Hokkaido Shinkansen

Last updated

Hokkaido Shinkansen
Shinkansen jrh.svg
H5Xi H1Bian Cheng Xian Tai Yi Ru Xian .JPG
An H5 series Shinkansen undergoing testing in November 2015
Native name北海道新幹線
Owner Img identity logo.png JRTT
Locale Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido, Japan
Termini Shin-Aomori
Type Shinkansen
Operator(s) JR logo (hokkaido).svg JR Hokkaido
Rolling stock E5 series, H5 series
Ridership2.11 million (FY 2016) [1]
Opened26 March 2016
Line length148.9 km
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Electrification 25 kV AC, 50 Hz, overhead catenary
Operating speed260 km/h (160 mph)
160 km/h (100 mph) (through Seikan Tunnel)
Route map
Map of Hokkaido Shinkansen.png

The Hokkaido Shinkansen (北海道新幹線, Hokkaidō Shinkansen) is a Japanese high-speed Shinkansen rail line that links up with the Tōhoku Shinkansen in northern Aomori Prefecture in Honshu and continues on into the interior of Hokkaido through the undersea Seikan Tunnel. Construction started in May 2005; the initial Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto section opened on 26 March 2016. [2] Extension of the line to Sapporo is scheduled to open by fiscal year 2030. [3] The line is operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido). [4]


Associated actions

The dual-gauge Kaikyo Line near Kikonai Station in March 2016 Kaikyou line kikonai direction.JPG
The dual-gauge Kaikyo Line near Kikonai Station in March 2016

In preparation for the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen, the Seikan Tunnel (Kaikyō Line) and associated approaches (approximately 82 km or 51 mi in total) [5] were converted to dual gauge, with both the Shinkansen 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard and 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge tracks. [6]

Upon the opening of the Shinkansen line the section of the conventional (narrow gauge) Esashi Line approximately paralleling the same route between Goryōkaku and Kikonai was transferred from the control of JR Hokkaido to a newly established third-sector railway operating company, South Hokkaido Railway Company, becoming the Isaribi Line. [7]


Service types

Two train service types operate on the Hokkaido Shinkansen: limited-stop Hayabusa services between Tokyo or Sendai and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and semi-fast Hayate services between Morioka or Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto.

Under the initial timetable, ten return Hayabusa services operate daily between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and one return service operates daily between Sendai and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. One return Hayate service operates daily between Morioka and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and one return service daily operates between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. [8]

Operating speed

Upon commencement of services in 2016 the maximum speed on the approximately 82 km dual gauge section of the Hokkaido Shinkansen (including through the Seikan Tunnel) was 140 km/h (85 mph), increased to 160 km/h (100 mph) in March 2019. [9] There are approximately 50 freight trains using the dual gauge section each day, so limiting the travel of such trains to times outside of Shinkansen services is not an option. Because of this and other weather-related factors cited by JR East and JR Hokkaido, the fastest journey time between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto is currently 3 hours, 57 minutes.

During the 2020-21 New Year Holiday period when fewer freight trains were operating, certain Shinkansen services were operated at 210 km/h (130 mph) on the dual gauge section and this is proposed again for the Golden Week Holiday period from 3–6 May 2021 [9]

To achieve the full benefit of Shinkansen trains travelling on the dual gauge section at 260 km/h (160 mph) (the maximum speed proposed through the tunnel), alternatives are being considered, such as a system to automatically slow Shinkansen trains to 200 km/h (125 mph) when passing narrow-gauge trains, and/or loading freight trains onto special "Train on Train" standard-gauge trains (akin to a covered piggyback flatcar train) built to withstand the shock wave of oncoming Shinkansen trains traveling at full speed. This would enable a travel time from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto of 3 hours and 45 minutes, a saving of 12 minutes on the current timetable.

In March 2019, JR Hokkaido announced that it had requested permission from the MLIT to increase the speed limit on the line to 320 km/h (200 mph). [10] If approved, it intends for the entire line to be outfitted for the new top speed by the time the full line opens in 2030, except for the dual-gauge section.


Station nameJapaneseDistance (km)TransfersLocation
Opened 26 March 2016
Shin-Aomori 新青森0.0
Aomori Aomori
Okutsugaru-Imabetsu 奥津軽いまべつ38.5 Imabetsu
AB-Tunnel.svg Seikan Tunnel
Kikonai 木古内113.3 Kikonai Hokkaido
Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto 新函館北斗148.9 Hokuto
Under construction (Scheduled to open during fiscal year 2030)
Shin-Yakumo [* 1] 新八雲203.0 Yakumo Hokkaido
Oshamambe 長万部236.1
Kutchan 倶知安290.2
  • Hakodate Main Line
Shin-Otaru [* 1] 新小樽328.2 Otaru
Sapporo 札幌360.2
Kita-ku, Sapporo
  1. 1 2 Tentative name

