Tokyo-based private railway firm Tokyu Corp. is teaming up with Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) to operate a luxury sightseeing train in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido as early as the 2020 fiscal year, a person involved in the project revealed on Jan. 25.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the venture is an exceptional one. Tokyu is the operator of several lines in Tokyo and adjoining Kanagawa Prefecture, and it is rare for a major railway company from the Kanto region to join luxury sightseeing train operation as far away as Hokkaido. The individual with knowledge of the plan explained that the schedule for train operations has not yet been decided, but that the companies were currently exploring routes to best enjoy the tourist spots and natural beauty of the northern island.
Tokyu developed the eight-car luxury sightseeing train “The Royal Express” in 2017, and started service between JR Yokohama Station and Izukyu Shimoda Station, near a resort area in the southern part of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. The same train will most likely be used for the planned Hokkaido project.
The individual also disclosed that the collaboration with JR Hokkaido will allow Tokyu to offer new travel plans that will be popular among tourists. Meanwhile, JR Hokkaido will benefit from the fee Tokyu will pay for the use of its tracks and the tourism business know-how it will be able to learn from its partner.
The transport ministry had requested that JR Hokkaido improve its sightseeing train services as a new source of income, as business had been slow for the train operator. Due to this financial situation, JR Hokkaido could not afford to develop its own luxury sightseeing trains as other JR companies have done. This led to the railway considering cooperation with railway companies outside of Hokkaido, including private operators like Tokyu.