A JR West W7 series train on the Hokuriku Shinkansen
|Locale||Tokyo; Saitama, Gunma, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui Prefectures|
|Operator(s)|| JR East (From Takasaki to Jōetsumyōkō)|
JR West (From Jōetsumyōkō to Kanazawa)
|Rolling stock||E7 series, W7 series|
|Opened||1 October 1997|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Minimum radius||4,000 m (13,000 ft)|
|Electrification||25 kV AC, 50/60 Hz, overhead catenary|
|Operating speed||260 km/h (160 mph)|
The Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) is a high-speed shinkansen railway line jointly operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and West Japan Railway Company (JR West), connecting Tokyo with Kanazawa in the Hokuriku region of Japan. The first section, between Takasaki and Nagano in Nagano Prefecture, opened on 1 October 1997, originally called the Nagano Shinkansen (長野新幹線) (Takasaki is linked to Tokyo by the Jōetsu Shinkansen). The extension to Toyama in Toyama Prefecture and Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture opened on 14 March 2015. Construction of a further section onward to Fukui and Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture commenced in 2012, with scheduled opening in fiscal 2022. The route of the final section to Shin-Osaka was decided on 20 December 2016 as the Osaka–Kyoto route, with construction expected to begin in 2030 and take 15 years.
Train names and service patterns
- Kagayaki: Tokyo–Kanazawa, limited-stop service, since 14 March 2015
- Hakutaka: Tokyo–Kanazawa, mostly all-stations service, since 14 March 2015
- Tsurugi: Toyama–Kanazawa, all-stations shuttle service, since 14 March 2015
- Asama: Tokyo–Nagano, mostly all-stations service, corresponding to existing Nagano Shinkansen service introduced in 1997
The original Nagano Shinkansen Asama services, introduced in 1997, replaced the conventional Shin'etsu Main Line limited express services, also named Asama, which previously took 2 hours 50 minutes from Tokyo (Ueno Station) to Nagano. Following the opening of the Shinkansen, part of the conventional line was abandoned between Yokokawa and Karuizawa. This section included the steeply-graded Usui Pass which required the use of bank engines on all trains.
- The boundary between JR East and JR West lies immediately to the north of Jōetsumyōkō Station.
- Stations in italics are not currently operational.
- Tentative name.
As of 2012, the maximum line speed is 110 km/h (70 mph) between Tokyo and Omiya, 245 km/h (150 mph) between Omiya and Takasaki, and 260 km/h (160 mph) between Takasaki and Nagano. 
- E7 series 12-car "F" sets" (since 15 March 2014)
- W7 series 12-car "W" sets" (since 14 March 2015)
With the start of Nagano Shinkansen services, trains were operated by a new fleet of JR East E2 series 8-car sets. A fleet of 17 new E7 series 12-car trainsets were phased in from March 2014, and these were augmented by a fleet of 10 JR West W7 series 12-car sets introduced from March 2015. The fleet of W7 series was purchased at a cost of ¥32.8 billion. The remaining E2 series trainsets were withdrawn from Hokuriku Shinkansen services on 31 March 2017.
In 2019, ten trains, eight from JR East with a book value of ¥11.8 billion and two from JR West, were damaged when a train yard in Nagano was flooded as the Chikuma River overflowed during typhoon Hagibis. As a result, JR West suffered a loss of ¥3 billion.
Former rolling stock
- E2 series 8-car "N" sets on Tokyo - Nagano Asama services only
- E2 series 8-car "J" sets
- E4 series 8-car "P50/P80" sets as Max Asama
- 200 series 12-car set F80 during February 1998 only
The original E2 series 8-car "J" sets, primarily used on Tohoku Shinkansen services were also used on some Asama services until they were subsequently lengthened to 10 cars. One specially-modified 200 series set, numbered F80, was used on additional Asama services in February 1998 during the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Nagano. The train was modified to operate on both 25 kV AC 50 Hz and 60 Hz overhead power supplies, incorporated weight-saving measures to comply with the 16 tonne axle load restriction, and included additional control equipment to cope with the 30‰ gradient of the Nagano Shinkansen. Its maximum speed was limited to 210 km/h (130 mph). The last services operated using eight-car E2 series trainsets ran on 31 March 2017, from which date all Asama services were formed of E7 and W7 series trainsets.
A Nagano Shinkansen E2 series "J" set approaching Karuizawa, February 1998
The initial section between Takasaki and Nagano opened on 1 October 1997, in time for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.
