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Tech Chuo Shinkansen project stalled over environmental impact

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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Japan's maglev project, supposed to be a milestone in passenger transport by connecting Tokyo and Nagoya in just 40 minutes, has faced several backlashes. Construction on the approximately 300-kilometre-long stretch, 90 per cent of which are tunnels, is progressing only slowly while costs continue to skyrocket. With some 10.5 trillion JPY already invested in the Chuo Shinkansen project, the planned inauguration in 2027 looks more untenable.

Last week, the president of Central Japan Railway Co., Kaneko Shin, and Shizuoka governor Kawakatsu Heita failed to resolve an impasse delaying construction work on the maglev line. The bone of contention seems to be an 8.9-kilometre stretch in Shizuoka.

Kaneko said that the company will take measures to mitigate a possible decrease in water levels in a river and impacts on ecosystem in the prefecture, which the prefectural government has argued could occur as a result of a tunnel construction there. Kawakatsu, however, didn't change his cautious stance, resulting in no breaking the deadlock. Prefectural officials argue that construction of a tunnel will cause groundwater to flow outside the prefecture, resulting in a decrease in the volume of water available in the Oigawa river, which runs through the prefecture. Therefore, the prefectural government has demanded that all water lost in this manner be returned to the river if the company proceeds with construction. It also has demanded that the construction not impact the ecosystem in mountainous areas in the prefecture.

Chuo Shinkansen

In 2015, the maglev set a speed record of 603km/h (374mph) at its test facility in Yamanashi .

It's crazy that it's still cheaper to fly from Tokyo to Kansai than to take the currently existing shinkansen.

I would much rather take the shinkansen then fly that hop but the price difference is just insane. It was going to be about $750 USD for five people one way from Tokyo to Kyoto and ended up being much cheaper to fly and we would have had to pay that on the return trip as well. The railpass wasn't worth it for us as while we were there we would be almost always using the Kintetsu lines.
Trains requires lots of infrastructure- every 100 m of rail needs to looked after whereas planes just don't require nearly as much.

I wonder how their total carbon footprint compares on that route (shinkansen vs planes).
The Shizuoka stalemate prevails: the launch of the high-speed maglev train connecting Tokyo and Nagoya has become increasingly uncertain due to long-standing environmental disputes with the Shizuoka prefectural government. This ambitious project, known as the Linear Chuo Shinkansen, aims to link Tokyo and Osaka with trains capable of reaching up to 500 kilometres per hour.

However, a small section of the route between the capital and Nagoya has encountered significant challenges, primarily due to opposition by Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu. As a result, the project remains at a stalemate. Once completed, the Tokyo-Nagoya line is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities to 40 minutes, with a maximum operating speed of 505 km/h. Approximately 90% of the 286-kilometre line to Nagoya will comprise tunnels. The Chuo Shinkansen represents the culmination of Japanese maglev development since the 1970s, initiated by Japan Airlines and the former Japanese National Railways (JNR). Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) now oversees the project, which began construction in 2014.

Originally, JR Central aimed to begin commercial service between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, with the Nagoya-Osaka section planned for completion by 2037. However, due to a loan from the Japanese government, the Nagoya-Osaka section's completion date was moved up from the original estimate of 2045.

Unlike the largely above-ground Tokaido Shinkansen that runs a similar but more coastal route, 86 per cent of the maglev line's 286-kilometre course between Tokyo and Nagoya would be in tunnels, necessitating significant excavation work. Just 8.9 km of the tunnels are set to pass through Shizuoka Prefecture. Amid controversy over the line's tunnels passing through the prefecture, Kawakatsu and local communities have pushed back over environmental issues, including what is known as the "water problem" involving the effects of construction on the Oi River. Opposition in Shizuoka Prefecture emerged from fears the planned tunnel construction for the line could adversely affect the overall volume of water that passes through the river. JR Central has not yet been able to start tunnel construction despite the approach of the initial targeted start date. [...] But as one door opened, another shut in the form of a report from a Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism panel in December that acknowledged the development could damage the ecology of mountain ranges known as the Minami Alps, or the Southern Alps, which run from central Nagano Prefecture and down through Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures.

JR Central had ambitious plans to introduce a new high-speed maglev train connecting Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027. However, due to prolonged environmental disputes, the project has hit a roadblock. The company recently announced that it is abandoning the original timeline, and the new opening date remains uncertain. The Linear Chuo Shinkansen project aims to revolutionise travel between Tokyo and Osaka using maglev technology. These trains would reach speeds of up to 500 kilometres per hour. However, a specific section between Tokyo and Nagoya has become a point of contention, primarily due to opposition from Shizuoka Prefecture.


Another JR Central senior executive at the meeting suggested the delays mean the project may not open until 2034 or later, citing the original plans that required ten years for construction. The executive said there are few prospects of shortening the process.

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