International Transport Forum Discussion Paper 2013-27
Shinkansen' refers to Japan’s dedicated high-speed intercity rail system, and it was initially introduced between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in 1964 prior to other countries. This event accelerated the development of high-speed railways in other countries. In Japan its total length and the number of lines have increased since then contributing to the economic development of the country. As with other conventional railways, Shinkansen was constructed and operated by the Japanese National Railways (JNR). There is another issue which Japan’s railway experienced prior to other countries, namely railway reform which was implemented in April 1987. This separated JNR into six independent passenger railway companies. Since then, the financial resources for Shinkansen construction were modified so as not to worsen the financial situation of the new companies, and public finances have been utilized in order to extend the lines. Even after separation into independent companies, operation of Shinkansen trains, including through-service trains crossing borders between companies, has been smooth. This article outlines how construction and operation of Shinkansen lines has been modified through JNR reform. As Shinkansen lines have been built in various markets in Japan over a half century, traffic volume varies greatly depending on the line. Based on published data, this paper examines the changes to high-speed rail transport and appraises its outcomes including the financial aspects of the operating companies.