Hokuriku Shinkansen

Hokuriku Shinkansen

A JR West W7 series train on the Hokuriku Shinkansen
Native name 北陸新幹線
Type Shinkansen
Status Operational
Locale Japan
Termini Takasaki
Opened 1 October 1997
Operator(s) JR East, JR West
Depot(s) Nagano, Hakusan
Rolling stock E2 series, E7 series, W7 series
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Minimum radius 4,000 m
Electrification 25 kV AC, 50/60 Hz, overhead catenary
Operating speed 260 km/h (160 mph)
Route map

The Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) is a high-speed shinkansen railway line jointly operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and West Japan Railway Company (JR West), connecting Tokyo with Kanazawa in the Hokuriku region of Japan. The first section, between Takasaki and Nagano in Nagano Prefecture, opened on 1 October 1997, originally called the Nagano Shinkansen (長野新幹線) (Takasaki is linked to Tokyo by the Joetsu Shinkansen). The extension to Toyama in Toyama Prefecture and Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture opened on 14 March 2015.[1] Construction of a further section onward to Fukui and Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture commenced in 2012, with scheduled opening in fiscal 2022. The options for the route of the final section to ultimately connect to the Tokaido Shinkansen are being studied as of April 2016, with a government committee considering three alignments junctioning at Kyoto and two alignments for the final segment to Shin-Osaka.[2][3]

Train names and service patterns

Since March 2015, services on the line are split into four types, with train names as listed below.[4] Trains operate over the Joetsu and Tohoku Shinkansen tracks between Tokyo and Takasaki.

The original Nagano Shinkansen Asama services introduced in 1997 replaced the conventional Shinetsu Main Line limited express services, also named Asama, which previously took 2 hours 50 minutes from Tokyo (Ueno Station) to Nagano. Following the opening of the Shinkansen, part of the conventional line was abandoned between Yokokawa and Karuizawa. This section included the steeply-graded Usui Pass which required the use of bank engines on all trains.


Station name Japanese Distance from Takasaki (km) Transfers Location
Tohoku Shinkansen
Tokyo 東京 -108.6 Chiyoda Tokyo
Ueno 上野 -105 Taitō
Ōmiya 大宮 -77.3 Ōmiya-ku, Saitama Saitama
Joetsu Shinkansen
Ōmiya 大宮 Ōmiya-ku, Saitama Saitama
Kumagaya 熊谷 -40.7 Kumagaya
Honjō-Waseda 本庄早稲田 -19.6 Honjō
Takasaki 高崎 0.0 Takasaki Gunma
Hokuriku Shinkansen
Takasaki 高崎 Takasaki Gunma
Annaka-Haruna 安中榛名 18.5 Annaka
Karuizawa 軽井沢 41.8 Shinano Railway Line Karuizawa, Kitasaku Nagano
Sakudaira 佐久平 59.4 Koumi Line Saku
Ueda 上田 84.2 Ueda
Nagano 長野 117.4 Nagano
Iiyama 飯山 147.3 Iiyama Line Iiyama
Jōetsumyōkō 上越妙高 176.9 ETR Myōkō Haneuma Line Jōetsu Niigata
Itoigawa 糸魚川 213.9 Itoigawa
Kurobe-Unazukionsen 黒部宇奈月温泉 253.1 Toyama Chihō Railway Main Line Kurobe Toyama
Toyama 富山 286.9 Toyama
Shin-Takaoka 新高岡 305.8 Jōhana Line Takaoka
Kanazawa 金沢 345.4 Kanazawa Ishikawa
Under construction; scheduled to open in fiscal 2022
Komatsu 小松 372.6 Hokuriku Main Line Komatsu Ishikawa
Kagaonsen 加賀温泉 387.2 Hokuriku Main Line Kaga
Awaraonsen 芦原温泉 403.4 Hokuriku Main Line Awara Fukui
Fukui 福井 421.4 Fukui
Nanetsu[Note 1] 南越 440.4   Echizen
Tsuruga 敦賀 466.1
(Route between Tsuruga and Shin-Osaka not yet finalized.)
  1. 1 2 Although the official terminus of the Ryōmō Line is at Shin-Maebashi and that of the Agatsuma Line is at Shibukawa, trains on both lines run through to Takasaki.
  2. Although the official terminus of the Iiyama Line is at Toyono, trains on the line run through to Nagano.


