Mini-shinkansen (ミニ新幹線) is the name given to the concept of converting 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge railway lines to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge for use by shinkansen train services in Japan. Unlike the high-speed shinkansen lines, the mini-shinkansen lines have a maximum speed of only 130 km/h (80 mph). Two mini-shinkansen routes have been constructed: the Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen.
The mini-shinkansen concept was first developed in JNR days, but was not formally proposed until November 1987, following the formation of East Japan Railway Company (JR East). The concept involved regauging existing 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge lines to standard gauge and linking them to the shinkansen network to allow through-running. While the track gauge was widened, the loading gauge remained unchanged, requiring the construction of new shinkansen trains with a narrower cross-section. These would be capable of running at high speed (the E6 series trains have a maximum speed capability of 320 km/h) on Shinkansen tracks, either on their own or coupled to full-sized sets, and run at conventional narrow-gauge speeds (around 130 km/h) on the mini-shinkansen tracks. Speeds on converted lines would also be raised where possible.
The first mini-shinkansen route to be built was the Yamagata Shinkansen, converted from the 87.1 km section of the Ōu Main Line between Fukushima on the Tohoku Shinkansen and Yamagata in Yamagata Prefecture. Work started in 1988, with Yamagata Shinkansen services commencing on 1 July 1992. Services were operated by a new fleet of 400 Series Shinkansen trains, at up to 240 km/h on the Tōhoku Shinkansen and 130 km/h on the Yamagata Shinkansen section. The success of this initiative led to the conversion of a further 61.5 km of the line to Shinjō, opening on 4 December 1999.
Following the success of the Yamagata Shinkansen conversion, a scheme was proposed to construct a second mini-shinkansen route from Morioka in Iwate Prefecture, then the northern terminus of the Tohoku Shinkansen, with Akita in Akita Prefecture. This involved regauging the 75.6 km Tazawako Line from Morioka to Ōmagari and 51.7 km of the Ōu Main Line from Ōmagari to Akita. This opened on 22 March 1997 with Komachi services using new E3 Series Shinkansen trains. On 16 March 2013, E6 series trains entered service on this line, initially at a maximum speed of 300 km/h on the Tohoku Shinkansen section. In March 2014, the maximum speed on the Tohoku Shinkansen was increased to 320 km/h.
The following rolling stock was built for use on mini-shinkansen lines.
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.
The 200 series (200系) was a Shinkansen high-speed train type introduced by Japanese National Railways (JNR) for the Tohoku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen high-speed rail lines in Japan, and operated by East Japan Railway Company until 2013. They actually predated the 100 series trains, having been built between 1980 and 1986. It was one of the two recipients of the 23rd Laurel Prize presented by the Japan Railfan Club, the first Shinkansen type to receive that award. The last remaining sets were retired from regular service in March 2013, and were completely withdrawn from service in April 2013.
The 400 series (400系) was a Japanese Shinkansen high-speed train type operated by East Japan Railway Company between 1992 and 2010 on Tsubasa services on Japan's first mini-shinkansen line, the Yamagata Shinkansen branch from the main Tohoku Shinkansen.
The E3 series (E3系) is a Japanese Shinkansen high-speed train type built for Komachi services which commenced on 3 June 1997, coinciding with the opening of the new Akita Shinkansen "mini-shinkansen" line, a regular 1,067 mm narrow-gauge line between Morioka and Akita re-gauged to 1,435 mmstandard gauge. Later versions of the E3 series were also introduced for use on Yamagata Shinkansen Tsubasa services. Both "mini-shinkansen" lines join the Tohoku Shinkansen, providing services to and from Tokyo.
The Kyushu Shinkansen is a Japanese high-speed railway line between the cities of Fukuoka and Kagoshima in Kyushu, running parallel to the existing Kagoshima Main Line and operated by JR Kyushu. It is an extension of the San'yō Shinkansen from Honshu. The southern 127 km (79 mi) was constructed first because the equivalent section of the former Kagoshima Main Line is single track, and thus a significant improvement in transit time was gained when this dual track section opened on 13 March 2004, despite the need for passengers to change to a Relay Tsubame narrow gauge train at Shin-Yatsushiro for the remainder of the journey to Hakata. The northern 130 km (81 mi) section opened on 12 March 2011, enabling through-services to Shin-Osaka.
