Train runs on entire Tadami Line resume after 11-year hiatus

Photo: The first "upbound" train leaves Tadami Station at 7:11 a.m. on Oct. 1 as train runs on the entire Tadami Line resumed after an 11-year hiatus.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) resumed train runs on the entire stretch of the Tadami Line on Oct. 1 after restoring a section destroyed by heavy downpours that hit Fukushima and Niigata prefectures in July 2011. The railway operator reopened the 27.6-kilometer section between Aizu-Kawaguchi Station in Kaneyama town and Tadami Station in the namesake town, both in Fukushima Prefecture. The resumption brought back to life the full 135.2-km line connecting Aizu-Wakamatsu Station in Aizuwakamatsu city of Fukushima with Koide Station in Uonuma city of Niigata for the first time in 11 years. JR East operates three train runs each way daily between Aizu-Kawaguchi and Tadami, the same as before the disaster struck. The Fukushima government and the municipalities along the Tadami Line are exploring ways to revitalize local activities by taking advantage of the reopened railway. 3 daily train runs each way between Aizu-Kawaguchi and Tadami On the day of reopening, the first "upbound" train originating from Koide Station left Tadami Station at 7:11 a.m. and went on to arrive at Aizu-Kawaguchi. Later, a "downbound" train from Aizu-Wakamatsu reached Tadami after stops at stations including Aizu-Kawaguchi. Along the route, local residents and railway fans revelling in the scenic views around the Tadami Line were seen waving to the trains as they were celebrating the fresh start of the railway line. In the town of Tadami, the prefectural government organized a commemorative event. "I couldn't be happier," Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori said as he became emotional in his speech at the ceremony. "I will work hard to promote the use and utilization of the line and seek ways to spread its allure so that we will be able to make it Japan's No. 1 railway line capable of contributing to local revitalization," he said. JR East President Yuji Fukasawa pledged to "build a Tadami Line that will attract affection and be loved" by many people, adding his company will also help promote local industries. The 2011 rain disaster washed away three of the line's bridges spanning the Tadami River, while ensuing mudslides wiped out tracks. Initially, there were some calls for abolition of the affected section, but the local communities involved sought its retention. It was eventually agreed to adopt a two-tiered system, where the Fukushima government possesses rail tracks and stations while JR East takes charge of train operations. Restoration work began in June 2018 and, after about four years of work, trial train runs had been conducted since July this year. The reconstruction work cost about 9 billion yen, part of which is covered by national subsidies. JR East, the prefectural government and 17 cities, towns and villages in the Aizu inland region share the remainder of the cost. An additional maintenance fee of some 300 million yen a year will be funded by the prefecture and the 17 municipalities. (Translated by Kyodo News)