Japanese govt to speed up Shinkansen plans to boost local areas

A Shinkansen bullet train passes over a road in Tokyo on December 8, 2014.

The government and the ruling parties are likely to speed up construction of several Shinkansen bullet train lines, in a bid to help rejuvenate regional economies, sources said.

A section of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line from Kanazawa to Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, will be moved up three years from its current planned opening in fiscal 2025, the sources said. On the Hokkaido Shinkansen line, the Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Sapporo section is likely to be sped up by five years from its currently scheduled opening in fiscal 2035.

The opening of a section from Takeo Onsen, Saga Prefecture, to Nagasaki on the Kyushu Shinkansen line, planned for fiscal 2022, will be moved up as much as possible.

The government has decided that these projects would help vitalize local economies and is expected to move up construction schedules in line with requests from the ruling parties, the sources said. The government is coordinating a maximum increase of ¥10 billion (S$110 million) to the ¥72 billion in state funds already dedicated to the projects each year, they said.

Talks are continuing because some believe room should be left for the inclusion of future income from stock sales by Kyushu Railway Co.

How to secure the about ¥540 billion that will be needed is a point of contention at meetings between the government and ruling parties, the sources said.

It appears the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency will seek to borrow ¥200 billion from financial institutions. The agency is an independent administrative agency that handles the construction of lines and other elements.

Refinancing to lower interest rates and other changes could add several tens of billions of yen.

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