Rolling stock

All services are formed of 10-car JR East E5 or JR Hokkaido H5 series trainsets. [8]

In February 2014, JR Hokkaido placed an order for four 10-car H5 Series Shinkansen trainsets for use on Hokkaido Shinkansen services from March 2016. [11] Based on the E5 series trainsets operated by JR East since 2011, the order for 40 vehicles cost approximately 18 billion yen. [11] The first two sets of the order are scheduled to be delivered to Hakodate Depot by road from Hakodate Port in October 2014, with test running commencing before the end of the year. [12] The remaining two sets on order were scheduled to be delivered in 2015. [12] The vehicles feature the usual upper green and lower white livery, with a purple stripe in the middle. The color purple was chosen to represent the purple flowers of Hokkaido: lilacs, lupine and lavender. Inside, the ordinary-class cars feature wood paneling and carpet with a snowflake motif. Green class features cream-colored walls representing the local dairy industry and carpet with a drift-ice motif. Gran class features dark blue carpets, said to be modeled after the shimmering lakes and bodies of water along the route. [13]


A chart showing proposed journey times between Tokyo and Sapporo as the Hokkaido Shinkansen is extended. Tokyosapporotrainchart.png
A chart showing proposed journey times between Tokyo and Sapporo as the Hokkaido Shinkansen is extended.

In the early 1970s, two other Shinkansen routes were proposed for Hokkaido: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Hokkaido Shinkansen extension) and OshamambeMuroran – Sapporo (Hokkaido South Route). There were also further unofficial plans to connect to Abashiri, Kushiro and Nayoro/Wakkanai. These plans have been indefinitely shelved.

On 1 November 2014, a ceremony was held at Kikonai Station to mark the completion of track-laying for the line between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. [14] Test-running on the Hokkaido Shinkansen tracks within Hokkaido commenced from 1 December 2014, initially at low speeds, with the speed raised to the maximum of 260 km/h (160 mph) later that month. [15] Test-running was extended through the Seikan Tunnel to Oku-Tsugaru-Imabetsu in December 2014. [16] Test-running south of Oku-Tsugaru-Imabetsu commenced on 21 April 2015, with the first train reaching Shin-Aomori Station from the north in the early hours of 24 May. [16]

Future plans

JR Hokkaido is extending the Hokkaido Shinkansen from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Sapporo, planned to open by 2030. [3] Tunneling work on the 5,265 m (3.272 mi) Murayama Tunnel, situated about 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) north of Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station commenced in March 2015; it is scheduled to be completed by March 2021. The 211.3 km (131.3 mi) extension will be approximately 76% in tunnels, including major tunnels such as Oshima (26.5 km or 16.5 mi), Teine (18.8 km or 11.7 mi) and Shiribeshi (18 km or 11 mi). [17] When the section to Sapporo opens, the estimated journey time from Tokyo to Sapporo will be at most 5 hours and 1 minute, but the goal is for it to be below 4 hours. [18]

Related Research Articles

Shinkansen Japanese high-speed rail system

The Shinkansen, colloquially known in English as the bullet train, is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan. Initially, it was built to connect distant Japanese regions with Tokyo, the capital, to aid economic growth and development. Beyond long-distance travel, some sections around the largest metropolitan areas are used as a commuter rail network. It is operated by five Japan Railways Group companies.

Hokkaido Railway Company Japanese railway company

The Hokkaido Railway Company is one of the constituent companies of the Japan Railways Group, and is often referred to using its official abbreviation of JR Hokkaido. It operates intercity and local rail services in Hokkaido, Japan. The company introduced Kitaca, a smart card ticketing system, in autumn 2008.

Seikan Tunnel Undersea railway tunnel in Japan

The Seikan Tunnel, is a 53.85 km (33.46 mi) dual gauge railway tunnel in Japan, with a 23.3 km (14.5 mi) long portion under the seabed of the Tsugaru Strait, which separates Aomori Prefecture on the main Japanese island of Honshu from the northern island of Hokkaido. The track level is about 100 m (330 ft) below the seabed and 240 m (790 ft) below sea level. The tunnel is part of the standard gauge Hokkaido Shinkansen and the narrow gauge Kaikyō Line of the Hokkaido Railway Company 's Tsugaru-Kaikyō Line. The name Seikan comes from combining the on'yomi readings of the first characters of Aomori (青森), the nearest major city on the Honshu side of the strait, and Hakodate (函館), the nearest major city on the Hokkaido side.

