Japan: Maglev Station Sites Announced

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) has announced candidate sites for stations along the planned linear motor Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Nagoya, but negotiations with local governments over station construction costs could possibly derail the plans.

JR Tokai aims to start constructing the Tokyo-Nagoya route in fiscal 2014 as the initial stage of the planned maglev Chuo Shinkansen line that eventually will connect Tokyo and Osaka.

Ongoing environmental impact assessments also will be a factor in deciding the exact locations of the stations.

The candidate station sites between Tokyo and Nagoya are Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture; a southern area of the Kofu basin in Yamanashi Prefecture (Kofu, Chuo or Showacho); and western Nakatsugawa, Gifu Prefecture.

A candidate site in Nagano Prefecture has not been decided, but will be announced after gathering opinions from municipalities in the prefecture, JR Tokai said.

The candidate sites, which were announced Tuesday, are about five kilometers in diameter. JR Tokai will narrow down these areas to decide on the final locations.

The straight-line route passes through the Southern Japanese Alps. The line will be deep underground in most areas between Shinagawa and Sagamihara and most places in Aichi Prefecture because it was difficult to acquire land for the track due to residential developments.

JR Tokai plans to build the stations aboveground, except for in Sagamihara.

Areas for the stations were decided based on geographical and geological conditions, requests from local governments, expected environmental impact and ease of access for transferring to JR's regular lines, according to JR Tokai.

"We decided on the sites after spending a decade investigating the geographical and geological conditions," JR Tokai President Yoshiomi Yamada said at a press conference. He called on the Yamanashi prefectural government and other localities to support the rail operator's plan. Four groups had been seeking to have a station built in other areas of the prefecture.

JR Tokai reportedly initially assumed the maglev line would have stations only in Shinagawa, Nagoya and Shin-Osaka. However, the company decided to build more stations after being approached by local governments hoping to grab some of the economic effects the new line is expected to bring.

Although JR Tokai accepted these requests, it plans to ask the local governments concerned to pay the entire cost of building the stations, as happened for stations on the Tokaido Shinkansen line built after petitions from localities.

After JR Tokai was established in 1987 when Japanese National Railways was privatized and separated into regional units, three stations, including Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, were constructed based on such petitions.

Construction costs of an aboveground station on the maglev line is estimated at about 35 billion yen, and an underground station about 220 billion yen.

Each prefecture along the line has asked JR Tokai to shoulder some of the financial burden of building the stations. However, JR Tokai is reluctant to cough up extra money while it is trying to find the cash to extend the line from Nagoya to Osaka.

In line with recommendations by a subcommittee on the Chuo Shinkansen project at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry's Council for Transport Policy, the final decision on the cost burden likely will be decided by the central government.

Copyright 2008 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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