The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Japanese Monorail Facts and Figures - 18

From the Cabalmaster:

We're opinionated, but we're also pro-transit, and so we Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal members do not celebrate the failure of public transit ventures such as the two short Japanese monorails below. However, we are also truth-tellers. And so, unlike certain monorail buffs, we do not shy away from presenting the "down side" of the Japanese monorail story.

Himeji - City of Himeji:

Himeji is a regional center about 35 miles west of Kobe, is best known for its magnificent castle, built from 1581 and considered the finest in Japan. This stands about a mile north of Himeji station. Another attraction stands southeast of the station: Tegarayama hill, which has a monument to the victims of the 1945 firebomb attacks against Japanese cities, a library, a concert hall and other cultural facilities.

Plans for a regional exposition stimulated interest in a monorail link between Himeji station and Tegarayama. This idea attracted strong support from the city's Mayor. The city received authority to build from the Transport Ministry in 1964 and began construction in 1965.

A one-mile, single-beam Nihon-Lockheed line was built at a cost of about $5 million, and opened in 1966. This had four cars, which could be coupled into trains of the desired length. Technical features included automatic train stop (ATS). Traction current was 600V dc. Two-car trains were standard, but three-car trains were operated during the exhibition. Service was provided every 15 minutes at first. The maximum permitted speed was 31 mph, and the line provided a schedule speed of 15 mph.

The Himeji Monorail carried an average of 1,000 passengers per day during its first year of operation, about one-third of the anticipated traffic. By 1968, when service was reduced to a 20-minute headway, traffic had fallen to 700 per day. Operating losses (and interest payments on the money borrowed to build the line) mounted, and by 1970 a new Mayor was seeking to close the line. Proposals for extensions north to Himeji Castle and south to the city's passenger ship terminal attracted some support, but the city eventually decided not to throw good money after bad. Operation was suspended in 1974, and closure was made permanent from 1979. The city announced a few years ago that the monorail beam would be dismantled, but this has not been carried out.

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