JCP Shii calls for halt to construction of maglev Shinkansen system
May 18, 2012
Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on May 17 called for the cancelation of the construction of Japan’s first magnetically levitated train system between Tokyo and Osaka.
Central Japan Railway Company, or JR Tokai, plans to spend more than 9 trillion yen to start operations of maglev trains between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 and between Tokyo and Osaka in 2047. In May 2011, the transport ministry ordered the company to launch the construction plan, and an environmental assessment is now being undertaken.
At a press conference in Yamanashi Prefecture, Shii raised the following five points as grounds for his objection to the construction of the high-speed rail service.
No public demand: the number of annual passengers using the Tokaido Shinkansen line (Tokyo – Osaka) has remained almost the same for the last 20 years. As conventional Shinkansen and air flight services connect Tokyo and Osaka many times a day, there is no economic or social demand for a 90-minute cut in travel time between the two cities.
The public may be forced to shoulder excessive financial burdens if the project fails: A further increase in the construction cost or a weak growth in demand for the new rail service may force the public to cover the enormous cost overruns with an injection of public funds, corporate cost cuts, restructuring, or abolition of existing railways.
Anti-quake/tsunami measures must be taken first: the intensity level of a possible earthquake and tsunami suggested in the recently-released quake forecast in the Nankai Trough is much higher than previous predictions. Rather than introducing the new Shinkansen line, counter measures against a major natural disaster must be urgently taken in addition to the reconstruction of rail services in the region devastated by the 3.11 disaster.
The electricity consumption of maglev trains will be three times more than conventional Shinkansen: Triggered by the Fukushima nuclear accident, the public is increasingly calling for energy-saving efforts and this runs counter to calls to reduce electricity consumption.
Concerns over safety: 80% of the track for the “next-generation” Shinkansen will be laid out in underground tunnels, most of which will be deeper than 40m from the surface. However, this train will be remotely controlled without a driver on board. A major question that is yet to be responded to is if safety can be maintained in an event of accident, fire, or quake. Another concern is in regard to the possible negative impact of strong electromagnetic waves on human health.