Nagoya, June 13 (Jiji Press)–Central Japan Railway Co. <9022> President Shin Kaneko and Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu are expected to hold talks by the end of this month with the aim of breaking the deadlock over preparatory construction work for a key section on the company’s ultrahigh-speed magnetic levitation train line.
If the talks fall apart, however, the railway operator, better known as JR Tokai, would face difficulties launching the maglev Shinkansen service in 2027 as planned between Tokyo and Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, and the 9-trillion-yen maglev project may have to be modified consequently, sources said.
The work for the 8.9-kilometer section in the central prefecture of Shizuoka, part of the 25-kilometer Southern Alps Tunnel, has been on hold as the prefectural government remains concerned over environmental impacts.
Visiting a planned construction site in the city of Shizuoka, the prefecture’s capital, on Thursday, Kawakatsu said that the preparatory work would lead to the full-scale tunnel construction, sounding cautious about giving approval for the work.
Still, the governor voiced his readiness to hold talks with Kaneko. The tunnel construction is thought to be the most difficult part of the project.
While Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference Thursday sought maximum efforts by JR Tokai to realize the maglev Shinkansen launch in 2027, the fate of the project now hinges on the outcome of the Kawakatsu-Kaneko talks, which have yet to be scheduled, people familiar with the situation said. The maglev bullet train line is slated to be extended to Osaka, western Japan, later.
Ahead of the meeting with the JR Tokai chief, Kawakatsu plans to hold a videoconference with leaders of municipalities in his prefecture Tuesday.
The JR Tokai side believes that an agreement between the firm and the prefecture must be reached within this month to launch the Tokyo-Nagoya service as scheduled.
Trains on the line will travel at speeds of up to 500 kilometers per hour.
The Southern Alps Tunnel will run under many 3,000-meter-class mountains. JR Tokai halted work on the Shizuoka section of the tunnel in May last year as it was unable to win approval from the prefecture.
With the local governments worried that the construction of the tunnel will result in a decrease in groundwater flowing into the Oi River in the prefecture, talks between the prefecture and JR Tokai have been stalled.
At a press conference late last month, Kaneko said, “If we cannot resume the preparatory work within June, we’ll end up seeing difficulties opening the Tokyo-Nagoya section in 2027.”
On Wednesday, Kaneko expressed a greater sense of crisis, saying that JR Tokai would be able to launch the Tokyo-Nagoya service “just barely in time” even if the preparatory work is restarted this month.
Meanwhile, Kawakatsu has suggested that any possible delay in the opening of the service should be blamed on the JR Tokai side, urging the company to resolve environmental issues and create a forest road leading to the construction site at its own expense.
The maglev project is designed to supplement the existing Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train line, which was launched more than 50 years ago.
If the opening of the maglev Shinkansen line is delayed, the overall project cost may balloon further.