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Natural disasters

Flooded Japan bullet train yard to be raised 10 meters

Nagano facility had been flagged for risk of once-a-millennium deluge

Waterlogged bullet trains resulted in over $100 million in damages for railway operator JR East. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

TOKYO -- Stung by the experience of October's powerful typhoon, East Japan Railway will lift key parts of a holding yard for shinkansen bullet trains by roughly 10 meters next year to prevent damage from floods, Nikkei has learned.

The work at the rail yard in Nagano, northwest of Tokyo, could run into the billions of yen (1 billion yen equals $9.1 million), according to construction-industry estimates.

Torrential rains unleashed by Typhoon Hagibis swelled the Chikuma River, submerging the rail yard in about 4 meters of water and flooding 120 shinkansen cars.

The deluge rendered 11.8 billion yen worth of rail cars unusable and bound for the scrapheap. A section of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo with Kanazawa was shut down for about two weeks because of damaged electrical equipment.

To prevent a repeat, JR East will raise facilities housing transformer substations and communications equipment by 10 meters. This height aligns with the city of Nagano's hazard map, which points to the potential for such a flood once a millennium.

When the Nagano yard opened in 1997, critical equipment was raised by what turned out to be an inadequate 2 meters.

There are no plans to raise the tracks themselves, owing to the complexity. Instead, trains stationed at the Nagano facility will be moved to other rail yards or train stations before floods hit.

JR East leases the Nagano yard from the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency. A portion of repair costs will be covered by insurance taken out by JR East, with the public agency picking up the rest. Construction costs to raise equipment above flood levels will be assessed later.

JR East -- which also operates Tokyo's busy Yamanote commuter rail line -- will consider similar projects at five other bullet train yards with flood-prone areas, based on local hazard maps.

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