Between May 2012 and March 2014, station platforms on the Nagano Shinkansen had their platform roofs extended to handle the E7 series 12-car trains which entered service in March 2014 ahead of the March 2015 opening of the extension beyond Nagano. The Hokuriku Shinkansen extension from Nagano to Kanazawa opened in March 2015. The 113-km extension from Kanazawa to Tsuruga was approved for construction in June 2012.
From the start of the revised timetable on 15 March 2014, E7 series trainsets were introduced on Asama services. Initially used on seven return services daily, this number was increased to eleven return services daily from 19 April 2014.
The line's legal name has always been Hokuriku Shinkansen. However, just before the opening of the Nagano section, JR East has decided that using this name in passenger service is to be avoided. From March 22, 1997 until the extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Kanazawa, the primary route for Hokuriku customers (from the Tokyo area) is to use the Joetsu Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa Station, then transfer to Hakutaka via the Hokuetsu Express, rendering using the Takasaki–Nagano section of the Hokuriku Shinkansen meaningless for them. Therefore, JR East sought other names.
On the other hand, local governments in Hokuriku, fearing construction west of Nagano may be halted, petitioned that the name "Hokuriku" should remain in use for operational purposes. 。
JR East announced the following solution at July 25, 1997:
- Voice announcements using "Nagano Shinkansen"
- Tokyo area stations using depictions with "Nagano-bound Shinkansen".
- Stations between Annaka-Haruna Station and Nagano Station depicting "Shinkansen" only.
Soon, "Nagano-bound Shinkansen" fell out of use, and timetables by various publishers use "Nagano Shinkansen" only. Construction to Kanazawa was officially decided, thereby reducing the opposition to the name.
Extension beyond Nagano
Construction of the extension from Nagano to Kanazawa was completed on 24 May 2014. When services commenced in March 2015, the travel time from Tokyo to Toyama was reduced to about 2 hours, with Kanazawa an additional 30 minutes away. Final permission to start construction to Fukui was granted in December 2011, with modification works to Fukui Station already in progress for several years in anticipation of the extension. The extension to Tsuruga was approved for construction on 30 June 2012, and is scheduled to open in fiscal 2022. Beyond Jōetsumyōkō Station, the line is operated by West Japan Railway Company (JR West) instead of East Japan Railway Company (JR East).
Naming issue rises again
Many people speculated about and discussed what the line's operational name should be after Nagano–Kanazawa section is completed.
Nagano economic associations argued a sudden change in name will confuse customers, propose "Nagano–Hokuriku Shinkansen" to be used. In contrast government officials and economic associations in Hokuriku region defended the legal name, including statements such as "a just result should come after 3 prefectures striving for 40 years".
Section west of Jōetsumyōkō belongs to JR West, which did not state an opinion and used "Hokuriku Shinkansen" only.
On October 2, 2013, JR East announced formal line name will be Hokuriku Shinkansen (consistent with National Shinkansen Railway Development Act) and depicted as Hokuriku Shinkansen (via Nagano), resolving the naming issue.
Test-running on the JR East section of the line between Nagano and Kurobe-Unazukionsen commenced on 1 December 2013, initially at low speeds using the "East i" test train. From 6 December, test-running commenced using 10-car E2 series trainsets, with running speeds gradually increased to the full line speed of 260 km/h (160 mph). Test-running continued until the end of March 2014. Test-running on the entire line between Nagano and Kanazawa (Hakusan Depot) started on 1 August 2014, using the "East i" test train. Test-running using W7 series trains commenced on 5 August 2014, initially at low speed, on the JR West section between Kanazawa and Jōetsumyōkō.
The route of the final section from Tsuruga to Ōsaka was finalized on 20 December 2016 as the 'Obama–Kyoto' route. The following four options were under consideration, with a fifth unofficial option suggested by a local politician.
- Maibara Route (米原ルート): This involved building a full standard shinkansen track to Maibara Station. It was one third of the length of the Obama Route, and provided good access to both Kyoto and Nagoya. It would have resulted in longer travel time to Osaka than the other options, and trains would have had to use the existing, already near-capacity Tokaido Shinkansen tracks between Maibara and Shin-Osaka.
- Kosei Route (湖西ルート): This involved no new track construction; instead, this proposal would have upgraded the Kosei Line to Kyōto, either by regauging or dual-gauging the line to support Mini-Shinkansen, or alternatively utilising Gauge Change Train (GCT) operations. This was the cheapest option, but meant train speeds would likely be limited to a maximum of 160 km/h (100 mph) and hence travel times would have been longer than the other options.
