Rainstorm-hit Tadami Line section to reopen Oct. 1 after 11 years

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) and the Fukushima prefectural government announced on May 18 that they will resume train services on the whole of the Tadami Line on Oct. 1 this year after torrential rainfall severely damaged a large section of the railroad in July 2011. While the news of the long-cherished resumption delighted local residents, the prefectural government and relevant municipalities are faced with shouldering expenses associated with train operations on the line running through sparsely populated areas. The prefectural government is preparing to work even closer with the communities involved in order to vitalize the economy in that area with initiatives evolving around the railway commanding numerous scenic views. Train services will be resumed on a 27.6-kilometer stretch between Aizu-Kawaguchi Station in Kaneyama town and Tadami Station in the namesake town. This will connect both ends of the line for the first time in about 11 years as services will become available on the entire 135.2-km route linking Aizu-Wakamatsu Station in Aizuwakamatsu city with Koide Station in Uonuma city in the adjacent prefecture of Niigata. JR East will operate three trains a day each way between Aizu-Kawaguchi and Tadami -- the same number as prior to the disaster that ravaged large parts of the two prefectures. Work to restore the damaged railway facilities, including bridges and tracks, has been completed in most of the disaster-hit portions of the line. JR East is scheduled to begin trial train runs in late July after conducting on-site inspections and it will operate a special train on Oct. 1, the day of the restart. The prefectural government plans to hold a reopening ceremony and commemorative events in partnership with local municipalities. As for the future of the disrupted section of the Tadami Line, post-disaster debate initially included an option for it to be no longer used, but the local communities concerned urged its restoration. It was agreed eventually to adopt a "two-way system," under which the prefecture will possess rail tracks, station buildings and other railway-related facilities while JR East will take charge of train operations. Subsequently, restoration work kicked off in June 2018. The project cost about 9 billion yen, two-thirds of which was funded by the prefectural government and 17 cities, towns and villages along the line in the Aizu inland region. In addition, the prefecture and municipalities are required to bear post-restoration maintenance expenses estimated at 300 million a year. Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori stressed the intention of the prefecture to try to generate economic effects that would exceed the financial burden. "We are getting ready for the challenge of vitalizing the region with the Tadami Line at the core of it," he said. (Translated by Kyodo News)