OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Railway services to Kansai International Airport resumed Tuesday, restoring the main transport link to western Japan's major international gateway two weeks after a powerful typhoon ripped through the region.
West Japan Railway Co. and Nankai Electric Railway Co. restarted their services to the airport from early morning after JR West fixed tracks on a bridge damaged in the typhoon. About 80 percent of public transportation users to the airport, which sits on a manmade island in Osaka Bay, arrived by train.
"I used the train after learning about its restart. It's more convenient than a bus and I arrived here early," said Tomoya Nishida, a 21-year-old university student from Matsubara, Osaka Prefecture, who was heading to Kyushu from the airport.
Typhoon Jebi, which made landfall in the country's west on Sept. 4, caused a tanker ship to break away from its moorings and sent it crashing into the sole road and rail bridge connecting the airport with the mainland, severing half of the lanes and stranding an estimated 8,000 passengers and staff at the airport.
The storm also brought high tides that flooded one of the airport's two runways and the No. 1 terminal building, which typically services about 400 flights daily.
JR West said damage to the railway was smaller than expected, and it was able to complete work on the line ahead of its initial plan to reopen Friday, when the No. 1 terminal building will be fully restored and flight services there are scheduled to return to normal.
The restoration of the road sharing the bridge is expected to take longer, with transport minister Keiichi Ishii saying authorities aim to complete repairs by the Golden Week holiday in May.
While three lanes were unaffected by the tanker collision, they basically remain off-limits and only special vehicles such as limousine buses are allowed to use them.
Tuesday's resumption of train services brought relief not only to airport users but also workers at the facility.
A 65-year-old worker at the airport, who had to commute by bus to the airport, welcomed the restart that was "earlier than expected," saying the train is faster and allows him to "stay at home 30 minutes longer."
Operators on Monday terminated the free bus service between a railway station on the mainland and the airport. While it takes five to six minutes by train to get to the airport from the station, the bus takes 15 to 20 minutes on average and passengers often could not board due to congestion.
Kansai airport has attracted a growing number of foreign passengers in recent years, particularly from China, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries, as it has been expanded for budget airlines.
The transport ministry will hold campaigns to promote tourism to western Japan for about a month from Friday to try and counter an expected drop in the number of foreign visitors to the region.