The new line is a continuation of the 117km Nagano Shinkansen from Tokyo, which opened in 1997, and the new services are operated by both JR East and JR West. Construction of the extension cost around Yen 1.76 trillion ($US 14.52bn) and offers a journey time of 2h 30min between Tokyo and Kanazawa, an 1h 20min improvement on previous services.

The new line serves six intermediate stations including Joestsumyo, Iiyama and Toyama using a fleet of 27 12-car series 7 Shinkansen high-speed trains procured jointly by JR East and JR West. The trains seat 934 passengers and operate at a maximum speed of 260km/h. However, some Tokyo - Nagano services will continue to use eight-car series E8 trains.

Tickets for the inaugural services, which left Tokyo and Kanazawa at 06.00, sold out in 25 seconds when they went on sale on February 14. Officials hope the new service will revitalise local economies and boost tourism in Nagano, Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures.

For an in-depth report of the Hokuriku Shinkansen see the February 25 edition of IRJ p19, or click here.