Promoting railway development
Japan has a well developed railway network, which it utilizes fully. However, the railway system uses narrow gauge rails and is plagued by numerous curves and slopes, which amount to geographical constraints. Other problems remaining include the congestion of urban railways and the planned speed-up of trunk services linking major cities. The target for urban railway congestion is a reduction of peak congestion to 150% of overall passenger capacity (seating capacity plus standing capacity). The target for the speed of trunk route services is to increase the average speed to 120km per hour in the timetable. Since most Japanese railways are privately operated, they must invest their own capital in tackling these tasks. In view of the sizable construction costs and time required for construction, various government assistance programs are offered to promote such projects.
Trunk railway development subsidy
This subsidy assists railway companies to speed up trunk route services as part of the project for activating existing trunk routes. This subsidy has been applied to link the Fukushima - Yamagata route directly to Shinkansen bullet train services, to speed up the Sekisho and Nemuro lines in Hokkaido, and to speed up the Hokuetsu-Hoku Line in Niigata Prefecture. Projects eligible for the subsidy will receive 20% of project costs from Corporation for Advanced Transport and Technology, and another 20% from local governments. In other words, each project is subsidized at 40%.