Tōhoku Shinkansen Shinkansen (high-speed railway) line connecting Tokyo with the Tōhoku region of Honshu

The Tohoku Shinkansen is a Japanese high-speed Shinkansen rail line, connecting Tokyo with Aomori in Aomori Prefecture in a route length of 674.9 km (419.4 mi), making it Japan's longest Shinkansen line. It runs through the more sparsely populated Tōhoku region of Japan's main island, Honshu, and was extended as the Hokkaido Shinkansen through the Seikan Tunnel to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and is expected to be extended to Sapporo by 2030. It has two Mini-shinkansen branch lines, the Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen. The line is operated by East Japan Railway Company.

<i>Hayate</i> (train)

Hayate (はやて) is a high-speed Shinkansen service operated in Japan, on the Tohoku Shinkansen by East Japan Railway Company since 2002 and on the Hokkaido Shinkansen by JR Hokkaido since 26 March 2016. It operates as far as the northern terminus of Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and it is the second-fastest service on the Tohoku Shinkansen. These services were inaugurated with the opening of the Tohoku Shinkansen extension to Hachinohe on 1 December 2002.

Kaikyō Line

The Kaikyō Line is an 87.8-kilometer long railway line operated mainly by the Hokkaido Railway Company. The line connects Naka-Oguni Station in Sotogahama, Aomori, through the Seikan Tunnel between Honshu and Hokkaido, to Kikonai Station in Kikonai, Hokkaido. Two stations on the Tsugaru-Kaikyō Line, Tappi-Kaitei Station and Yoshioka-Kaitei Station, were inside the tunnel.

<i>Cassiopeia</i> (train)

The Cassiopeia is a luxury charter train service in Japan, operated by East Japan Railway Company. It used to operate as a Limited express from July 1999 until March 2016. It ran between Ueno Station in Tokyo and the city of Sapporo in the northern island of Hokkaido. The one-way journey took approximately 16½ hours.

Shin-Aomori Station Railway station in Aomori, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Shin-Aomori Station is a railway station in the city of Aomori, Aomori Prefecture, Japan, operated by the East Japan Railway Company and the Hokkaido Railway Company.

Okutsugaru-Imabetsu Station Railway station in Imabetsu, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Okutsugaru-Imabetsu Station is a railway station on the Hokkaido Shinkansen in the town of Imabetsu in Aomori Prefecture, on the island of Honshu, Japan. It is operated by Hokkaido Railway Company, and is the last stop in Honshu before the Seikan Tunnel to Hokkaido.

Tappi-Kaitei Station Former railway station in Sotogahama, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Tappi-Kaitei Station was a railway station on the Kaikyo Line in Sotogahama, Aomori, Japan, operated by Hokkaido Railway Company. The station is located within the Seikan Tunnel below the seabed of the Tsugaru Strait linking the main Japanese island of Honshu with the northern island of Hokkaido. It was closed to passengers from November 10, 2013, to make way for the construction of the Hokkaido Shinkansen high-speed train line. It is an emergency escape point.

Hakodate Station Railway station in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

Hakodate Station is a railway station on the Hakodate Main Line in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan, operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company.

Hakodate Main Line

The Hakodate Main Line is a railway line connecting the cities of Hakodate and Asahikawa via Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan. It is one of the trunk lines operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company. The Sawara Line, a 35 km loop line from Ōnuma to Mori opened in 1945, is included as part of the Hakodate Main Line.

Hakuchō (train)

The Hakuchō and Super Hakuchō (スーパー白鳥) were Japanese limited express train services which operated between Shin-Aomori and Hakodate via the undersea Seikan Tunnel from December 2002 until March 2016. The services were operated by East Japan Railway Company and Hokkaido Railway Company respectively.

<i>Hayabusa</i> (train)

The Hayabusa is a high-speed Shinkansen service operated by East Japan Railway Company and Hokkaido Railway Company between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto in Japan since 26 March 2016. The name was formerly used for a limited express sleeping car service operated by JR Kyushu, which ran from Tokyo to Kumamoto, and was discontinued in March 2009.

E5 Series Shinkansen Japanese high speed train type

The E5 series (E5系) is a Japanese Shinkansen high-speed train type operated by East Japan Railway Company on Tōhoku Shinkansen services since 5 March 2011 and on Hokkaido Shinkansen services since 26 March 2016. A total of 59 10-car sets are on order, with three sets in service in time for the start of new Hayabusa services to Shin-Aomori in March 2011.

Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station Railway station in Hokuto, Hokkaido, Japan

Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station is a railway station on the Hakodate Main Line in Hokuto, Hokkaido, Japan, operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company. The station – rebuilt and very extensively enlarged to serve from March 2016 as the northern terminal of the new Hokkaido Shinkansen – occupies the site of the former Oshima-Ōno Station (渡島大野駅), and is the northernmost high-speed Shinkansen railway station in Japan.

Train on Train Hokkaido Railway Company concept to allow entire narrow-gauge freight trains to be carried on standard-gauge flatwagons to achieve high speeds through the long undersea Seikan Tunnel

"Train on Train" is a concept for piggybacking by the trainload rather than one wagon at a time.

