An Interview with the President
How will the enhancement and expansion of JR East’s domestic railway network in fiscal 2015 be put to use?
- The Hokuriku Shinkansen Line to Kanazawa and the Ueno-Tokyo Line in the Tokyo metropolitan area are scheduled to open in March 2015. We will take advantage of the enhancement and expansion of our network to improve the convenience of our services and spur more people to use railway travel.
- We will also contribute to revitalizing regional economies by expanding interaction of the population through tourism.
Issues mounting in Japanese society now include the stagnation of regional economies and the dynamism of society itself declining due to the falling birth rate and aging population. As a provider of social infrastructure in the form of railway services, we think we can contribute to revitalizing regional economies, because transportation services with higher added value can increase population mobility and provide a solution to many of the problems Japan is facing. We believe that two of the important solutions lie in enhancing and expanding our railway network and stimulating tourism.
As for our Tokyo metropolitan area network, when the Ueno-Tokyo Line opens at the end of fiscal 2015, certain services on the Utsunomiya, Takasaki, and Joban lines that currently terminate at Ueno Station will instead be linked to Tokyo Station, and from there a transfer-free ride on the Tokaido Line. We project that this will have the beneficial impact of reducing travel time by more than 10 minutes and most of all significantly ease overcrowding for passengers between Tokyo and Ueno.
As for our intercity transportation network, when the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line to Kanazawa opens, also at the end of fiscal 2015, we plan on enabling passengers to travel between Tokyo and Kanazawa as quickly as around 2 hours and 30 minutes. This will match the Tokaido Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in rapidity, and have the potential of substantially expanding interaction of the population through inter-regional mobility. The radical reduction in travel time should increase passenger volume between the two opposite destinations, which will fulfill our crucial role revitalizing regional economies.
Harnessing the power of tourism to create new flows of the population in order to revitalize regional economies is also an important role we play. Tourism is an industry that has a very far reaching impact in terms of both employment and productive output (GDP). And we want to use tourism as a trigger to make all of Japan bright and dynamic. The Destination Campaign we initiated for Aomori Prefecture in the spring of 2011 to assist people recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake will have been held as planned in all six prefectures of the Tohoku region, after holding one for Fukushima Prefecture in the spring of 2015. In combination with our various other tourism campaigns, we will collaborate closely with local communities to attract as many travelers as we possibly can, including travelers from abroad, to the Tohoku region.
Another initiative we have launched to stimulate tourism is the attractive trains that we are developing in which people seek the “ride” itself. Many passengers have been enthused by the trains we have developed so far. These include the Tohoku Emotion restaurant train, and the SL Ginga steam locomotive train. Starting in July 2014, we will have introduced the TOREI YU Shinkansen resort train equipped with a footbath lounge compartment to our Shinkansen service, mainly for people touring the Yamagata area. A cruise train with sleeper compartments is now being developed to go into operation by around the spring of 2017. By launching such initiatives in unbroken succession and effectively publicizing attractive information about destinations, we will encourage more passengers to use railway travel, create new flows of tourism, and revitalize regional economies.