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Tokaido upgrade to beat back air competition

01 Apr 2003

Opening of Shinagawa station in Tokyo this autumn will boost the capacity of the Tokaido Shinkansen from 11 to 15 departures in the peak hour. Withdrawing older trains will allow fleet operation at 270 km/h, helping JR Central to win back market share in the world's busiest inter-city corridor

This report by Richard Hope updates a paper presented at the Eurailspeed 2002 conference in Madrid by Dr-Eng Hiromasa Tanaka, Senior Advisor, JR Central

ALMOST FOUR DECADES have passed since the first of a new generation of high speed railways was opened between Tokyo and Osaka on October 1 1964. The Tokaido Shinkansen set new world standards for inter-city passenger operations. These included the first commercial operation at 210 km/h, and the replacement of lineside signals by automatic train protection through the first generation of ATC.

Even more remarkable has been the safety record. New lines built for speeds of 250 to 330 km/h have now been completed in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium, and together with the Shinkansen they carry more than 100 billion passenger-km a year. In the 39 years since 1964, around 2500 billion passenger-km have been recorded on these lines without a single passenger being killed or seriously injured in an operating accident - a truly astonishing safety record unmatched by any other form of transport.

Meanwhile, the Shinkansen has continued to expand. The latest addition of 97 km between Morioka and Hachinohe on December 1 2002 (RG 1.03 p6) brought the total to 2049 km of high speed double track. This figure excludes JR East's mini-Shinkansen extensions operating over converted 1067mm gauge alignments to Yamagata and Akita.

But as Fig 1 shows, the original 515 km Tokaido line continues to carry well over half of total Shinkansen passenger-km on less than a quarter of the present high speed network. This is a clear indication of the urgent need to expand capacity on this section.

Air competition

There is an even more important reason why JR Central wants to expand capacity and cut journey times between Tokyo and Osaka.

Fig 2 shows the daily average number of passengers travelling by rail or air between Tokyo and five cities along the 1069 km Tokaido-Sanyo route to Fukuoka (Hakata) on the island of Kyushu. The length of each bar is proportional to the distance from Tokyo, and the width represents the number of passengers, so the area of each blue (rail) and red (air) segment represents the relative traffic volume (passenger-km).

It is hardly surprising that air dominates the Tokyo - Fukuoka market, where the train journey is typically 4h 56min. Likewise, there is no air competition to Nagoya because the rail journey takes less than 2h, and the airlines abandoned this route soon after the Tokaido Shinkansen opened.

Air competition is significant on the busiest sector of all to Osaka, where more than 100000 passengers a day use rail or fly. The data in Fig 2 dates from 1999 and JR Central still carries more than 80% today, but compared with 10 years ago, rail's market share has decreased by 5 to 6%. Three airlines have taken the offensive by introducing cheap fares and frequent flights.

The response of JR Central has been twofold. First, to increase line capacity and provide more seats, notably by introducing the Series 300 trains. Secondly, to reduce journey times still further - the fastest Nozomi trains now take 2h 30min compared to 3h 10min from October 1965, after the track had settled down on the newly-built Shinkansen.

Shinagawa spreads the load

The principle behind the building of a third Shinkansen terminus to serve the Tokyo metropolitan area, in addition to Tokyo Central and JR East's Tokyo Ueno, is quite simple.

The present timetable sees 11 Tokaido Shinkansen departures from Tokyo Central in the busiest hour (18.00 to 18.59), but there are also empty train movements between the terminus and the Tokyo rolling stock depot at Shinagawa 9 km away, so there can be a maximum of 15 trains/h passing over this section in one direction.

Here we have a situation where, in effect, the capacity of the whole line from Tokyo to Nagoya (where many of the Kodama stopping trains from the capital now terminate) is being limited by empty stock movements over the first 9 km.

The answer is to build a new station at Shinagawa (Fig 3) where four out of 15 trains approaching Tokyo in the busiest hour can be turned back, using central reversing sidings north of the two island platforms.

