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Full service resumes on tsunami-hit Iwate train line

9 Comments

Services resumed Sunday on a leg of Sanriku Railway's train line in Iwate Preecture for the first time since it was hit by a tsunami in March 11, 2011.

Local residents thronged to Omoto and Tanaohata stations to watch the service resume on the 10-5-kilometer-long stretch, NTV reported. On Saturday, the 15-km section of the Minami-Riasu line between Kamaishi and Yoshihama stations reopened.

The resumption of the coastal line, which connects Kamaishi and Sakari, means that all 107.6 kilometers of the line is back to normal, NTV quoted Sanriku Railway officials as saying.

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It's very difficult to describe the emotion of seeing a train in Tohoku.

I'd been to Minami Soma a number of times, we used to park in the car park for an hour or so's sleep before we started the deliveries and there'd been no trains for months. I skipped a few deliveries and returned for the Christmas delivery, I was just about to nod off having arrived later than planned due to the snow on the mountailnswhen I was awoken by the sound of a train pulling into the station.

I screamed TRAIN, in a momentary joyful outburst. I was so thoroughly delighted to see that level of progress. That level of improvement.

And that was me, someone who would be a world away by the time the last train pulled into the station that day.

Can you imagine how important it would have been for the residents?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

FightingViking: 1) all the victims of the disaster were already re-housed (it's been three years after all) 2) (usually it's trucks, not trains, that are used to carry people's belongings back "home")

It would appear that you haven't visited the area. If you had, you'd probably say, It's ONLY been three years after all. Rehousing in some areas requires literally moving mountains to make high ground available upon which to build permanent structures. That said, there are still people living in the area in both temporary housing and their original homes. Kids still need to get to school. Old people still need to get to hospitals and shopping areas and still need to be able to get around to visit family and friends.

The Ofunato line still runs from Ichinoseki (shinkansen station) and Kesenuma. From there, the BRT bus runs up to Sakari on a combination of public road and BRT only (paved over track bed). Some parts of that line (around Rikuzentakada in particular really would've taken a lot of cash to rebuild. It's pretty efficient but I do wish it ran more frequently. I can't see that being replaced by train unless the area in between rebounds strongly and repopulates.

The train line from Sakari northwards includes some tunnels and bridges that weren't damaged and it probably would have cost more to remake them into BRT roads than to just repair bits and get the train going again. I haven't seen the situation between the north and south rias lines to know what their situation or likely solution would be.

It's all well and good to make uninformed pronouncements about how money should be spent. I'd suggest you all give a little more credit to the folks in the area making the decisions. Sometimes, perhaps, they know a little better about what's best for them you do.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Balefire

I also am happy to see money being spent directly on/in Tohoku rather than on many other extremely dubious projects which--sometimes incongruously--claimed to be of indirect benefit to Tohoku.

I couldn't agree more ! And there are plenty of them ! Let's just mention the Olympics for example... If everything was REALLY "under control" in that area and all the victims of the disaster were already re-housed (it's been three years after all) and the roads were refurbished (usually it's trucks, not trains, that are used to carry people's belongings back "home") then they could revive an old, hardly used train line.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I understand the psychological value of restoring the train line, and applaud anything that encourages the survivors of the Tohoku disaster.

I also am happy to see money being spent directly on/in Tohoku rather than on many other extremely dubious projects which--sometimes incongruously--claimed to be of indirect benefit to Tohoku.

On the other hand, several of the news stories I've seen on TV have mentioned that the line has been in the red for two decades or more. It was apparently acquired from JNR in '84, so that would be 2/3 of its existence under current management.

I can't help wondering if it wouldn't have been better to use the money for improved roads and bus service (and trucks for freight) instead of reviving a train line which--like many local lines around the country--has little chance of ever showing a profit. If it really is the best way to improve/repair the infrastructure for the area and maximize the benefit to the local people, fine...but that seems far from clear to me.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There may be areas where the line has been paved for the bus to run, I took the BRT from Kesennuma to Sakari about a year ago so can't remember exactly, but from memory there were sections of new single lane road which were exclusively for the BRT, whether that was over the line or next to it or both...I think it was both.

The BRT bus is much cheaper to run than the train and has been up for over a year now. Rebuilding the Ofunato line is gonna require 40 billion yen or so, and that's just to get it up and going again.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

OK, thanks Daijoboots! I watched a YouTube video that someone had recorded while on the BRT. Looks like the bus ran through a narrow tunnel, so I'm wondering if they removed the rails and paved over where the Ofunato-sen used to run. Also, wondering if the BRT is permanent, as it would be a shame if the SuperDragon was no more...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I didn't see anything about when or if that one is being rebuilt.

JR may restore it and hand operation over to Sanriku.

Does anyone know the status of the Sakari / Kesennuma section?

The BRT bus is still running and will be for some time at least; rebuilding of the Ofunato line there hasn't started.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Glad to hear this! Does anyone know the status of the Sakari / Kesennuma section?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Happy news. And tomorrow there'll be another section open on the North Riasu line, fully completing that.

Yomiuri has the map on the front page. It show the (Yamada?) JR line that used to connect the two in dotted line. I didn't see anything about when or if that one is being rebuilt.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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