New bullet train line may warm up northern Japan's economy

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SAPPORO, Japan – The latest piece of Japan’s bullet train network opened Saturday, providing the missing link that many hope will give rise to a new economic corridor stretching north from Tokyo.

Called the Hokkaido Shinkansen, the new, roughly 149km stretch reduces rail travel time between Tokyo and the southern tail of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost big island, by about an hour.

Built at a cost of 550 billion yen (S$6.6 billion), it connects Shin-Aomori Station at the northern tip of Japan’s main island with the rebuilt Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokkaido. (The cost excludes the underwater Seikan Tunnel, the engineering feat that links these two islands).

It also creates an unbroken chain of ultrahigh-speed rail service from Kagoshima on Japan’s southernmost big island all the way to Hokkaido.

Trains will make 13 round trips a day on the new line, 10 of which will direct service from Tokyo to the new northern terminus – a roughly 863km journey – in as little as 4 hours and 2 minutes. The trip from Sendai, the biggest city in the northeastern region of Tohoku, will take two and a half hours.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016 – 22:08
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