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Japan’s 1st New Tram in 75 Years Starts Operating in Tochigi

Japan’s first new tram system in 75 years began operating north of Tokyo on Saturday, with features designed to make it easy to access for the elderly and wheelchair users as Japan’s society grays.

The so-called next-generation tram system in Tochigi Prefecture runs between the east side of JR Utsunomiya Station and the nearby town of Haga, covering the 14.6-kilometer route in 48 minutes.

The train, with yellow stripes, has been dubbed the “Lightline” after the frequent lightening observed in Utsunomiya that has earned the capital of Tochigi the nickname “thunder capital.”

Running on renewable energy, the train cars are designed with low floors and reduced vibration for ease of access.

Utsunomiya Mayor Eiichi Sato said at an opening ceremony that he hopes the new transit network will contribute to “exchanges among people and bring energy to the local area.”

A special train commemorating the start of the service left the Utsunomiya Station East stop, carrying children and others, while many people cheered and watched the departure.

The Haga Utsunomiya Light Rail Transit, which has cost 68.4 billion yen ($467 million), was initially planned to open in March 2022, but the schedule was postponed twice due to a delay in construction work. During a trial operation in November, a derailing accident occurred.

The Utsunomiya municipal government is also planning a 5-kilometer extension of the tramway from the west side of Utsunomiya Station by 2035.

The last time a new tram opened in Japan was in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, in central Japan.

Source : Japan Today