  1. Tentative name.

Rolling stock

With the start of Nagano Shinkansen services, trains were operated by a new fleet of JR East E2 series 8-car sets. A fleet of 17 new E7 series 12-car trainsets were phased in from March 2014, and these were augmented by a fleet of 10 JR West W7 series 12-car sets introduced from March 2015. As of March 2015, the original Nagano Shinkansen 8-car E2 series trains remain on services as far as Nagano.[6]

Former rolling stock

The original E2 series 8-car "J" sets, primarily used on Tohoku Shinkansen services were also used on some Asama services until they were subsequently lengthened to 10 cars. One specially-modified 200 series set, numbered F80, was used on additional Asama services in February 1998 during the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Nagano. The train was modified to operate on both 25 kV AC 50 Hz and 60 Hz overhead power supplies, incorporated weight-saving measures to comply with the 16 tonne axle load restriction, and included additional control equipment to cope with the 30 gradient of the Nagano Shinkansen.[7] Its maximum speed was limited to 210 km/h.[7]


Nagano Shinkansen

The initial section between Takasaki and Nagano opened on 1 October 1997.

Between May 2012 and March 2014, station platforms on the Nagano Shinkansen had their platform roofs extended to handle the E7 series 12-car trains which entered service in March 2014 ahead of the March 2015 opening of the extension beyond Nagano.[8] The Hokuriku Shinkansen extension from Nagano to Kanazawa opened in March 2015.[8] The 113-km extension from Kanazawa to Tsuruga was approved for construction in June 2012.[9]

From the start of the revised timetable on 15 March 2014, E7 series trainsets were introduced on Asama services.[5] Initially used on seven return services daily, this number was increased to eleven return services daily from 19 April 2014.[5]

Extension beyond Nagano

Construction of the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension near Kanazawa Station in March 2008

Construction of the extension from Nagano to Kanazawa was completed on 24 May 2014.[10] When services commenced in March 2015, the travel time from Tokyo to Toyama was reduced to about 2 hours, with Kanazawa an additional 30 minutes away.[10] Final permission to start construction to Fukui was granted in December 2011, with modification works to Fukui Station already in progress for several years in anticipation of the extension.[11] The extension to Tsuruga was approved for construction on 30 June 2012,[12] and is scheduled to open in fiscal 2022.[13] Beyond Jōetsumyōkō Station, the line is operated by West Japan Railway Company (JR West) instead of East Japan Railway Company (JR East).[14]


Test-running on the JR East section of the line between Nagano and Kurobe-Unazukionsen commenced on 1 December 2013, initially at low speeds using the "East i" test train.[15] From 6 December, test-running commenced using 10-car E2 series trainsets, with running speeds gradually increased to the full line speed of 260 km/h.[15] Test-running continued until the end of March 2014.[15] Test-running on the entire line between Nagano and Kanazawa (Hakusan Depot) started on 1 August 2014, using the "East i" test train.[16] Test-running using W7 series trains commenced on 5 August 2014, initially at low speed, on the JR West section between Kanazawa and Jōetsumyōkō.[17]

Future plans

Construction of the Hokuriku Shinkansen near Fukui Station in August 2007

The route of the final section from Tsuruga to Osaka is not yet finalized. The following four options were under consideration,[13] with a fifth unofficial option suggested by a local politician.[18]

