Delayed and Costly Recovery of Rural Railroads

Shizugawa Station on Kesennuma Line after Tsunami, Photo by ChiefHira shared at Wikicommons

East Japan Railway Company (:JR Higashi Nihon) announced that the restoration of services on Kesennuma line will cost about $700 million. The company is asking $400 million public aid, while it plans to pay the rest.

Kesennuma – Yanaizu portion of Kesennuma line, which is 55.3km long, has been out of service since the great earthquake. Surprising eleven percents of the affected railroads have not been recovered after nearly 3 years after the disaster. They are mostly rural ones that had deficit before the earthquake.

Till now, these lines have not been candidates for the public aid, since they are owned by the company that is making a large profit.

Yet the recovery of these railways is not a simple reconstruction. It often involves the relocation of lines to accomocate the new urban plans for the affected neighborhoods and towns. This raises the cost and prolongs the process of recovery. That is the reasoning by the railway company in demanding aid from the national and municipal governments.

The company has never cleary stated when it plans to recover them. It fears that these lines will not have enough passangers to sustain themselves  when rebuilt. The number of the passagners had been in decline even before the disaster.

But the local municipalities and its people feel differenrly. They believe that the prolonged absence of the railway services accelerates the decrease the number of possible passangers. As of now, neighther the company nor governments has made a commitment. It will be a while till the local people see the trains running in their neiborhoods.

References: Kahoku Online Network “Kesennuma-sen Fukkyuu 700-okuen, 400-okuen Kotekishien Yokyu“, February 6, 2014. Koji Matsumoto “Shinsai 2-nen-han Ashibumi-suru Tetsudo Fukkyu“, NHK Jiji Koron, September 12, 2013