Japan’s $84bn super-fast magnetic levitation (maglev) railway being built between Tokyo and Osaka is facing costly delays because the governor of one of the prefectures through which it will pass under a mountain has refused to allow tunnel construction to start.
Mr. Heita Kawakatsu, who is governor of Shizuoka Prefecture, used an unusual televised meeting with the railway’s developer, JR Central, on Friday, 26 June to refuse again to allow a 9km-long tunnel to be built under Japan’s Southern Alps in his jurisdiction.
Kawakatsu claims the tunnel will incline at either opening, drawing away water that would normally find its way into the Oi River, on which local people depend.
During the live broadcast meeting he politely served tea to JR Central chief executive, Shin Kaneko, but stood firm in his objections, saying "the towns in the watershed, the people of Shizuoka and everybody in Japan who relies on well water are thinking the same thing, which is what happens if the water is diverted," reports The Financial Times.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Shizuoka prefecture has repeatedly demanded the disclosure of environmental data relating to the project, but not, reportedly, with success.
JR Central had set this month as the deadline to resolve the dispute over the tunnel, which will take around five years to build.
The rail company is worried about costly delays to the scheme, of which the first section from Tokyo to Nagoya is set to start running in 2027.
In April, Japan’s transport ministry formed an expert panel to advise on the concerns of Shizuoka prefecture.
When complete, the maglev railway will whisk passengers along at 500km/h, cutting the journey from Tokyo to Osaka to about an hour.
Construction began in 2014.
Image: A mountain scene in Shizuoka Prefecture (Alpsdake/CC BY-SA 4.0)