Saturday, August 24, 2013

Winter Holiday in Hokkaido in December 2010 (Enhanced Version) ~ Section 4

The Super Ozora (スーパーおおぞら) is a limited express train service operated by Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido) between Sapporo and Kushiro in Hokkaido, Japan. There are a total of seven daily services running in both directions, with the fastest journey time taking 3 hours 35 minutes, and mainly KiHa 283 series DMUs as the main rolling stock. The service is capable of reaching a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph).

The service commenced operations on 22 March 1997, using KiHa 283 series DMUs, at a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph). Services are normally formed of six or seven cars, but may be lengthened between eight to ten cars on certain days and months. There are no extra charges for the Super Ozora limited express service for tourists travelling with a Japan Rail Pass and / or Hokkaido Rail Pass.

On 27 May 2011, the Limited Express Super Ozora No. 14 service, operated by a 6-car KiHa 283 series DMU, between Kushiro and Sapporo was stopped in the Niniu Tunnel in the village of Shimukappu, Hokkaido, after Car No. 2 became derailed, which eventually ignited a fire. All the 245 passengers and crew on board evacuated the train alive, though 39 people were treated for smoke inhalation and minor burn injuries. The burnt-out train was eventually removed from the tunnel on 29 May 2011, allowing full service on the Sekisho Line to resume, and was officially withdrawn on 30 June 2011.

Also, on 15 July 2013, the Limited Express Super Ozora No. 3 service between Sapporo and Kushiro was brought to a stop on the Chitose Line, due to a short power circuit that occurred in Car No. 3 (Green Car), shortly after departing Shin-sapporo Station. This eventually resulted in some limited express services in Hokkaido being suspended until further notice, while maintenance works were conducted on all trains used on limited express services towards Hakodate, Kushiro and Obihiro.

As a result, the maximum speed is scheduled to be reduced to 120 km/h (75 mph), and the number of daily return workings will be reduced from seven to six from 1 November 2013. This will eventually increase the fastest journey time between Sapporo and Kushiro to approximately 4 hours 04 minutes.

The Super Tokachi (スーパーとかち) is a limited express train service operated by Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido) between Sapporo and Obihiro in Hokkaido, Japan. There are a total of five daily services running in each direction, with the fastest service between Sapporo and Obihiro taking 2 hours 25 minutes. The service is capable of reaching a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph).

The service commenced operations as simply Tokachi (とかち) on 1 September 1990, using KiHa 183 series DMUs. From 27 July 1991, four daily Tokachi services were upgraded to Super Tokachi services, using enhanced KiHa 183 series DMU sets that included a bi-level Green Car (first class) carriage. KiHa 283 series DMUs were introduced on some services from the start of the revised timetable on 11 March 2000.

From 1 October 2007, enhanced KiHa 261 series DMUs were introduced on these services, eventually displacing all the remaining KiHa 183 series DMUs used on the remaining two Tokachi limited express services by 30 September 2009. From 1 October 2009, all the two remaining Tokachi services were upgraded to Super Tokachi services.

However, following a series of limited express train breakdowns on 15 July 2013, some limited express services operating in Hokkaido were suspended until further notice, though the Super Tokachi services remained unaffected by the suspensions. From 1 November 2013, the maximum speed is scheduled to be reduced to 120 km/h (75 mph), eventually increasing the fastest journey time to 2 hours 28 minutes. The rolling stock used will also be standardised to KiHa 261 series DMUs.

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