The Tokaido Shinkansen, JNR's first bullet train service, was opened between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka Stations (515 km) in October 1964. Afterwards, the other Shinkansen lines, the Sanyo in 1972 (161 km) and 1975 (393 km), the Tohoku (497 km) and the Joetsu (270 km) in 1982, and the Hokuriku (117 km) in 1997 followed. The Shinkansen network at present totals 1953 km. The Shinkansen has 36 years of experience with no fatal accidents and transports more than 800,000 passengers everyday (in 1999).
The greatest merits of the Shinkansen are its (1) Safety, (2) High speed, (3) Mass transport capabilities, (4) Punctuality, and (5) High frequency.
As for safety, the Shinkansen has had no fatal accidents throughout its 36 years of history.
As for high speed, the Shinkansen boasts a top speed of 270 km/h to 300 km/h for daily operation.
As for mass transport, the Tokaido and the Sanyo Shinkansen now transports more than 500,000 passengers a day. One train can transport more than 1,300 passengers. A train is composed of 16 cars and the length is 400 m. Such trains can depart at 5-minute intervals, with 12 trains being dispatched in 1 hour per direction. This interval will be shortened in the near future.
As for punctuality, the delay ratio of Shinkansen trains is less than 0.1 minutes/train (in the Tokaido case) with most delays due to climatic disasters such as typhoons or abnormal heavy snows.
As for high frequency, there is no need for a long wait. The Tokaido Shinkansen operates more than 400 trains (200 trains per direction) a day (approx. 18 hours). Of course, train frequency is dependent on the demand volume, which is dependent on the fidelity of Shinkansen passengers.
These 5 characteristics have been established by the incessant integration of the state-of-the-art railway technologies that cover many genres of both hardware and software. Facilities (from supporting structure and track to electricity and communications), equipment, trains, such hardware and, inspecting & maintaining, operation, such software of techniques, skills and manuals, are both daily developed and implemented. Every time a new Shinkansen is planned, a comprehensive review of present criteria is carried out and the state-of-the-art advanced, taking into account technological continuity with existing Shinkansen technology.
In addition to the above-mentioned 5 characteristics, the Japanese Shinkansen has two more points worth mentioning.
One is labor savings. Japan has experienced rapid economic growth in these past 40 years and labor costs have sky rocketed. Therefore, reducing labor costs is crucial for the success of a Shinkansen project. As a result, many labor-saving devices (both hardware and software in nature) have been introduced for inspection, maintenance, and operations work.
Nozomi (500 series EMU)
The other is the respect for the environment. The Japanese Shinkansen passes through densely populated areas at high speeds. Initially, the levels of noise and vibration from the Shinkansen in certain areas were criticized, with legal action sometimes occurring. The government as a result established a noise ordinance for the Shin-kansen. The permissible maximum noise level is 70 dB (A) for residential areas and 75 dB (A) for industrial areas at a distance of 25 m from the center of the railway track. To satisfy these requirements, successful noise counter-measures have been developed. Research is still continuing so that maximum operating speeds of more than 300 km/h are possible while meeting the demands of the noise ordinance.
The construction of new Shinkansen lines is currently in progress in the north and south, in order to strengthen the backbone of Japan's transportation, in accordance with the nationwide Shinkansen network development program. In this program, an additional role has been defined for the Shinkansen. It is a role as a rib cage. The Shinkansen's initial role was as the backbone of Japanese transportation, which it carried out for 30 years. The cities and areas connected by the Shinkansen network have enjoyed its quick and convenient service and have reaped large socioeconomic benefits from it. People in adjacent areas (i.e., areas 100 km or more from the nearest Shinkansen station) have been aware of the merits of the Shinkansen and have wanted the Shinkansen network extended to their areas. This has been done by upgrading existing conventional railway lines to enable Shinkansen through service to these areas. Two examples of this are the Yamagata Shinkansen (149 km) and Akita Shinkansen (127 km). Their rights-of-way consisted solely of conventional rail (gauge 1,067 mm). During the upgrading of these lines, railway transportation was stopped and passenger service carried out by bus. Rural conventional lines have been changing their track gauge (from 1,067 to 1,435 mm), structures, and signalling & communication systems to meet Shinkansen requirements. New trains have also been introduced. This has resulted in people in adjacent areas being able to directly (without transfer) access the exiting Shinkansen network and to go to major cities, especially Tokyo or Osaka, much more quickly and easily. This has resulted in Shinkansen service branching out from its initial backbone to outlying areas to form a rib like structure, which is the basis of its new role.
CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) center