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Anyone seen this sobering Hokkaido local TV special series on JR Hokkaido?
The problem is described here: Loss-Making JR Hokkaido Lines Face Challenge to Survive
Blue: Hokkaido Shinkansen
Pink: Railway lines taken over by local governments coinciding with Shinkansen opening
Green: Future Shinkansen development (earmarked by various Shinkansen funding bills over the years)
Black: Lines JR Hokkaido as a passenger railway can actually sustain on its own
Yellow: Low passenger density
Orange: Very low passenger density
Brown: Future currently being discussed with local government
Haven't seen it, but JRH's troubles were discussed a few times on 1chan's earlier incarnations.
It seems to me it's become truly extreme this time. Urbanization in Japan seems to be getting even more extreme, and while JR East, West, and Kyushu seem to be doing very well with their tourism focus in rural areas I hope JR Hokkaido has enough money left to make capital improvements to get into that market
I have been expecting the longer yellows to end up bustituted for a few years now.
Re tourist amrket, JRH would probably have to go at it the Shikoku way now, by refurbishing old railbuses as thematic specials.
In the TV series, the JR Hokkaido president is saying buses are no solution. If/when they get approval from the transportation ministry to stop operating a train line, often the local/nat'l gov't takes their subsidies and pays for a bus. Because ridership is low, JR Hokkaido Bus won't touch it, and when it's a bus, even less people use public transportation. The point he makes is if the local governments want to keep a local train line, they need to start paying for it (subsidies, depending on situation) but also make it attractive to use so people make use of it, whether that's through city planning or tourism
Hokkaido is less urbanized than the other islands and that seems to be one of the factors contributing to JRH problems here.
A selection of railbuses, passenger trains and freight trains running around northway.