Snow slows Hokkaido bullet train bookings

WEATHER WOES: The cold in Hokkaido was good for the snow festival in January but it has dampened the run-up to the launch of the new bullet train service this month. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


    Mar 18, 2016

    Snow slows Hokkaido bullet train bookings


    SEAT bookings for Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet trains in the nine days from their March 26 launch stood at only some 25 per cent of capacity as of Wednesday, although tickets for reserved seats on the first train sold out in 25 seconds.

    The reason for the low booking rate is likely to be unseasonably cold weather in southern Hokkaido, which will be connected by the high-speed trains with Aomori Prefecture, people familiar with the situation said.

    The launch date is not in tourist season, although it is suitable for foreign travellers who want to see snow, said an official at a major Japanese travel agency.

    According to East Japan Railway, or JR East, the seat occupancy rate for trains on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, which was extended to the central Japan city of Kanazawa in March last year, was initially as low as the Hokkaido Shinkansen booking level, due to lingering snow.

    But the high-speed service that can travel between Tokyo and Kanazawa as fast as around two and a half hours, is now in high demand.

    Meanwhile, Hokkaido Railway, or JR Hokkaido, the operator of Hokkaido Shinkansen services, said the number of seats reserved on the new bullet trains in the first nine days totalled some 50,000 as of Wednesday, up 6.3-fold from the level of conventional lines a year earlier.

    The data suggests that although the seat booking rate is low, the number of visitors to Hokkaido who will pass through the Seikan Tunnel beneath the seabed between Honshu and Hokkaido, which the new Shinkansen trains will use along with trains on the conventional line, will surely increase from the year before.