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Tokyo-Osaka bullet train to resume near-full service in summer

Passengers encouraged to sit apart for social distancing

A bullet train travels the Tokaido Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo and Osaka. (Photo by Masayuki Kozono)

NAGOYA -- Japan's most-traveled bullet train line, a travel artery connecting Tokyo and Osaka, will restore service to nearly year-earlier levels in July and August, its operator said Thursday.

The Tokaido Shinkansen cut service in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ridership has not recovered to pre-outbreak levels, but Central Japan Railway looks to provide enough social distancing space for passengers.

"From the standpoint of avoiding crowding, we would prefer customers take their seats with room to spare," President Shin Kaneko said.

JR Central now offers 310 or so Tokaido trips a day -- down a fifth from the fiscal 2019 average. This will increase to roughly 350 in July, off 5% from a year earlier, and to about 390 in August, down 3%.

The Nozomi service, fielding the fastest bullet train in Japan, aims to add two per hour by the Bon holiday in summer to raise the total to 12, Kaneko said. The new schedule was supposed to take effect in March, but the virus delayed the change.

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