Biwako Line (琵琶湖線)

The Biwako Line is the name of the train line that runs between Kyoto Station and Maibara Station of the Tokaido Main Line, and also between Maibara Station and Nagahama Station of the Hokuriku Main Line, both of which are run by West Japan Railway Company (JR West). The line color is blue.


After JR was established, on March 13, 1988 it was decided that the name of the line between Kyoto and Maibara would be JR Kyoto Line; however, it was renamed in 1989 since there was strong demand from the local community and governor of Shiga Prefecture to have a more localized name. The section between Maibara and Nagahama of the Hokuriku Main Line was added to the Biwako Line when the section between Tamura Station and Nagahama was changed from AC electrification to DC electrification in September 1991; however, the same line between Nagahama and Tsuruga Station, which was changed to DC electrification in October 2006, was not added to the Biwako Line.

In the trains of Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), especially on Shinkansen (bullet trains), the train line name of the Urban Network is not being announced; however in local trains that run from Ogaki Station to Maibara Station, the train that run toward the direction of Kyoto is announced as 'Biwako Line.'
Also the announcement inside Maibara Station, the train line towards Ogaki is called 'Tokaido Line' and the line towards Kyoto is called 'Biwako Line.'

The rail track between Kyoto and Kusatsu is a quadruple track: the two outside rail lines (outer lines) are for higher-category trains and freight trains, the inside two lines (inner lines) are for Special Rapid trains and local trains. In the whole lines between Kyoto and Maibara the trains run at 130 km/hour and the trains operating on the inner lines between Kyoto and Kusatsu also run at 130 km/hour.
The following stations are those that do not have absolute lights; Otsu Station, Seta Station, Minami-Kusatsu Station, Ritto Station, Moriyama Station, Shinohara Station, Inae Station and Minami-Hikone Station
Each train going inbound at Notogawa Station and Yasu Station, as well as the ones going outbound at Omi-Hachiman Station, connects to local and limited express trains; accordingly, the inside line at Kawase Station and Azuchi Station are used for local trains waiting for limited express trains, or for shuttle trains. There is a train depot (Kyoto Comprehensive Operation Office Yasu Branch) where series 221 and 223 trains are kept. In all sections, the Hanwa Line operation control system is being used.

The J-through, ICOCA, Suica of East Japan Railway Company (JR East), TOICA of the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Tokai) and PiTaPa of Surutto KANSAI Association can be used at all stations of the Biwako Line.

The running form

The running form of the Biwako Line is basically operated together with the JR Kyoto Line and JR Kobe Line. There are direct operating trains such as higher-category train, Special Rapid and Rapid train (running as a local train within the Biwako Line) that run from the JR Kyoto Line and JR Kobe Line.

Higher-category trains

There aren't many limited express trains available going toward Hokuriku compared to the JR Kyoto Line, since they enter the Kosei Line from Yamashina Station. The following trains are run regularly. The Airport Express 'Haruka' and the Limited Express 'Biwako Express' run during rush hour, while overnight train service and express trains run late at night and early morning hours.

Overnight train services 'Fuji', 'Hayabusa' (Tokyo - Oita, Kumamoto)

Overnight train services '(Sunrise) Seto', '(Sunrise) Izumo' (Tokyo - Takamatsu, Izumo-city)

Express 'Kitaguni' (Niigata - Osaka)

Limited Express 'Biwako Express' (Maibara - Osaka)

Airport Express 'Haruka' (Maibara, Kusatsu - Kansai International Airport)

Limited Express 'Shinano' (Nagano - Osaka)

Limited Express 'Hida' (Takayama - Osaka)

In case of using the limited express train only within the Biwako Line, it is less reasonable because the express train fee is more expensive than that of the Shinkansen.

