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200系

N700S Debuts, N700a retirement commences

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200系

On the first of July this year, JR Tōkai started operating their new N700S on the Tōkaidō shinkansen. Though in most aspects still a further evolution of the (now 13 year old) N700系 design, it is the first time more visible changes to design (especially around the nose section) have appeared.

 

A short overview of the , modest, ceremony at Tōkyō station courtesy of the Tetsudō Shinbun:

 

 

On the other end of the equation, the introduction of the N700S into regular service also signals in the start of the retirement cycle for the earliest batches of the N700a (small A).

 

On July 2nd, N700a formation X12 was forwarded to the Hamamatsu shinkansen center for retirement and scrapping. Thus becoming the first production, small A, N700系 formation to undergo this fate, after the pre-production prototype X0, formerly Z0, was retired and scrapped in February last year (three cars of which are preserved at the Linear railway museum in Nagoya).

As JR Tōkai is planning on introducing around 12 new N700S formations this year (currently J1~J3 and J5 have been delivered and entered service), it can therefore be expected that a similar number of the older N700系2000番台 (X formations) and N700系5000番台 (K formations) will be leaving this year. This will be followed by 14 new formations in 2021 and another 14 in 2022, adding up to a total of 40 new formations in the first order, more or less the number needed to replace the small A formations built between 2007~2009 as they approach the end of their inspection dates.

 

The small A N700系 are the result of JR Tōkai's long standing desire for unified performance on the Tōkaidō shinkansen, not entirely unreasonable taking into account the immense volume of traffic on the Tōkaidō shinkansen.

With the introduction of the improved N700系1000番台 (G formations, G1~G51) and N700系4000番台 (F formations, F1~F24) formations , perhaps better known by the more familiar N700A designation (large A to be precise), and their introduction into service in February of 2013, it was decided to remodel the existing N700系0番台 (Z formations, Z1~Z80) and N700系3000番台 (N formations, N1~N16) to a partial A (advance) standard. Remodeling would start in mid 2013, and would wrap up in early 2016, encompassing all the Z and N formations. After the remodeling was completed JR Tōkai's N700系0番台 formations were re-designated as N700系2000番台 (original number +2000), while JR West's N700系3000番台 formations would be reborn as N700系5000番台 (same system as the Tōkai formations), while their formation designation changed from Z to X for the former 0番台 formations and from N to K, the numbers following the formation designation would stay the same though (e.g. Z1 would become X1, N12->K12 etc).

As such, the original N700系0番台 and 3000番台 formations ceased to exist in august 2015 (Z formations) or March 2016 (N formations) respectively.

During their remodeling a small A was added to the original N700 logo, contrasting with large stylized A used on the new built G and F formations, hence the use of small and large A to differentiate  between the former N700系 and new built N700A formations.

Operationally both small A and large A formations are used interchangeably, which means even the oldest X and K formations are still used regularly on Nozomi services. 

 

Formation X1 (former formation Z1) the oldest N700系 formation still in service at the moment, built in April of 2007 by Nippon Sharyō.

The photo was taken at Himeji in October 2019, note the small A next to the N700 logo:

DSC_0379

 

Formation F15 (new built N700A formation), built by Nippon Sharyō in August of 2018, note the large stylized A at the end of car 15:

DSC_0458

 

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chadbag

I was looking at older photos today and came across a photo of one the first N700 class we rode.  It was actually one of the JR West N700 trains we rode on the way back from Kagoshima, picking it up at Hakata and going to Osaka in 2011.  We then later also rode the JR Central N700s, but our first was the N700 from JR West on the Sakura run from Hakata.  I know they had been around for a few years already, entering service in 2007, but we did not start buying JR passes until 2009 IIRC, and on the Hikari runs we usually got 300 or 700 series, so the first we rode one was the JR West Sakura in 2011.

 

Before any N700 were in service, we were sitting in the train station in Shin-Osaka in April 2007, and an N700 came into the station -- all labeled "not in service".  They were getting ready for the July launch and running test runs.  We were not that close since it was a couple platforms away and we had only bought the "platform tickets" as my son liked to look at the trains but it was way cool to see compared to the ones we were used to.

 

Now the N700A are old hat and we've ridden them a billion times.

 

I am looking forward to seeing and trying out the N700S.

 

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maihama eki

Will this be the last 700, or is there something superior to Supreme?

