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Utsunomia opens new tram line, the first in Japan in 75 years

posted on 29th Aug 2023 19:38

On 26 August 2023, a new tram line was inaugurated in Utsunomia. It is the first new tram system in the country since 1948. The aim was to relieve the city of traffic congestion in the morning and evening hours. We first reported on this new tram line when the new vehicles were unveiled to the public. Construction of the 14.6 km Utsunomiya Haga Light Rail Line began in 2018 and was scheduled to open in 2022, but the opening has been postponed to 2023.

The tram line runs from the east side of Utsunomiya station to Haga-Takanezawa Kougyoudainnchi station in Utsunomiya's East Haga/Takanezawa Industrial Park in Haga-machi. The double-track 1,067 mm gauge line runs alongside roads for about 9.4 km, with the remaining section being segregated. There will be 19 stops on the line and the maximum service speed is 40 km/h, but it is expected to be increased later to 50 km/h on parts of the line sharing the right-of-way with cars and 70 km/h on the segregated section of the line.

The service is provided by 51 three-section, 29.52 m long, bi-directional articulated HU300 'Lightline' trams built by Niigata Transys using bogies supplied by Bombardier Transportation (now Alstom). The tram is powered by 750 V DC overhead line, has a maximum design speed of 70 km/h and a permitted maximum gradient of 60 ‰. The bodyshell is made of steel with FRP coating. The trams are 2,650 mm wide and 3,625 mm high above the top of the rail (with the pantograph lowered). Each tram has 50 seats and can accommodate up to 110 passengers.

Utsunomiya, which is served by the Tohoku Shinkansen line, is the famous gateway to Nikko National Park, a national treasure and a World Heritage Site.

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