No Timeline for Fully Restored Rail Services after Noto Quake

Courtesy of Noto Tetsudo Corp.
Soil is seen collapsed onto a track on Jan. 10 following the Noto Peninsula Earthquake.

Train services on the Noto Peninsula partially resumed Monday, two weeks after an earthquake registering the maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale hit Ishikawa Prefecture. However, it remains unclear when services will be fully restored as railway tracks and stations and other facilities have been damaged, while employees also have been affected by the massive quake.

The JR Nanao Line, which runs between Tsubata and Wakura Onsen stations, has suffered extensive damage, with tracks warped and overhead poles leaning to the side of the tracks. The railway returned to operation Monday with reduced services, running between Takamatsu and Hakui stations, or half the line’s 60-kilometer-or-so length.

According to the West Japan Railway Co. (JR West), the line had an average daily ridership of 3,428 people in fiscal 2022. Locals use the line to commute to work or school, while tourists use it to visit sightseeing spots along the railway.

On Monday morning, company employees, students and others heading toward Kanazawa were seen checking temporary train schedules and boarding trains at Hakui Station.

“I was scared to drive a car, so I was taking time off until yesterday,” a 47-year-old company employee said. “I can finally go to work.”

JR West aims to have trains running between Hakui and Nanao stations as early as Jan. 22. However, there is no forecast for restarting the section of the line that leads to Wakura Onsen, as a bridge has been damaged and ground in the area has experienced liquefaction.

The Noto Tetsudo railway company’s roughly 33-kilometer-long line is also still down. The local railway runs along the Noto Peninsula coast.

Rails on the line were deformed by ground upheaval. Sediment has also flowed into tunnels on the line, and in an emergency risk assessment, the company’s head office in Anamizu was deemed dangerous.

According to the railway company, more than 40 of its 47 employees were affected by the disaster.

The company’s president, 61, said he is looking at deploying buses for alternative transport. “We cannot sit idle. We are considering what we can do, and we aim to resume services as soon as possible.”

At Noto Airport in Wajima, uneven ground has been found on the runways in many places. Though Self-Defense Forces aircraft currently take off and land at the airport, which is serving as a base to ship goods to affected areas, commercial flights are predicted to resume only on Jan. 25 or later.