Japan’s first new tram service in 75 years has now been up and running since August 26th, but has up till now faced one tiny problem — too many names.
The service which runs between the city of Utsunomiya and the town of Haga in Tochigi Prefecture, is called “Utsunomiya Light Rail” by its operating company, but is also known by some as the “Utsunomiya Haga Light Rail Line” and by others as the “Haga-Utsunomiya LRT.”
Local officials have now decided to end the confusion, and Utsunomiya City announced on the 14th that they would like the tramline to be known primarily as the much simpler “Lightline”. The nickname, which was chosen by local residents, is already emblazoned on the sides of the new tram cars.
The new Lightline is a Light Rail Transit system that runs for 14.6 kilometers between the east side of Utsunomiya Station and an industrial park in Haga providing residents with access to schools, a university campus, and a baseball stadium. Light Rail Transit — or LRT — is a type of next-generation tram service which is faster and can carry more passengers than traditional tram services.
Running on renewable energy the Lightline is meant to reduce traffic congestion and improve the local transport system which until now has relied on buses. The trams run every six minutes during rush hours and every 10 minutes at other times.
There are 17 articulated tram cars on the Lightline, which each have three sections, and can carry 150 passengers, 50 of them seated. The new tram cars vibrate less and provide a smoother ride than traditional tram cars. They also have a low floor design which makes them much easier to access for wheelchair users and the elderly.
Although there are other Light Rail Transit systems in Japan, the Lightline is the first one to have completely new track route built especially for it rather than using an existing track.
Utsunomiya also has plans to extend the Lightline west of Utsunomiya Station and through the city center for about 5 kilometers. Construction on the expanded line is expected to begin in three years.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by tarousite/pixta (1,2), A.HARADA/pixta (4), Tozawa/pixta (5). All rights reserved.