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Socimi
1 hour ago, maihama eki said:

Will this be the last 700, or is there something superior to Supreme?

 

It may be very well possible that JR Central will just continue to manufacture 700 Series improvements rather than an entirely new design.


After all, the 700 Series has proven to be quite reliable and easily adaptable to modifications, especially if we compare it to the unreliable 500 Series introduced two years before by JR West.

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Dentobu93
4 hours ago, Socimi said:

 

It may be very well possible that JR Central will just continue to manufacture 700 Series improvements rather than an entirely new design.


After all, the 700 Series has proven to be quite reliable and easily adaptable to modifications, especially if we compare it to the unreliable 500 Series introduced two years before by JR West.

Several years ago I believed the 700-3000 would be modified to 8 cars to retire the 500 or an new N700A in 8 car setup would be built, neither happend and the 500 is still in service and actually they even modified the 500 into 2 joyful modifications (Eva and Hello Kitty).

 

While it's still unsure how long the 500 is going to last at this point and what replaces it (Retired N700a or N700A modified into 8 cars or new built N700S in 8 cars), the fact the N700a (13 years old) started being scrapped before the 500 (23 years old) says alot about it's durability.

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chadbag
On 7/3/2020 at 7:01 AM, Dentobu93 said:

Several years ago I believed the 700-3000 would be modified to 8 cars to retire the 500 or an new N700A in 8 car setup would be built, neither happend and the 500 is still in service and actually they even modified the 500 into 2 joyful modifications (Eva and Hello Kitty).

 

While it's still unsure how long the 500 is going to last at this point and what replaces it (Retired N700a or N700A modified into 8 cars or new built N700S in 8 cars), the fact the N700a (13 years old) started being scrapped before the 500 (23 years old) says alot about it's durability.

 

 

Well the 500 is run by JR West and the N700 being scrapped by JR Central (Tokai).   So different companies, different needs (and usage -- JR West does not run as many Shinkansen runs daily, though I don't know how that translates to per-set usage).

 

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200系
Posted (edited)

With regards to the N700系a/500系 life cycle/ reliability comparison, that's very much a comparison between apples and oranges.

 

First of all they are, as @chadbag pointed out, owned and operated by different companies. Especially JR West has a history in terms of retaining older stock, while JR Tōkai rotates their stock much more frequently. For example; JR West wanted to keep using their 0系 formations on Tōkaidō/Sanyō shinkansen through services till at least the early 2000's, JR Tōkai wanted to get rid of their formations as quickly as possible. JR Tōkai transferred the 7 oldest 100系 G formations (G1~G7) to JR West between 1996 and 1997, which JR West ran until the end of the 16 car 100系 era in 2003, at this point JR Tōkai only had their younger fleet mates still running. JR West retained their 300系 formations for longer (~19 years), despite them being technically identical to the J formations used by JR Tōkai.

 

Second, the 500系, by virtue of it's all electric nature (i.e. all axles are powered), was a lot easier to re-organize into a shorter formation then either it's predecessor (the 300系) or the series following it. This is the main reason why no 300系 or even the 700系 were converted, or why only the 100系 V formations were converted to the K and P formations, while the G (G1~G7) formations they also owned were simply scrapped (with the exception of a number of nose sections donated for conversion of the 121/122-5050 type cars). This is also one of the reasons why the 8 car 700系7000番台 E formations use different bogies, and use a different gear ratio. This is also true for the 8 car N700系7000/8000番台 formations, which in contrast to the regular N700's, use an all electric layout.

 

Related to the first point, it's also worth keeping in mind that JR West own the Sanyō shinkansen, which is important in relation to the life cycle management of the shinkansen they own, so perhaps it's best to dive into this part a bit more.

 

The shinkansen life cycle is a somewhat more complex, and often misunderstood (both in the west, and to a lesser extend in Japanese railfan circles) subject matter. I'll try to keep myself from going into too much detail about this, in my opinion extremely fascinating, subject (I still have a little side project, somewhat related to the subject, I'm working on after all). Shinkansen stock in general leads a harsher life than your average commuter/suburban EMU, even compared to for example the Kantō area, this is especially true for the Tōkaidō shinkansen.