Far from causing inconvenience to passengers, Tokyo Shinagawa will actually widen the range of journey opportunities for people starting or finishing their journeys on the south side of the conurbation. It is already served by JR East commuter trains including the ring line, as well as the Keihin Express Electric Railway.

Shinagawa will thus perform the same function for the Tokaido Shinkansen as the old Tokyo Ueno terminus 4 km north of Tokyo Central does for JR East's Shinkansen services. Both stations help to spread the heavy flow of passengers now handled by Tokyo Central. In addition, the extra station and turnback capacity at Shinagawa will help recovery from disruptions to services caused by typhoons or heavy snowfall, for example.

Initially, peak hour departures from Tokyo Central and Shinagawa will probably be increased from 11 to 12, with the fastest Nozomi services stepped up from three to seven.

Rolling stock renewal

The other important change that will be completed this autumn is withdrawal from service of the remaining Series 100 trainsets that have a maximum speed of 220 km/h. This will allow the new timetable being introduced with the opening of Tokyo Shinagawa to be based on a uniform maximum speed of 270 km/h. This limit is imposed by the 2500m curve radius adopted when the line was designed more than 40 years ago.

When the Tokaido Shinkansen opened, a total of 60 trains ran daily, adding both directions. Today, there are 287 trains in the timetable operated by JR Central, not counting those operated west of Osaka by JR West.

In August 2002 JR Central's fleet consisted of 123 trainsets of 16 cars, the maximum length that station platforms can accommodate. There were 25 of Series 100, introduced in 1985, 61 of the Series 300 which started operating in 1992, and 37 of Series 700 which made its debut in March 1999.

By October, a further 19 Series 700 trains will have replaced the 25 of Series 100, actually reducing the fleet from 123 to 117 trainsets despite the introduction of a more intensive timetable. This remarkable result illustrates the advantages of operating a train fleet with a uniform maximum speed, not forgetting the savings at rolling stock depots where six fewer overnight storage tracks are needed.

On October 1 2001 JRCentral stepped up the frequency of the fastest Nozomi services that connect Tokyo and Osaka in 2h 30min from hourly to half-hourly. This proved very popular, bringing a 23% increase in volume.

From October, it will be possible to run even more Nozomi trains, which are in great demand. A planned adjustment of the fare structure in favour of Nozomi will surely increase the passengers using this service even more.

Further improvements

JR Central's development of the Tokaido Shinkansen will not stop there. Two further projects are already in progress: the introduction by 2005 of a new signalling and train control system that will reduce journey times and headways, and development of a new train with body tilt that will permit 270 km/h through curves of 2500m radius, with 300 km/h elsewhere.

The Automatic Train Control system introduced in 1964 provided in-cab signalling through coded track circuits. It proved highly reliable, and has been improved many times over the years. But technology moves on, and it is expected to be replaced by a new generation of ATC incorporating the latest electronics and software.

Fig 4 illustrates the principal benefit from the operating viewpoint. The present ATC reduces train speed in a series of steps to 230, 170, 30 and 0 km/h, with the brakes releasing to allow a period of coasting between each step. In future, the driver will be able to continue at line speed until he is closer to the train in front, when his train will be braked automatically to a stop in one smooth operation.

In addition to allowing greater flexibility in scheduling, the new ATC will improve rolling stock utilisation, increase average speeds, and improve passenger comfort by eliminating the application of brakes in several stages.

300 km/h and tilt

When the Tokaido Shinkansen was planned, the maximum future train speed envisaged was 250 km/h and a minimum curve radius of 2500m was considered adequate. Some sharper curves were necessary to bring the line into the centre of Tokyo through densely built-up areas.

By the time the first extension to Okayama was being planned, for eventual completion in March 1972, minimum curve radius had been set at 4000m. The vertical radius was also increased from 10 to 15 km along with other standards then considered suitable for 260 km/h (RG 10.72 p377).

To reduce journey times between Tokyo and Osaka still further, JR Central is developing with manufacturers a new generation of tilting trains that will be able to pass at 270 km/h through minimum radius curves at present limited to 250 km/h, and also run at 300 km/h on straighter sections.