Special Rapid train

The Special Rapid train runs directly from Himeji of the JR Kobe Line, Aboshi and Kamigori of the Sanyo Main Line, Banshu Ako Station of the Ako Line via JR Kyoto Line and through to Nagahama Station of the Biwako Line and Omi-Shiotsu Station and Tsuruga Station of the Hokuriku Main Line. During the day there are four Special Rapid trains per hour running on the JR Kyoto Line; since one of them runs into the Kosei Line from Yamashina, there are three Special Rapid trains going into the Biwako Line, two of which running to the east of Yasu. There are four Special Rapid trains running toward Yasu, starting in the evening.

In the morning there are some Special Rapid trains operating west of Kusatsu and Yasu, while there are some local trains running on the eastern side. Except for some trains, most run on the inner line between Kyoto and Kusatsu. Due to the active length of the platform, trains departing from and arriving at Nagahama Station are eight-car trains, while the ones departing from and arriving at Tsuruga Station and Omi-Shiotsu Station are four-car trains (the 12-car trains are divided or convened at Maibara). Due to the change of the train timetable on October 21, 2006, some trains departing from and arriving at Nagahama Station were extended to run to Omi-Shiotsu Station and Tsuruga Station.

All the trains are JR (West) Suburban Train Series 223, model No.1000s, or JR (West) Suburban Train Series 223, model No.2000s.

Local trains

Most local trains of the Biwako Line run as through-trains between the JR Kyoto Line and the JR Kobe Line, but they also run as Rapid trains for stops west of Takatsuki Station (the western part of Kyoto in the morning and a midnight). The trains don't enter the JR Kyoto Line early in the morning and at midnight, and there are also some trains arriving at and departing from Kyoto Station. Many trains arrive at and depart from Maibara Station or Yasu Station, which is halfway through, while others run through to Ogaki Station or Nagahama Station. Part of the train is changed to a Special Rapid train (or changed from a Special Rapid train) from Kusatsu Station and Yasu Station. The trains run on the inner line between Kusatsu Station and Kyoto Station.

After the change of the train timetable in March 2008, the outbound local trains during the daytime do not wait for Special Rapid trains at Omi-Hachiman Station, and they now arrive at Kyoto Station first after departing from Maibara Station. In the morning and evening some outbound trains connect with Special Rapid trains at Omi-Hachiman Station, or some inbound trains connect with Special Rapid trains at Yasu Station. There are connecting local trains available going further than Maibara Station after the Special Rapid trains terminate at Yasu Station from evening hours.

These are six-, eight-, 10- and 12-car trains of JR (West) Suburban Train Series 221 (model No.1000s and 2000s) and Series 223, model No. 6000s (Aboshi Trains). (both of them belong to the Aboshi General Rolling Stock Station.)
The trains going to Yasu Station, which divides at Kyoto Station, and the ones departing from Maibara Station to Kusatsu Station, are four-car trains run in the morning on weekdays.

These trains are called 'T-trains' by the train crew since the last letter of the train number is T. (The last letter of the train numbers for Rapid trains between Takatsuki Station and Kyoto Station is M for weekdays and K for weekends.
These are also called T-trains, while weekday trains are called M-trains and the weekend trains are called K-trains.)

There are some direct trains from Kyoto Station to Kusatsu Station in the morning and evening: the trains used are JNR/JR Suburban Train Series 117 and JNR/JR Suburban Train Series 113 belonging to Kyoto General Rolling Stock Station. Some local trains have direct connections to the Kusatsu Line and Kosei Line, running the outer line between Kusatsu Station and Kyoto Station.

The local four-door trains (Keihanshin Kanko Line) (JR (West) Suburban Train Series 207 and 321) run in the morning and evening on weekdays between Nishi-Akashi/Shinsanda and Kusatsu/Yasu. The last letter of the train number is C for a weekday train (B for a weekend train, despite the fact that no trains run within the Biwako Line on weekends).

There are Special Rapid trains and the local trains of the Kosei Line running between Yamashina Station and Kyoto Station. Please refer to Kosei Line for details.

Future plan

There is a future plan to build a new station between Yamashina Station and Kyoto Station.

[Original Japanese]