THE Japanese government has decided to accelerate the current programme of high speed line construction as part of measures to aid the country’s economic recovery. Budget plans for the financial year starting on April 1, agreed in December, envisage a start of work on the outstanding sections of two long-planned Shinkansen routes.

The first of these is the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension from Nagano to Toyama on the Sea of Japan coast, and the other is the Kyushu Shinkansen from Hakata to Nishi Kagoshima. Construction work has been under way on parts of both routes since 1991. In January 1998 the government authorised a start on further sections, but this was subsequently curtailed by the economic recession.

The 1991 plan envisaged building both the coastal section of the Hokuriku line and the Kyushu Shinkansen south of Yatsushiro as so-called Super Express routes, with narrow-gauge tracks laid on infrastructure built to standard-gauge specifications (RG 4.92 p251). This compromise has now been abandoned, and both lines will be completed to full Shinkansen standards. The Transport Ministry anticipates that both routes will be completed by 2012. n