Series 800 trainsets for the Kyushu Shinkansen were due to start test running last month

MARCH 13 2004 will see Shinkansen trains reaching the southern tip of Japan, with the opening of the first phase of the Kyushu Shinkansen. Running for 127·6 km from Shin Yatsushiro to Kagoshima-Chuo, the line has intermediate stations at Shin Minamata, Izumi and Sendai. JR-Kyushu announced on August 23 that the journey time will be around 35 min.

For the first time in the 40-year development of Japan's standard-gauge high speed network, the Kyushu Shinkansen will be isolated from the rest of the network until 2012, when the northern section between Shin Yatsushiro and Hakata is due to open. Until then, 1067mm gauge limited express services will provide a connection.

JR-Kyushu has also studied the possibility of using gauge-changing trains to provide a Kagoshima - Hakata through service. In 2001 it built a gauge-changing station at Shin Yatsushiro to test the RTRI prototype EMU (RG 4.02 p183).

Opening of the 121·1 km northern section of the Kyushu Shinkansen will complete an unbroken route of 1317·8 km from Tokyo Central. The extension will have intermediate stations at Kumamoto, Shin Tamana, Omuta, Kurume and Tosu.

Earlier this year, JR-Kyushu confirmed that Kyushu Shinkansen services will be designated as Tsubame (Swallow) trains, the traditional name used on Hakata - Nishi-Kagoshima limited expresses since 1930. As well as the Tsubame services, JR-Kysushu is looking at running a through Kagoshima - Hakata - Osaka service after 2012, in co-operation with JR-West.

Series 800 in detail

To work the line, JR-Kyushu has ordered an initial fleet of five Series 800 six-car trainsets from Hitachi. Unveiled in June 2003, unit U0001 was delivered to JR-Kyushu's new Sendai depot in August, and was expected to begin test running towards the end of September. The trains have a design speed of 285 km/h, although they will initially be limited to 260 km/h.

The trains are derived from the Hikari Railstar Series 700 sets used by JR-West between Hakata and Osaka, but have a sharper nose profile without the characteristic duckbill of the Series 700 fleet.

All axles on all six vehicles are motored, with single-arm pantographs on cars 2 and 5 taking power at 25 kV 60Hz. With bodies assembled from hollow aluminium extrusions, the intermediate cars are 25m long and the driving cars 27·35m to allow for the streamlined noses. The cars are 3380mm wide and stand 3650mm above rail, excluding the pantograph.

Each train can carry 392 passengers, in 2+2 standard-class seating throughout. There is no Green Car provision. Extensive use has been made of traditional materials, including wood for the seats. Toilets are provided in cars 1, 3 and 5, wheelchair spaces in cars 1 and 5, and telephones in cars 2 and 6. A small vending area is provided in car 4.

  • CAPTION: The second Series 800 trainset, unit U0002, was delivered to Sendai depot in August. Five sets will be available for the launch of services on the Kyushu Shinkansen between Shin Yatsushiro and Kagoshima-Chuo, which will remain isolated from the rest of the network until 2012 Photos: Mikio Miura
  • CAPTION: Interior of the 80-seat Car 2, showing the emerald seating fabric, wooden seat shells and wooden persimmon tables. Use of 2+2 seating provides wide gangways
  • CAPTION: The elevated Kyushu Shinkansen alignment parallels the existing narrow-gauge main line through Sendai station