[JP] Maglev - a social and economic irritant

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Miss Maglev
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[JP] Maglev - a social and economic irritant

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Maglev - a social and economic irritant.

The 'negative legacy' left behind by Don Kasai, Honorary Chairman of JR Tokai
Tokai Railway Company (JR Tokai)

28 Feb 2023

 Shunsuke Niwa, 57, vice-president of JR Tokai (Central Japan Railway), will succeed Shin Kaneko, 67, as president of the company, effective 1 April. Niwa joined the company in 1989 and is the first of the three Honshu companies to be appointed president by a member of the team that joined the company after the division and privatisation of the former Japanese National Railways in 1987. He will work on promoting the construction of the Linear Central Shinkansen, which is facing difficulties in achieving its targeted 2027 opening. The Linear Central Shinkansen is a 'negative legacy' left behind by the late Honorary Chairman Takayuki Kasai, who reigned as 'Don of JR Tokai'.
Government loans 3 trillion yen for the Linear Central Shinkansen.

Linear Central Shinkansen image Kasai demonstrated his skills as a 'political merchant' on the Linear Central Shinkansen. In October 2015, Kasai wrote a series of articles in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun entitled 'My CV'. He devoted a chapter to the Linear Central Shinkansen. "'The revenue generated from passengers on the Tokaido Shinkansen should be returned to future passengers through the Linear Central Shinkansen. This was the main reason for the decision to build the Tokyo-Nagoya section of the Chuo Shinkansen at our own expense [...]. ([...] when the Tokaido Shinkansen celebrated its 50th anniversary, we received approval for the construction implementation plan and launched the next 50-year leap forward."

 The total project cost was 9 trillion yen, and JR Tokai initially stated that it would build the line using its own funds, but construction was delayed and the company ran out of funds.

 It was Prime Minister Abe, a 'close ally', who came to the rescue. At a press conference on 1 June 2004, Prime Minister Abe announced that he would bring forward the extension of the Linear Central Shinkansen from Nagoya to Osaka from 2045 and provide financial support. A 3 trillion yen loan will be provided as financial support.

 According to JR Tokai's linear plan, the line between Tokyo (Shinagawa) and Nagoya will open in 2027, and the section extending to Osaka will be completed in 2045. Total construction costs are expected to be JPY 5.5 trillion between Tokyo and Nagoya and JPY 9 trillion for the entire line from Tokyo to Osaka.

 In order to keep the balance of long-term debt within the appropriate level of JPY 5 trillion, JR Tokai had planned not to start construction of the Osaka extension during the first eight years of service between Tokyo and Nagoya, and to start construction in 2035, after the company's financial strength had recovered. With the government's 3 trillion yen support, the fastest possible opening is 2037.

 Mr Abe's decision to give the Linear Linear project a white feather was the result of a combination of conditions: the government was looking for an investment to symbolise Abenomics, the LDP wanted the project to be the centrepiece of an election pledge, and the political and business circles in Kansai were insisting that the Linear Linear project would open as soon as possible, all the while the relationship between Mr Kasai and Mr Abe is well known. The relationship between Kasai and Abe is well known to the public, and he was accused of "favouritism towards Abe's friends."

 The Abe administration has set out the export of social infrastructure as part of Japan's growth strategy. One of the pillars of this strategy is the export of JR Tokai's Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train. Prime Minister Abe believed that exporting the entire infrastructure package, from its construction to subsequent maintenance and inspection, would serve Japan's national interest.

 In February 2005, Prime Minister Abe sold the linear line to President Trump, with whom he met at the White House shortly after taking office. Japan can contribute to the President's growth strategy with its advanced technological capabilities, including bullet train and linear technology. It can create new jobs'. The linear railway has quickly taken on more of a national policy flavour.
JR Tokai and the central government had been sitting on the idea that the project would surely incur a loss.

 While the aim was to position the construction of the linear line as a national policy, the increased involvement of the State in the project, which had been led by the Central Japan Railway Company, remained problematic. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications were very cautious about the Linear Central Shinkansen, as they saw it as a private project in which the state would refrain from involvement.

 Moreover, it is highly doubtful that the money can be recovered even with such an injection of public funds. This is because then JR Tokai president Yoshiomi Yamada publicly stated at a press conference in September 2001 that the Linear Shinkansen would "never pay for itself".

 Both the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) and the central government ministries and agencies had been reluctant to go ahead with the Linear Shinkansen, saying that the project would surely go into the red. Despite this, Prime Minister Abe raised the Linear Shinkansen as a national policy because his brainchild, JR Tokai Honorary Chairman Kasai, led the Linear Shinkansen project. He suppressed opposition within the company to launch the Linear Shinkansen and used his personal connections with Prime Minister Abe to extract a 3 trillion yen loan.

Abe and Shigeru Kitamura, who was head of the National Security Service (NSS), visited Kasai three times when he was in hospital. Kasai is said to have told Abe that he would be in charge of the country's future, but Abe, too, was killed by a bullet on 8 July.

 Construction of the Linear Central Shinkansen Line, which would connect Shinagawa and Nagoya in 40 minutes, has been stalled in Shizuoka Prefecture, and the introduction of the Linear Line has been promoted in the US, but construction has yet to begin. Mr Kasai, a rare "political merchant", passed away without seeing the completion of the Linear Shinkansen in Japan and the US.

Source: Translated info from Japanese Sources: https://www.data-max.co.jp/article/62300 Accessed: 2023-02-28

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