Japan’s Maglev Train Project Faces Setbacks in Shizuoka

The President of JR Tokai, Shin Kaneko, has stated that it will be impossible for the maglev train to open by 2027 due to the ongoing issues in Shizuoka.

April 15, 2023
  • The President of JR Tokai, Shin Kaneko, has stated that it will be impossible for the maglev train to open by 2027 due to the ongoing issues in the Shizuoka section of the line.
  • The Shizuoka section has faced opposition from the governor of Shizuoka, Heita Kawakatsu, due to concerns about the impact on the local environment and water resources.
  • The issue has become a point of contention between the governor and JR Tokai, with the possibility of a vote of no confidence against the governor and upcoming local elections adding further uncertainty to the project’s future.
A maglev train in Japan

JR Central fails to launch maglev train project by 2027

JR Central, the Japanese railway company, has officially declared that it is impossible to achieve the target of launching the maglev train project in 2027, according to a press conference by JR Central President, Shin Kaneko. The company’s failure is attributed to the standoff with the Shizuoka Prefecture over the construction of the project. Despite the fact that the track of the maglev train is only 8.9 kilometers long in the prefecture, JR Central cannot secure approval for the construction, as there is a risk of reduced flow in the Oi River due to the tunnel construction. The prefecture, led by Governor Heita Kawakatsu, has been blocking the construction, citing environmental concerns.

The dispute between JR Central and Shizuoka Prefecture

The dispute between JR Central and Shizuoka Prefecture started in 2014 when Governor Kawakatsu demanded JR Central return the entire amount of water that would be reduced by two tons per second in the upstream area of the Oi River, as a result of the impact of tunnel construction. JR Central presented alternative proposals, such as the construction of a water diversion tunnel, and established the Oi River Water Resource Study Committee to evaluate the impact on the environment. In 2017, the situation took a turn for the worse when Governor Kawakatsu halted construction, claiming JR Central’s “lack of sincerity” in its response to the water return issue. Since then, the situation has been in a deadlock.

Ministry’s conclusion on environmental impact

In 2020, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism established a committee of experts to examine the impact on the environment, and in December of the same year, it concluded that the flow rate of the Oi River could be maintained. Despite the conclusion, Shizuoka Prefecture still refuses to allow the construction to start, arguing that there is no clear solution to the environmental impact. In June 2022, Governor Kawakatsu declared that he supported the construction of the maglev train and joined the “Construction Promotion Alliance” made up of the nine prefectures along the maglev route.

Governor of Shizuoka criticized for causing delays

Governor of Shizuoka Prefecture Heita Kawakatsu

However, in September 2022, the Governor visited a maglev train vehicle base in Kanagawa Prefecture and criticized the delay in the construction, blaming the prefecture for causing a delay in the overall schedule. This statement led to criticism and accusations of shifting responsibility. In January 2023, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida mentioned the maglev train project in his New Year’s address, stating that he wants to take a “big step forward” this year and increase the frequency of the Tokaido Shinkansen in Shizuoka Prefecture after the launch of the maglev train.

Governor Kawakatsu criticized the Prime Minister’s statement, stating that it showed “a low level of trying to please Shizuoka residents” and sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for an explanation of the benefits that Shizuoka Prefecture would gain from the project. In February 2023, the prefecture halted the drilling survey conducted by Yamanashi Prefecture to examine the underground water situation in Shizuoka Prefecture, claiming that it should not proceed until both sides have reached a mutual understanding.

Shizuoka Prefecture halts drilling survey; support for maglev train project increases ahead of local elections

While Governor Kawakatsu has been criticized for obstructing the project, the situation is changing with the upcoming mayoral and prefectural elections in April 2023. Former Vice Governor Takashi Namba and former prefectural assembly member Makoto Yamada, both of whom are running for the mayor of Shizuoka City, support the construction of the maglev train. Namba, who once opposed the project, has recently stated that “almost everyone supports it, and a leader of a single municipality should not be able to stop it.


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