Hamanasu (train)

The Hamanasu (はまなす) was an overnight express train service in Japan operated by Hokkaido Railway Company, which ran from Aomori to Sapporo via the Tsugaru Line, Kaikyō Line, Esashi Line, Hakodate Main Line, Muroran Main Line, and Chitose Line. The journey took approximately seven and a half hours. Following the withdrawal of the Ginga overnight express service between Tokyo and Osaka in 2008, the Hamanasu became the only locomotive-hauled express service in Japan. The service was discontinued in March 2016.

H5 Series Shinkansen Japanese high-speed train type

The H5 series (H5系) is a Japanese Shinkansen high-speed train type owned by Hokkaido Railway Company for use on Tohoku and Hokkaido Shinkansen services since 26 March 2016. Based on the earlier E5 series trains, a total of four 10-car sets were built by Hitachi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries at a cost of approximately 18 billion yen. The first two sets were delivered in October 2014.

Seikan Ferry

The Seikan Ferry (青函フェリー) is a privately owned ferry service crossing the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. The company, Seikan Ferry Ltd. (有限会社青函フェリー), was founded in 1973 and runs between the cities of Aomori on the northern tip of Honshu and Hakodate in southern Hokkaido.


  1. "Archived copy" 国土交通省鉄道輸送統計年報(平成19年度). Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. 北海道新幹線開業は来年3月26日 JRが最終調整 [Hokkaido Shinkansen to open on 26 March next year - JR Hokkaido makes final adjustments]. Doshin (in Japanese). Japan: The Hokkaido Shimbun Press. 12 August 2015. Archived from the original on 12 August 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  3. 1 2 Ayateru, Hosozawa (8 June 2018). "Next Shinkansen will not only be faster, safer, but save on power". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  4. "DPJ may OK three new bullet-train sections". The Japan Times . Japan: The Japan Times Ltd. 17 December 2011. p. 1. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  5. Sato, Yoshihiko (16 February 2016). "Hokkaido Shinkansen prepares for launch". International Railway Journal. Simmons-Boardman Publishing Inc. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  6. "First Shinkansen train through the Seikan Tunnel". Railway Gazette. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  7. 道南いさりび鉄道、ロゴマークを発表…津軽海峡をモチーフ [South Hokkaido Railway Company unveils logo - Tsugaru Straits motif]. Response (in Japanese). Japan: IID Inc. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  8. 1 2 北海道新幹線 新青森~新函館北斗間開業に伴う運行計画の概要について [Details of operations following opening of Hokkaido Shinkansen between Sendai and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto](PDF). News release (in Japanese). Japan: East Japan Railway Company. 16 September 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  9. 1 2 "Seikan tunnel Shinkansen speed-up saves 3 min".
  10. "北海道新幹線でも最高320km/hへ…JR北海道が新函館北斗以北の高速化を要請". レスポンス(Response.jp) (in Japanese).
  11. 1 2 北海道新幹線「H5系」、内装には雪の結晶も [Hokkaido Shinkansen "H5 series" - Interiors to feature snowflake design]. Yomiuri Online (in Japanese). Japan: The Yomiuri Shimbun. 16 April 2014. Archived from the original on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  12. 1 2 北海道新幹線車両、函館港に10月陸揚げ 今年まず20両、基地へ陸送 [Hokkaido Shinkansen trains to arrive at Hakodate Port in October with 20 vehicles delivered to depot this year]. Doshin Web (in Japanese). Japan: The Hokkaido Shimbun Press. 19 March 2014. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  13. Special Preview: Hokkaido Shinkansen - Hopes and Challenges. NHK. 25 February 2016. Event occurs at 5:00. Archived from the original on 29 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  14. 北海道新幹線(新青森・新函館北斗間)レール締結式の開催について [Hokkaido Shinkansen rail joining ceremony](PDF). Press release (in Japanese). Japan: Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  15. Suzuki, Katsuichi (1 December 2014). 北海道新幹線:試験走行始まる 下旬には260キロで [Hokkaido Shinkansen test running starts - 260 km/h by early December]. Mainichi Shimbun (in Japanese). Japan: The Mainichi Newspapers. Archived from the original on 1 December 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  16. 1 2 北海道新幹線の試験走行、新青森駅に初乗り入れ [Hokkaido Shinkansen test-running reaches Shin-Aomori Station for the first time]. Asahi Shimbun Digital (in Japanese). Japan: The Asahi Shimbun Company. 24 May 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  17. http://www.mlit.go.jp/common/000215188.pdf
  18. Press, Jiji. "Shinkansen to get 3 new sections". Daily Yomiuri Online. The Yomiuri Shimbun. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2014.