  1. Maibara Route (米原ルート): This involves building a full standard shinkansen track to Maibara Station. It is one third of the length of the Obama Route, and provides good access to both Kyoto and Nagoya. It would result in longer travel time to Osaka than the other options, and trains would have to use the existing, already near-capacity Tokaido Shinkansen tracks between Maibara and Shin-Osaka, although capacity constraints may become less of an issue when the Chuo Shinkansen opens to Osaka, proposed for 2045.
  2. Kosei Route (湖西ルート): This involves no new track construction; instead, this proposal would upgrade the Kosei Line to Kyoto, either by regauging or dual-gauging the line to support Mini-Shinkansen, or alternatively utilising Gauge Change Train (GCT) operations. This is the cheapest option, but means train speeds will likely be limited to a maximum of 160 km/h (100 mph) and hence travel times will be longer than the other options. If the West Kyushu Shinkansen to Nagasaki (due to open by 2023) is successfully operating with GCTs by that time, it may increase the attractiveness of this option.
  3. Obama Route (小浜ルート): First proposed in 1973,[13] this route involves building a full standard shinkansen track via Obama and Kameoka. It is the shortest route to Osaka, but also the most expensive (approximately 1 trillion yen), and would bypass Kyoto.
  4. Obama-Kyoto Route (小浜・京都ルート): This option was first made public in August 2015, and involves following the proposed Obama Route west as far as Obama and then building shinkansen track southward to link with the Tokaido Shinkansen at Kyoto. Including Kyoto on the route is seen as important to increase tourism.[13]
  5. Maizuru Route: Kyoto politician, Shoji Nishida's proposal from Tsuruga, via Obama, to Maizuru then south-east to Kyoto, eastern Osaka and Kansai Airport.[18] This option is uncosted but will be the most expensive due to the scale of the proposal. It's case is to provide development to the Maizuru region as per the Japanese national government's policy, with the Maizuru Maritime Self-Defence Force Base and several nuclear power stations put forward as reasonable traffic generators. The option to extend the line south of Kyoto to a new Osaka station (located to the south east of Osaka) and onwards to Kansai International Airport is seen as a means to avoid the congestion of the Tokaido line. It may even serve as an alternative route or terminus to Shin-Osaka station for Tokaido line trains, reducing Tokaido line congestion.

A government committee deliberating the proposals decided in April 2016 to narrow the proposed route to three alignments between Tsuruga and Kyoto and two alignments between Kyoto and Shin-Osaka (a northern route through Minoh and a southern route through the Kansai Science City). There had previously been discussion of routing the line to Tennoji, a major terminal in southeast Osaka, which would allow an extension of the line to Kansai Airport.[2][19]

Interim plans

In order to extend the benefits of the Hokuriku Shinkansen to stations west of Tsuruga before the line to Osaka is completed, JR West is working in partnership with Talgo on the development of a Gauge Change Train (CGT), which will be capable of operating under both the 25kV ac electrification used on the Shinkansen and the 1.5kV dc system employed on conventional lines. The six-car train is due to start trials on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and the 1067mm-gauge Hokuriku and Kosei lines in 2017. As part of the project JR West has already began trials with a purpose-built 180m-long gauge-changer at Tsuruga.[20]

Conventional lines running parallel to the Hokuriku Shinkansen

With the opening of the initial Nagano Shinkansen section in October 1997, the section of the conventional (narrow gauge) Shinetsu Main Line running along approximately the same route between Karuizawa and Shinonoi was transferred from the control of JR East to a newly established third-sector railway operating company, Shinano Railway, becoming the Shinano Railway Line.

With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension north of Nagano on 14 March 2015, the conventional lines running along approximately the same route were transferred from the control of their respective JR owning companies to newly established third-sector railway operating companies funded primarily by the prefectural and municipal governments through which the lines pass. A total of 252.2 km of route between Nagano and Kanazawa was transferred to four separate operating companies, including 75.0 km of the Shinetsu Main Line between Nagano and Naoetsu, and 177.2 km of the Hokuriku Main Line between Naoetsu and Kanazawa.[21] Details of the four third-sector operating companies and their respective lines are as shown below.[21]

Section Length (km) Former line name Former operating company Date transferred New line name Operating company
Karuizawa - Shinonoi 65.1 Shinetsu Main Line JR East 1 October 1997 Shinano Railway Line Shinano Railway
Nagano - Jōetsumyōkō 37.3 14 March 2015 Shinano Railway Kita-Shinano Line
Jōetsumyōkō - Naoetsu 37.7 Myōkō Haneuma Line Echigo Tokimeki Railway
Naoetsu - Ichiburi 59.3 Hokuriku Main Line JR West Nihonkai Hisui Line
Ichiburi - Kurikara 100.1 Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line Ainokaze Toyama Railway
Kurikara - Kanazawa 17.8 IR Ishikawa Railway Line IR Ishikawa Railway