 

The nature of the shinkansen network, in comparison to for example the French or German high speed network, means that the average shinkansen spends a much larger percentage of it's run at high speed, this in turn leads to the rapid accumulation in terms of kilometrage. Packed timetables leads to high utilization, and therefore even higher kilometrage, while the number of tunnel passages as well as their cross section takes its toll on the car bodies (the pressure differential when entering a tunnel at speed, coupled with the shinkansen being pressure sealed will eventually lead to metal fatigue). Couple this all with the high standards kept for the shinkansen network, and you have a recipe for relatively short service lives.

 

During the J.N.R. era, the life of a 0系 car was projected to be around 20 years of service. This service life would be divided between a number of inspection (different degrees of maintenance inspections) of which the general inspection is considered to be the most thorough inspection (in short, all parts are taken apart, checked and replaced if necessary while the vehicle it's self is also fully repainted). The general inspection interval was established at every 3 years or every 900.000 km, whichever arrived first (which was usually the 900.000 km). However during the early 70's it became apparent that the oldest 0系 cars in service at that point in time, were ageing more rapidly than originally anticipated. As a result J.N.R. revised the projected service span for the shinkansen down to 13 years of service (plus minus a few years in either direction, depending on the last general inspection date). In practice this meant an average service life of around 6 million kilometer for a 0系 car.

 

With the introduction of the 200系 shinkansen, from 1980 onward, the general inspection interval for future shinkansen series was revised upwards to 3 years and/or 1.2 million km. This interval is still used today (interestingly the interval for other electric cars is 8 years and/or 1.2 million km AFAIK). 1985 saw the introduction of the first life extension program for the shinkansen, when six life expired 0系 cars from batch 10 were earmarked for the very first 6 car R formation (R0) to be used on "mini-shinkansen" (A Kodama service between Hakata and Kokura station on the Sanyō shinkansen, not to be confused with the later Yamagata and Akita shinkansen). During this period the life cycle management for the Tōkaidō/Sanyō shinkansen was also being altered, with older cars slowly finding their way to Kodama services, while the newer cars (or at least the formations containing them) would be used on the more intensive Hikari services. This helped to reduce the accumulation of kilometers on these cars, and as such helped to extend their lifespan, even if for only little while.

 

Now, to get back at my earlier point about JR West owning the Sanyō shinkansen; This allows JR West to run the 500系 V formations on a more leisurely, Kodama only (with exception of a small number of Hikari services between 2013 and 2014) timetable, limiting their usage and as such extending their life considerable, a luxury JR Tōkai has not. The contemporary Tōkaidō shinkansen timetable doesn;t have much Kodama services either (with the exception of early morning, and late evening commuter runs), which means (like I mentioned in my opening post) in combination with the lack of separation between the different N700系 types, that the oldest N700a系 formations are still regularly used for a lot of Nozomi services which doesn't help with the ageing process either.  

 

 

It's also worth noting that, even though the cars still in use on the V formations are all between 22 and 23 years of age, more then half of the 500系 cars built were already scrapped years ago at 11~15 years of age. This includes the entire formation W1 (too different from the production formations to be repurposed) and all the surplus cars from W2~W9. while V2 and V8 had their, Tōshiba built, GTO-VVVF traction installations replaced by IGBT-VVVF systems a few years ago, in order to prevent a shortage of parts for the other formations, while V6 apparently hasn't been in service since 2018 and is most likely used as a spare parts donor to keep the others running. 

 

In short, I haven't seen anything that supports the idea that the 500系 would be somehow more reliable then the N700a系, nor any evidence for the reverse.

 

@Socimi , are you sure you aren't confusing the 500系 and the 300系 (which was somewhat unreliable when introduced, though this was rectified early on) perhaps? As far as I know the problems with the 500系 had nothing to do with reliability, but with the difference in layout in contrast to the 300系 and later 700系/N700系 (different seating layout in the end cars, as well as the inability to use the end doors on the same cars) which meant a 500系 couldn't substitute for a 300系 and vice versa, while the extra performance they provided didn't provide any benefit on the Tōkaidō shinkansen in comparison to the existing 300系 formations. 

Or have I perhaps overlooked something?

Edited by 200系
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cteno4

Thanks 200, super informative as usual!

 

jeff

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Sacto1985

Those older N700 trainsets were already hard-worked running as far as between Tokyo and Hakata in both JR Central and JR West service. Essentially the N700S are replacing the oldest N700 train sets. I expect the N700S is replace most N700a train sets by 2025--and we'll see a shorter eight-car version for JR Kyushu in the early 2020's.

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