All this has to be done without increasing the present 11·4 tonne axleload or the risk of derailment through excessive lateral forces on the outer rail. JRCentral is at the same time looking for an improvement in ride comfort, and conformity with environmental constraints, especially noise and vibration which are major issues in the densely-populated Tokaido corridor. The testing of prototype trains will be completed in about five years.


  • CAPTION: Top: JRCentral is taking delivery of 19 more Series 700 trainsets, bringing the fleet to 56
  • CAPTION: Fig 1. Since 1964 the Shinkansen network has carried well over 2 000 billion passenger-km, and the original Tokaido route still accounts for more than 50% of the annual total
  • CAPTION: Left:The 61 Series 300 trainsets now account for half of JRCentral's high speed fleet
  • CAPTION: Fig 2. Rail (blue) and air (red) market shares between Tokyo and principal cities served by the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen in 1999
  • CAPTION: The Shinagawa terminal takes shape in the western suburbs of Tokyo. By siting the station west of the connection to Tokyo's rolling stock depot (Fig 3 above right), departures from the two termini can be increased from 11 to 15 in the peak hours
  • CAPTION: Fig 4. The new Automatic Train Control being developed by JRCentral will reduce headways by smoothing the braking curve and shortening the minimum braking distance required

L'amélioration du Tokaido Shinkansen pour reconquérir le marché

Cet automne, sur la section la plus chargée de la ligne à grande vitesse Tokaido Shinkansen, la capacité disponible aux heures de pointe, en nombre de départs, sera augmentée de 11 à 15. Ce sera possible grâce à la mise en service de la gare de Tokyo Shinagawa, à 9 km de Tokyo Central. Une modernisation de la signalisation réduira les intervalles entre les circulations et le remplacement des rames de la série 100, plus ancienne, par d'autres de la série 700, homogénéisera le parc pour une exploitation à 270 km/h. Ces améliorations aideront JR Central à regagner des parts de marché perdues au profit de l'aérien, dans ce couloir interville le plus chargé du monde; des rames pendulaires prévues pour 300 km/h vont également être mises à l'étude

Erneuerung auf der Tokaido Shinkansen soll Konkurrenz schlagen

Diesen Herbst soll die Spitzenkapazität für Abfahrten ab Tokyo auf dem am dichtesten befahrenen Teilstück der Tokaido Shinkansen-Hochgeschwindigkeitslinie von 11 auf 15 erh?€?ht werden. Dies wird erreicht dank der Er?€?ffnung der Tokyo Shinagawa-Station, 11 km von Tokyo Central entfernt. Ein verbessertes Sicherungssystem verkürzt die Folgezeiten und der Ersatz der älteren Series 100-Zügen durch neue Series 700-Züge sorgt für einen homogenen Rollmaterialeinsatz bei 270 km/h. Diese Verbesserungen sollen JR Central dazu verhelfen, auf dem dichtbefahrensten Intercity-Korridor der Welt an den Luftverkehr verlorene Marktanteile zurück zu gewinnen. Zudem werden Neigezüge für Geschwindigkeiten bis zu 300 km/h entwickelt

Las mejoras de Tokaido Shinkansen hacen frente a la competencia

Este otoño, la capacidad en las horas punta disponible para las salidas desde Tokio en la sección con m? s tr? fico de la línea de alta velocidad de Tokaido Shinkansen aumentar? de 11 a 15. Esto ser? posible gracias a la inauguración de la estación Shinagawa de Tokio a 9 km de la Central de Tokio. Una mejora en la señalización recortar? los intervalos entre trenes consecutivos y la sustitución del material rodante de la antigua Serie 100 por m? s trenes de la Serie 700 proporcionar? un funcionamiento uniforme de la flota a una velocidad de 270 km/h. Estas mejoras ayudar? n a la JR Central a recuperar su participación en el mercado perdida frente a las aerolíneas en el corredor interurbano de m? s tr? fico del mundo, igualmente se desarrollar? n trenes pendulares que funcionar? n a 300 km/h