  1. 北陸新幹線、来年3月14日開業 東京―金沢2時間半 [Hokuriku Shinkansen to open 14 March next year: Tokyo - Kanazawa in two and a half hours]. Tokyo Shimbun Web (in Japanese). Japan: Chunichi Shimbun. 27 August 2014. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  2. 1 2 "終点は新大阪駅 与党検討委、北陸新幹線延伸で一本化". The Nikkei. 26 April 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  3. http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Japan-s-newest-bullet-train-line-has-busy-first-year
  4. 北陸新幹線 長野~金沢間開業に伴う運行計画の概要について [Outline of service plans for opening of Hokuriku Shinkansen from Nagano to Kanazawa] (PDF). News release (in Japanese). Japan: JR East & JR West. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 3月15日ダイヤ改正と各地の話題  [15 March timetable revision and topics from around the regions]. Tetsudō Daiya Jōhō Magazine (in Japanese). Vol. 43 no. 361. Japan: Kōtsū Shimbun. May 2014. p. 12.
  6. Saito, Masatoshi (4 September 2012). JR東:北陸新幹線の新型車両「E7系」概要発表 [JR East announces details of new E7 series for Hokuriku Shinkansen]. Mainichi jp (in Japanese). Japan: The Mainichi Newspapers. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  7. 1 2 "200系F80編成" [200 series set F80]. Japan Railfan Magazine. Vol. 38 no. 444. Japan: Koyusha Co., Ltd. April 1998. p. 64.
  8. 1 2 Ito, Tadayuki (3 May 2012). 新幹線ホーム屋根延長へ 長野県内各駅、金沢延伸に備え [Nagano Prefecture shinkansen station platforms to have roofs extended in preparation for extension to Kanazawa]. The Asahi Shimbun Digital (in Japanese). Japan: The Asahi Shimbun Company. Archived from the original on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  9. Kyodo News, "Bullet-train extensions approved", The Japan Times, 30 June 2012, p. 2
  10. 1 2 Igata, Katsuhiro (25 May 2014). "Hokuriku Shinkansen line between Nagano, Kanazawa completed". ajw.asahi.com. Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  11. Archived 5 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. 1 2 3 4 北陸新幹線延伸「小浜・京都ルート」も検討 JR西日本 [JR West also considering Obama-Kyoto route for Hokuriku Shinkansen extension]. Asahi Shimbun Digital (in Japanese). Japan: The Asahi Shimbun Company. 29 August 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  13. Kyodo News, "DPJ may OK three new bullet-train sections", The Japan Times, 17 December 2011, p. 1.
  14. 1 2 3 北陸新幹線、12月1日から走行試験 [Hokuriku Shinkansen test running to start from 1 December]. Webun (in Japanese). Japan: The Kitanippon Shimbun. 5 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  15. "E926形"East-i"が金沢(白山総合車両所)まで走行試験" [Class E926 "East i" test run to Kanazawa (Hakusan Depot)]. Tetsudo Hobidas (in Japanese). Japan: Neko Publishing. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  16. "北陸新幹線金沢~上越妙高間でW7系による走行試験が始まる" [Test-running using W7 series begins on Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa and Jōetsumyōkō]. Tetsudo Hobidas (in Japanese). Japan: Neko Publishing. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  17. 1 2 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/24/national/politics-heating-hokuriku-shinkansen-lines-undecided-last-leg/#.VqvdGNJ96Un
  18. "北陸新幹線、「けいはんな」通る第3案 京都と大阪間、与党委". The Nikkei. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  19. http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/high-speed/talks-begin-on-hokuriku-shinkansen-extension.html?channel=523%20*%20*
  20. 1 2 Osano, Kagetoshi (March 2015).  北陸新幹線並行在来線各社の姿 [Guide to companies operating conventional lines alongside the Hokuriku Shinkansen]. Tetsudō Daiya Jōhō Magazine (in Japanese). Vol. 44 no. 371. Japan: Kōtsū Shimbun. pp. 28–33.
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