- Obama Route (小浜ルート): First proposed in 1973, this route involved building a full standard shinkansen track via Obama and Kameoka. It was the shortest route to Osaka, but also the most expensive (approximately 1 trillion yen), and would have bypassed Kyōto.
- Obama–Kyoto Route (小浜・京都ルート): This, the now selected route, was first made public in August 2015, and involves following the proposed Obama Route west as far as Obama and then building shinkansen track southward to link with the Tokaido Shinkansen at Kyōto. Including Kyoto on the route is seen as important to increase tourism.
- Maizuru Route (舞鶴ルート): Kyoto politician, Shoji Nishida's proposal from Tsuruga, via Obama, to Maizuru then south-east to Kyoto, eastern Osaka and Kansai Airport. This option was uncosted but would have been the most expensive due to the scale of the proposal. Its case was to provide development to the Maizuru region as per the Japanese national government's policy, with the Maizuru Maritime Self-Defence Force Base and several nuclear power stations put forward as reasonable traffic generators. The option to extend the line south of Kyoto to a new Osaka station (located to the south east of Osaka) and onwards to Kansai International Airport was seen as a means to avoid the congestion of the Tokaido line. It may have served as an alternative route or terminus to Shin-Osaka station for Tokaido line trains, reducing Tokaido line congestion.
A government committee deliberating the proposals decided in April 2016 to narrow the proposed route to three alignments between Tsuruga and Kyōto and two alignments between Kyoto and Shin-Ōsaka (a northern route through Minoh and a southern route through the Kansai Science City). On 6 March 2017 the government committee announced the chosen route from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka is to be via Kyotanabe, with a station at Matsuiyamate on the Katamachi Line. There had previously been discussion of routing the line to Tennōji, a major terminal in southeast Osaka, which would allow an extension of the line to Kansai Airport.
In an attempt to extend the benefits of the Hokuriku Shinkansen to stations west of Tsuruga before the section to Shin-Osaka is completed, JR West was working in partnership with Talgo on the development of a Gauge Change Train (GCT), which was proposed to be capable of operating under both the 25 kV AC electrification used on the Shinkansen and the 1.5 kV DC system employed on conventional lines. The six-car train was due to start trials on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and the 1067 mm-gauge Hokuriku and Kosei lines in 2017. As part of the project JR West had begun trials with a purpose-built 180 m-long gauge-changer at Tsuruga. However, as a result of the abandonment of the proposed use of a GCT on the West Kyushu Shinkansen to Nagasaki by JR Kyushu, in August 2018 JR West announced that the proposed GCT between Tsuruga and Osaka had been abandoned.
Conventional lines running parallel to the Hokuriku Shinkansen
With the opening of the initial Nagano Shinkansen section in October 1997, the section of the conventional (narrow gauge) Shinetsu Main Line running along approximately the same route between Karuizawa and Shinonoi was transferred from the control of JR East to a newly established third-sector railway operating company, Shinano Railway, becoming the Shinano Railway Line.
With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension north of Nagano on 14 March 2015, the conventional lines running along approximately the same route were transferred from the control of their respective JR owning companies to newly established third-sector railway operating companies funded primarily by the prefectural and municipal governments through which the lines pass. A total of 252.2 km (156.7 mi) of route between Nagano and Kanazawa was transferred to four separate operating companies, including 75.0 km (46.6 mi) of the Shinetsu Main Line between Nagano and Naoetsu, and 177.2 km (110.1 mi) of the Hokuriku Main Line between Naoetsu and Kanazawa. Details of the four third-sector operating companies and their respective lines are as shown below.
|Section||Length (km)||Former line name||Former operating company||Date transferred||New line name||Operating company|
|Karuizawa–Shinonoi||65.1||Shinetsu Main Line||JR East||1 October 1997||Shinano Railway Line||Shinano Railway|
|Nagano–Myōkō-Kōgen||37.3||14 March 2015||Shinano Railway Kita-Shinano Line|
|Myōkō-Kōgen–Naoetsu||37.7||Myōkō Haneuma Line||Echigo Tokimeki Railway|
|Naoetsu–Ichiburi||59.3||Hokuriku Main Line||JR West||Nihonkai Hisui Line|
|Ichiburi–Kurikara||100.1||Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line||Ainokaze Toyama Railway|
|Kurikara–Kanazawa||17.8||IR Ishikawa Railway Line||IR Ishikawa Railway|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hokuriku Shinkansen.|
- JR East website (in Japanese)
- JR West website (in Japanese)
- Ishikawa Prefecture: Hokuriku Shinkansen construction page (in Japanese)
- Fukui Prefecture: Hokuriku Shinkansen Construction Promotion Division (in Japanese)