JAPAN - Trains could run once again on Okinawa's main island as the prefectural government will start a full-scale study in fiscal 2014 on introducing a line that would run through it, in anticipation of using land to be vacated after the relocation of the US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station.
The envisaged line will run between Naha and Nago and cover about 70 kilometers in about one hour. A station is planned at the site in Ginowan where the Futenma base is currently located.
The prefectural government will set up a panel of experts in fiscal 2014 that will compile a plan the following fiscal year for constructing the railway. The project is expected to emerge as a key theme for the economic development of the prefecture in the years ahead.
The island had a 48-kilometer light railway line that linked Naha and Kadena and other locations before World War II, but it was destroyed during fierce fighting on the island in 1945.
Constructing a railway line on the island has been a long cherished desire for many Okinawans. The central government earmarked ¥200 million (S$2.4 million) as research funding for the project in the fiscal 2014 budget.
The prefectural government envisages a route connecting the cities of Naha, Ginowan, Okinawa and Nago, emphasizing such merits as improving convenience for commuters and tourists, reducing road congestion, and positive ripple effects on the local economy.