Use Scientific Findings to Alleviate Concerns to Proceed with Massive Project

Construction of the Linear Chuo Shinkansen maglev line has stalled in some portions, which is a situation that cannot be disregarded. Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), the main entity involved in its construction, should take measures based on scientific evidence and urgently gain the understanding of local governments and residents.

The Linear Chuo Shinkansen line is being constructed so that maglev technology making use of superconductivity can connect the 438 kilometers between Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and Osaka in just over one hour. JR Tokai aims to start operation of the line in 2037.

The central government estimates the annual economic effect of opening the entire line to be ¥6.5 trillion. In the event of a disaster, the line is expected to serve as a bypass for the Tokaido Shinkansen line.

Construction of the Shinagawa-Nagoya section of the line began at the end of 2014, with the aim of opening this section in 2027. However, the construction of a tunnel through the Southern Japanese Alps on the Shizuoka Prefecture side has not been approved by the prefectural government.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu has continued to argue that the construction of the new tunnel will cause water stored in the mountains of the Southern Japanese Alps to flow out from the tunnel, reducing the amount of water in the Oi River, which provides water for the daily lives of the prefecture’s residents.

The governor maintains that the prefecture will not approve construction unless a method is established to return to the Oi River all mountain spring water produced by the tunneling work.

After the tunnel opens, JR Tokai plans to pump all water that comes out of it so that it can be brought back to the Oi River.

Furthermore, JR Tokai has proposed that water that cannot be collected to be brought back to the river during the construction period will be supplied from the Tashiro Dam located upstream of the Oi River, and it began negotiations this month with the company that operates the dam.

If the Tashiro Dam can be utilized, Kawakatsu’s demand that all water that is supposed to be supplied to the Oi River be returned to the river will be fulfilled.

The 10 cities and towns in the Oi River basin generally welcome the idea of using the Tashiro Dam. This may be due in part to their expectations for the infrastructure improvements that will accompany the construction of the new line. Kawakatsu, too, needs to hold discussions with the local governments in the basin.

There are still issues to be cleared before construction of the tunnel can begin in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Discussions between JR Tokai and the prefecture have not progressed on how to dispose of the large amount of soil that will be generated by the tunnel excavation. JR Tokai plans to set up a soil repository in the mountains of the Southern Japanese Alps, but Kawakatsu is opposed to the idea, saying that there are fragile areas in the ground and collapses could occur.

Measures based on scientific findings are essential to alleviate local concerns, and JR Tokai must make every effort to provide careful explanations to gain the understanding of local governments and local residents.

The Linear Chuo Shinkansen is a ¥9 trillion project, of which ¥3 trillion will be financed by the central government’s fiscal investment and loan program. The central government needs to encourage the smooth progress of dialogue between JR Tokai and the Shizuoka prefectural government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 25, 2023)