MLIT approves LRT construction in Utsunomiya

MLIT announced this week that it has approved Utsunomiya City’s plans for construction of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in the Tochigi city. While there are other LRT systems in Japan, this will be the first LRT built from scratch.

Utsunomiya and neighboring Haga town have established a managing company for venture, Utsunomiya Light Rail Co. Ltd. The entity is majority owned by public entities, including Utsunomiya itself. A company set up by local businesses is the the largest private investor in the venue.  Other participants include Kanto Bus Co. Ltd and Tobu Railway Co Ltd.

The line will be 14.6 km in length and run from Utsunomiya station East gate to an industrial area located at the East of the city and meant to ease congestion in the city due to large numbers of commuters travelling to the area.

 Building costs for the project are estimated at 45.8 billion yen (406 EUR million) and is developed under a system where infrastructure and actual operation are separated. This method is often seen in European countries, but regarded as less common in Japan. Construction is scheduled to start this year and the new LRT is scheduled to start in December 2019. The rails are at the same width as JR lines at 1067 mm, with low-floor street cars.

With MLIT approval received the construction of the line will start after building permits have been processed.

Presently, it is not yet clear whether the construction of the infrastructure and rolling stock will be conducted in public procedures. Utsunomiya has held interviews with a number of rolling stock producers at the start of the year, but it is not clear whether European companies were involved in this.

Sources: MLIT; trafficnews.jp