Can Japan’s bullet trains get back up to speed?

CityLab Daily

Biting the bullet: The pandemic is calling into question the future of Japan's beloved bullet trains. Covid-19 has severely reduced travel to the country and disrupted local commuting patterns, slashing ridership and revenue on the Shinkansen network. It's also magnified the longer-term structural challenges of the country's aging and shrinking population, which by one prediction could render half of Japan's regional cities and rural towns extinct by 2050 as more people crowd into megacities like Tokyo.

The Japanese rail system has been famously resilient, though, surviving decades of wars and natural disasters, and high-speed train technology is both a national symbol and a valuable export. As the nation grays, rural train service fades and telecommuting rises, can the Shinkansen endure? In one more optimistic prediction, it's possible that revenue will rebound by spring 2021, and the bullet trains could emerge with a new role and identity after the pandemic. Today on CityLab: Japan's Bullet Trains Are Hitting a Speed Bump

-Linda Poon

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