Some sections of three railway lines in the Tohoku region currently out-of-order due to the March tsunami could be transformed in exclusive highways for buses by The East All Japan news Railway Co.
The system has already been used in Brazil, South Korea and China due to its advantages. The conversion of the lines for exclusive bus services is faster and costs less than half the amount necessary to rebuild the railway tracks. Once installed, the lanes will be used exclusively by buses, avoiding thus congestion and allowing the service to be always on time.
The project, called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), refers to about 154 kilometers of railway tracks in the Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. The affected lines are Kesennuma and Ofunato in Miyagi Prefecture and Yamada in Iwate Prefecture. Apart from these three, other four lines in the Tohoku regions had to close due to the March 11 natural disasters.
"Converting to bus services may sound negative. But our top priority is to provide means of transportation to local residents," JR East President Satoshi Seino said, in response to worries expressed by local residents that train services will never be resumed. "We’ll discuss the project while listening to local people and experts."
Not only the BRT costs less, but “it can also better cope with local people’s needs, such as making stops at schools and hospitals," a professor at Yokohama National University’s Graduate School of Urban Innovation explained. "The project may prompt [local governments] to review existing transportation systems across the nation, not only in the disaster-hit region."