OSAKA -- West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) has started tests to transport fresh products from Kagoshima Prefecture to Osaka Prefecture, about 900 kilometers away, on shinkansen bullet trains in about four hours.
The tests have been conducted on the Sanyo and Kyushu shinkansen lines. As travel demand for trains has stagnated amid the coronavirus pandemic, JR West is hoping to create a new business value by making use of the shinkansen network.
According to JR West, it will utilize three bullet train features -- high speed, punctuality and frequency. Cooperating with Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu), JR West intends to transport Kagoshima Prefecture's specialties such as great amberjack, Sakurajima daikon radish and strawberries. The packages are placed in empty spaces designated for in-train vendors instead of on passenger seats. JR West said it will continue the tests until June to check temperature management and the handing over of packages at stations. It then aims to begin regular operation of the service.
JR West unveiled its first tests to the media at Shin-Osaka Station on Feb. 26. A shinkansen train carrying eight boxfuls of fresh products and other items that were loaded at Kagoshima-Chuo Station arrived at Shin-Osaka Station. The products were then transported to hotels in Osaka and Kyoto via conventional railway lines.
As local industries in the countryside have also suffered from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a JR West representative said, "We'd like to contribute to sales promotion of regional specialties by transporting them."
The number of passengers on Sanyo Shinkansen bullet trains in January was only 27% of that in the previous year. East Japan Railway Co. started full-scale transport of freight on shinkansen in October 2020, and JR Kyushu is also doing the same. JR West is furthermore planning to transport shrimp, crabs and other items from the city of Kanazawa on the Sea of Japan to Tokyo using Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet trains.
(Japanese original by Masaki Takahashi, Osaka City News Department)