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Tuesday, 10th June 2014
In Japan Travel News,

Double decker Shinkansen to be retired

The double decker bullet trains introduced by the East Japan Railway Company (JR East) will be retired, as the firm continues its mission to optimise the entire network for speed as opposed to capacity.

Initially developed and deployed in the 1980s, the double decker services have operated to and from Tokyo for 30 years, although their usage has been in decline for a number of years while changes have been made to the rail network.

Currently, the Joetsu Shinkansen Line, which connects the nation's capital to cities in the Niigata Prefecture, is the only line that runs trains with two levels in their cars.

"Speed will become more important as the Hokuriku Shinkansen will start operating in 2015, followed by the Hokkaido Shinkansen in 2016," said a JR East official. "I should say that double-decker trains, which prioritised mass transport over speed, have completed their role."

Double decker Shinkansen services broke records in 1997 with the E4 series which introduced a coupling device that allowed two eight-car trains to conjoin, allowing a maximum capacity of 1,634 passengers.

This made it the world's highest capacity high-speed train, earning it the nickname Max.

Double decker or single decker, Japanese train services continue to astound and intrigue visitors, who often remark on the standard of service and level of comfort, even in the standard class carriages.

If travelling by rail during your trip to the country, it is worth bearing in mind that intercity Shinkansen services can be surprisingly expensive and it is often worth purchasing a JR Pass that allows for an unlimited number of journeys on bullet trains during a set period of time.

Written by Graham McPherson