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Iwate railway hit by 2011 tsunami begins test runs ahead of resuming train service

A diesel-electric locomotive runs on the tracks of the JR Yamada Line as part of a test run ahead of resuming train service between Miyako and Kamaishi stations halted after the March 2011 tsunami, in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on Aug. 21, 2018. (Mainichi)

KAMAISHI, Iwate -- East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) began test runs here on Aug. 21 along the JR Yamada Line, where service was suspended after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit the area in March 2011.

A roughly 8.5-kilometer stretch of railroad in Iwate Prefecture, along the northeastern Japanese coast, was swept away by the tsunami. Seven of the 13 stations were also swept away or damaged along the 55.4-kilometer section between Miyako and Kamaishi stations. On July 18, JR East finished laying tracks along the route after elevating land along the railway and completing other construction work.

The test run on Aug. 21 started with the 12.3-kilometer section of track between Kamaishi and Otsuchi stations. A roughly 65-metric-ton diesel-electric locomotive, heavier than a usual train car, ran between the two stations and across an overpass bridge in Kamaishi at 5, 15 and 45 kilometers per hour to confirm the safety of the railroads tracks.

JR East will continue testing, and is aiming to complete reconstruction of station buildings, bridges and other structures by the end of September. The operation of the line will then be transferred to semi-public Iwate Prefecture corporation Sanriku Railway Co., and service will resume on March 23, 2019.

After being handed over to Sanriku Railway, the section between Miyako and Kamaishi stations will link the already-operational "Kita-Riasu Line," 71 kilometers from Kuji Station to Miyako Station, and the "Minami-Riasu Line," 36.6 kilometers from Kamaishi Station to Sakari Station. The overall 163-kilometer section between Kuji Station and Sakari Station will be renamed the "Riasu Line."

(Japanese original by Takuhide Nakao, Morioka Bureau)

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