The development of Shinkansen is still underwayThe state-owned Japanese National Railways (JNR) used to operate and expand the high-speed railway network starting with the San’yo Shinkansen. Until the latest opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen in 2016, it followed the Tohoku Shinkansen, the Joetsu Shinkansen, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, and the Kyushu Shinkansen. Although other regional express railways called Shinkansen exist, they formally do not count as Shinkansen as their top speed does not reach 200 km/h.
Following the breakup and partial privatization of JNR in 1987, the operators of the high-speed railway lines are now five of the six regional Japan Railways (JR) passenger companies. While JR East, JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu have undergone complete privatization, the shares of JR Hokkaido are still in possession of an independent administrative agency.
The oncoming additions to the high-speed railway network promoted by this agency will be another route of the Kyushu Shinkansen (West Kyushu Route) by March 2023, an extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen by March 2024, and the completion of the Hokkaido Shinkansen by March 2031.
Tokyo-Osaka in less than 70 minutes?JR Central is working on the most ambitious railway project in Japan, the Linear Chuo Shinkansen, a magnetic levitation train over a superconductor. Reaching operating speeds of 500 km/h, the ‘Superconducting Maglev’ theoretically accomplishes an auxiliary route between Tokyo and Osaka mostly underground the mountainous island center in only 67 minutes. Realizing this project would further enhance the high-speed railway’s competitiveness against the domestic aviation industry.
The completion of the first section between Shinagawa Station and Nagoya Station was due by 2027. However, construction has partially halted to settle disputes over possible water loss of the Oi River, likely delaying the project. Until completion, the test track and its Maglev train in Yamanashi remain an authentic model railway for industry professionals, possible overseas clients (a project in the United States is under evaluation), and rolling stock enthusiasts in Japan.