of this year we will have added a sixth car to all the existing sets and an extra 6-car unit.

n Series E4. As flexible successors to the Series E1 MAX, these 8-car sets work in pairs or in multiple with Series 200, E2 or E3 sets. Each Series E4 has four powered and four trailer cars, and a seating capacity of 817 (including 54 Green car) in a length of 200m. Each power car has four asynchronous motors with IGBT-based PWM drives. Because the E4 is aimed at commuter services, it has a top speed of 240 km/h. Three sets were built in 1997, and a further seven will enter service by March 2000.

n Series 200. The extra E2 and E4 sets will replace the oldest Series 200 sets, dating from 1982, which are limited to 210 km/h. The later builds of Series 200, capable of 240 to 275 km/h, still have several years of useful life left, and more than 100 cars will be refurbished over the next few years. We expect to roll out the first modified train in January. o

CAPTION: Photo: With seats for 1 634 passengers, a pair of eight-car Series E4 units offers the highest capacity of any high-speed train in the world

Table I. Journey times from Tokyo

City Distance Journey time Saving km 1987 1997 min

Aomori 700·4 5h 31min 4h 38min 53

Akita 623·9 5h 06min 3h 49min 77

Morioka 496·5 3h 09min 2h 21min 45

Kanazawa 444·2 4h 58min 3h 43min 75

Yamagata 342·0 3h 23min 2h 27min 56

Sendai 325·2 2h 17min 1 h 36min 41

Niigata 300·8 2h 17min 1h 40min 37

Nagano 226·0 3h 05min 1h 19min 106