Railroads running in rural areas are now standing at a fork.

JR West has released the usage status of routes with few users for the first time and is calling on local governments in each region to "discuss what it should be", and a study group has been set up at the national level, and discussions for the future are proceeding. ..

Why are we talking now when the deficit of local railways is not new?

What is the content and future prospects?

I will explain in detail.

(Taichi Yokoyama, Social Affairs Department, Kohei Inoue, Yuta Okubo)

Why is it "examination of the way" now?

This is because the spread of the new corona infection has significantly reduced the number of users of the entire railway, making it difficult for railway companies to "make up for the deficit in rural areas with the profits earned in urban areas."

Among the JR companies that were born 35 years ago (1987) due to the division and privatization of JNR, JR East has many users in the metropolitan area centered on Tokyo, and JR West also has many users in the Keihanshin area centered on Osaka. I have a big city area that becomes.

We have maintained the local routes for a long time by using the profits obtained from these metropolis routes to cover the deficit of the local routes, but due to the spread of the new corona infection, users are also in urban areas due to the influence of refraining from going out. It has decreased significantly.

In fiscal 2020, both JR East and JR West fell into the red, which was the first time for both companies to remain in the black since their birth.

The financial results of each JR company are as follows.

JR Kyushu is the only company in the black, but the railway business continues to be in the red due to factors such as the expansion of profits in the real estate business.

In addition, local railway companies other than JR are also strict, and 74 out of 95 companies were in the red before Corona, but since then it has reached 93 companies.

In an interview with NHK in January, President Kazuaki Hasegawa of JR West expressed an unprecedented sense of crisis regarding the problem of deficit routes, saying "it is difficult to turn a profit in any way" and "consider including conversion to a bus". Was there.

How does JR respond?

What about the municipality?

In April, JR West announced for the first time the balance of payments for 30 lines on regional routes with particularly few users.

The aim is to promote discussions on local railways that are in the red.

On average for the past three years up to 2020, all 30 lines announced were in the red.

The deficit amount is

▽ San-in Line (Izumo City-Masuda) 3.55 billion yen

▽ Kisei Line (Shingu-Shirahama) 2.93 billion yen

▽ Obama Line (Tsuruga-Higashi-Maizuru) 1.69 billion yen


This announcement of income and expenditure spread a big ripple in the local government.

Governor Yuzaki of Hiroshima Prefecture pointed out that "we should discuss the whole railway network, not just some lines."

On the other hand, movements to start discussions with local governments along the railway lines and JR aiming for the survival of the line are spreading in various places, and in June, Hyogo prefecture, where the San-in line runs, and Mie prefecture, where the Kansai main line runs, have set up a council.

In July, a council was set up in Tottori Prefecture, where the San-In Line and Imbi Line pass, and discussions have begun.

At the municipal level, Otari Village in Nagano Prefecture, where the JR Oito Line runs, has set up its own promotion council for survival and has indicated a policy to introduce measures to promote the use of residents and tourists.

On the other hand, JR East has also indicated that it will announce the balance of payments for each line section in July.

What are the issues of the national study group?

As the movements of railway companies and local governments became active, the country also started to move.

In February of this year, we set up a study group with experts and others as members, and started discussing how to solve the problem of local railways in difficult business conditions.

The biggest issue is how to have a positive discussion for railway companies and local governments.

When the government interviewed railway companies and local governments, the dissatisfaction and real intentions of both parties became apparent.

The railroad company says that even if they want to talk to the local government, they can't even get to the table.

(Railway company)

"When applying for discussions on the ideal form of local public transportation, there were cases where the start of discussions was avoided based on the answers" premature "and" sudden "." "Transportation in prefectures and municipalities There is a shortage of specialized personnel, and the person in charge will change in a few years, so it is difficult to share a sense of crisis. "

On the other hand, the local governments were wary that once they had a discussion, they would be unilaterally discontinued, and they were dissatisfied with the lack of information to enter into the discussion.

(Local government)

"Consultation → Abandoned railway discussion → The idea that the area will decline when the railway disappears is deep-rooted in both local governments and residents, which is also one of the reasons why it is difficult to enter into discussions." In addition, while sufficient information is not shared, local governments along the railway lines are groping for effective support and utilization promotion measures. "

At the study group, it was pointed out that the current lack of communication is a problem for both sides.

The railway company has shown a willingness to actively disclose data such as usage status and have positive discussions, not just a part of it, and the local government should take the initiative to tackle the railway problem as "oneself". is.

What will happen to the discussions of the study group?

The study group would like to compile a proposal by the end of this month and include specific indicators that the railway company and the local government should start discussions with as objective figures such as the usage status of the line to support the discussion.

Under such circumstances, the draft proposals that the national study group will soon present have become clear.

▽ For JR local routes, the national government should set the "transportation density", which indicates the average number of people carried per day, to less than 1000 people in the section called "line section" under certain conditions. It is said that a new council should be set up in which local governments and railway operators along the railway line participate.

▽ While the council does not presuppose the continuation or abolition of railway lines, if it is expected that convenience and sustainability will be improved along with the utilization of railways, it will be switched to buses due to discontinuation of railway lines. We will discuss including.

▽ It is said that the local government and the railway operator should agree on the measures within three years after starting the discussion at the council.

The proposal will be presented to a study group to be held later this month, and is expected to be officially finalized after discussions by experts.

Railroad is a means of town development The production is about to begin

At the study group, many members commented that "discussion aimed at leaving or abolishing railways should be avoided."

Population decline has become an issue not only in railways but also in all areas of the region such as medical care, welfare, and education. It should be.

A local railway that is attracting attention.

After the direction was shown at the national study group, the stage moved to discussions in the region before the actual performance.

It will be interesting to see if positive discussions will take place between the railway company and the local government.

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