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Train operations resume on Iwate Pref. line damaged by 2011 tsunami

The first train of the newly reopened Rias Line, heavily damaged by the tsunami following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, is seen at Kamaishi Station in the city of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on March 23, 2019. (Mainichi/Shinnosuke Kyan)

KAMAISHI, Iwate -- Train operations between Miyako and Kamaishi stations in Iwate Prefecture resumed on March 23 after an eight-year suspension due to heavy damage caused by the tsunami following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

On the day, operations of the 55.4-kilometer section were transferred from East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) to Sanriku Railway Co., which runs the north Kita Rias Line between Kuji and Miyako stations and the south Minami Rias Line between Kamaishi and Sakari stations. The reconnected 163-kilometer route, which is the longest line operated by a joint public-private venture in Japan, was renamed to the Rias Line.

A departure ceremony was held beginning shortly before 11 a.m. at Kamaishi Station in the city of Kamaishi attended by Sanriku Railway President Ichiro Nakamura, Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso and reconstruction minister Hiromichi Watanabe. About 40 people selected from among public applications as well as guests boarded the first train departing from the station at 11:40 a.m., which was the only train service of the day. Regular services will start on March 24 on a new timetable.

According to the Tohoku District Transport Bureau, of the 10 train lines that were suspended for long periods due to the 2011 disaster, nine of them have been restored as railway or bus rapid transit routes. The last 20.8-kilometer section on the JR Joban Line between Tomioka and Namie stations in Fukushima Prefecture is expected to reopen by the end of March 2020.

(Japanese original by Kei Sato and Takashi Kokaji, Morioka Bureau)

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