Japan ready to start full-scale freight deliveries in bullet trains

Image: Shutterstock. IamDoctorEgg

The first bullet trains carrying cargo in Japan will be a reality as soon as April 2024. The services will be launched by the East Japan Railway (JR East) company and serve big cities such as Tokyo mostly for same-day deliveries of fresh vegetables and fish products. The bullet trains will either be freight-dedicated or a mix of cargo and passengers, depending on the capacity demand. 

According to Nikkei Asia, JR East already has experience with small-scale freight deliveries in bullet trains and will use its existing fleet for operations. Goods will be packed in spaces between the passenger seats. The idea of deploying bullet trains to transport cargo resulted partially from the impact of COVID-19, from which the passenger services volumes and revenues of JR East have not yet recovered. Consequently, filling up the free passenger space with cargo could be a good solution for JR East in securing additional revenue.

Nevertheless, the implementation of such an idea will also produce other benefits. Japan is currently in the process of revising some road transport rules, namely rules concerning the limit of truck drivers’ overtime hours, which will be reduced substantially. As a result, Japan’s transport sector expects truck driver shortages to intensify and looks for alternative solutions or a shift to rail, as Europeans would call it. Moving part of cargo onto bullet trains could ease the situation. China is also applying similar solutions.

China bullet-freight service

China launched its first regular bullet freight train service dedicated to the freight network. The first test run was completed on 12 July, with two trains running between Chengdu and Kunming in West China at the highest speed of 250 kilometres per hour. The service is operating on a daily basis.

Similar to what will happen in Japan, the Chinese freight bullet trains were adapted from the previous passenger bullet trains. The service covers a distance of 1.127 kilometres and delivers the goods within six hours. Besides fresh food, this service targets products with high added value, such as biomedical products, electronics, and business documents.

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Author: Chengfan Zhao

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