Construction of new bullet train route starts in Kyushu

NAGASAKI - A ceremony was held here Saturday to mark the start of construction of a 21-kilometer section between Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, and Nagasaki on the Kyushu Shinkansen network's Nagasaki route.

The route's 45-kilometer section between Takeo Onsen, Saga Prefecture, and Isahaya is already under construction.

The launch of work on the Isahaya-Nagasaki section means the Nagasaki route, also called the Western Kyushu route, will be completed in fiscal 2022, Kyushu Railway Co. said.

The Nagasaki route stretches over a total distance of 143 kilometers from Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, to Nagasaki.

Construction on the entire Nagasaki route has now begun, 40 years after plans were first drawn up in 1972, officials said.

The 51-kilometer section of the route from Shin-Tosu, Saga Prefecture, to Takeo Onsen will be built using the conventional narrow-gauge line, they said, while the Takeo Onsen to Nagasaki section will have full-gauge tracks, the same as ordinary Shinkansen lines.

To accommodate the differences in track widths, free-gauge trains capable of running on both types will be introduced for the first time in the nation's railway history, according to the officials.

Traveling time from Hakata to Nagasaki after the Shinkansen's completion will be one hour and 20 minutes at the fastest, 28 minutes faster than the current superexpress services, they said.

Of a total construction cost of about 500 billion yen for the Hakata-Nagasaki route, the cost of the Isahaya-Nagasaki section is estimated at about 210 billion yen (S$3.2 billion yen), including the cost of making part of the conventional line parallel to the Shinkansen line double-tracked, according to JR Kyushu.

Two other Shinkansen extensions are planned in the nation. A construction kickoff ceremony for the 113-kilometer section between Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and Kanazawa on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line will be held Sunday, and a ceremony to mark the start of work on a 211-kilometer section between Hakodate and Sapporo on the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line will take place Aug. 25, the officials said.

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