The Komachi (こまち) is a high-speed shinkansen service between Tokyo and Akita in Japan, operated by the East Japan Railway Company since March 1997. It is the only shinkansen service that runs on the Akita Shinkansen, and uses E6 series trains. Between Tokyo Station and Morioka, it couples with Tōhoku Shinkansen E5 series Hayabusa and E2 series for E3 series. After Morioka, the Komachi service continues along standard gauge tracks that were converted from narrow gauge. Because it then runs on tracks that have grade crossings, its maximum speed from Morioka to Akita is 130 km/h (80 mph), compared to 320 km/h (200 mph) on the Tohoku Shinkansen.
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.
The Jōetsu Shinkansen (上越新幹線) is a high-speed shinkansen railway line connecting Tokyo and Niigata, Japan, via the Tōhoku Shinkansen, operated by the East Japan Railway Company. Despite its name, the line does not pass through the city of Joetsu or the historical Jōetsu region, which instead are served by the Hokuriku Shinkansen.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) is a high-speed Shinkansen railway line jointly operated by East Japan Railway Company and West Japan Railway Company, 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). The extension to Toyama in Toyama Prefecture and Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture opened on 14 March 2015. Construction of a further section onward to Fukui and Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture commenced in 2012, with scheduled opening in fiscal 2022. The route of the final section to Shin-Osaka was decided on 20 December 2016 as the Osaka–Kyoto route, with construction expected to begin in 2030 and take 15 years.
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.
The Akita Shinkansen (秋田新幹線) is a Mini-shinkansen rail line in Japan. Serving the Kantō and Tōhoku Regions of the country, it links Tokyo and Akita in Akita prefecture. From Tokyo to Morioka in Iwate prefecture, it operates on the Tōhoku Shinkansen tracks. From Morioka to Ōmagari, it uses the Tazawako Line tracks. The section from Ōmagari to Akita use the Ōu Main Line tracks.
The Yamagata Shinkansen (山形新幹線) is a Mini-shinkansen route in Japan, operated by East Japan Railway Company. It provides service between Tokyo and Shinjō in Yamagata Prefecture over the tracks of the Tohoku Shinkansen and the Ōu Main Line.
The Hokkaido 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. Extension of the line to Sapporo is scheduled to open by fiscal year 2030. The line is operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company.
The Ōu Main Line is a railway line in Japan, operated by the East Japan Railway Company. It connects Fukushima Station through Akita Station to Aomori Station. Since the opening of the Yamagata Shinkansen on July 1, 1992, the Fukushima–Yamagata section is sometimes referred to as the Yamagata Line. The name of the line as a whole refers to the ancient provinces of Mutsu (陸奥) and Dewa (出羽), as it connects both ends of Mutsu by passing north–south through Dewa.
The Tazawako Line is a railway line operated by East Japan Railway Company connecting Morioka Station in Morioka, Iwate and Ōmagari Station in Daisen, Akita, Japan.
The Tsubasa (つばさ) is a high-speed Shinkansen train service operated on the Yamagata Shinkansen by East Japan Railway Company since July 1992. The name was formerly used for a limited express service operated by Japanese National Railways (JNR) and later by JR East, which ran from Ueno to Akita, and was discontinued in 1992 when the new shinkansen service commenced.
The Akita Relay (秋田リレー) was a limited express train service operated by East Japan Railway Company in Japan between March 1996 and March 1997.
Super Tokkyū (スーパー特急) is the name given to the concept of building new high-speed narrow gauge railway lines in Japan to extend the Shinkansen network of high-speed lines.
The E6 series (E6系) is a Japanese Shinkansen high-speed train type operated by East Japan Railway Company on Komachi "mini-shinkansen" services on the Tōhoku Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen from Tokyo to Akita since 16 March 2013. A pre-series set was delivered in June 2010 for extensive testing, with 23 full-production sets delivered between November 2012 and spring 2014.
The 701 series is an AC electric multiple unit (EMU) train type operated on local services by East Japan Railway Company, Aoimori Railway, and Iwate Galaxy Railway (IGR) in Japan. The design is derived from the 209 series commuter EMU, and was intended to replace locomotive-hauled trains formed of 50 series coaches in the north of Japan.