From March 2020 plans to keep just the N700, N700A as the sole stock operating on the Tokaido Shinkansen – with the exception of ‘Doctor Yellow’ – look like going ahead. End of era celebrations had been planned however the coronavirus outbreak prompted JR Tōkai (aka JR Central) to cancel all events. The last special run of the 700s occurred on Friday 28th February – judging from the pictures for that run many people were wearing facemasks, even the rail staff.
JR Tōkai announcing the cancellation of the 700 final run celebrations. Source: Twitter
Some 700’s peripheral events had already been cancelled a few days before and it seems the cancellation of the entire final week’s programmes was quite inevitable. JR Tōkai informed people all tickets would be refunded whilst those who had ordered and paid for special souvenirs online would still get these.
At this stage its being suggested the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – due to be held this summer – will probably be deferred to later in the year. The Olympics was undoubtedly going to be the big chance for JR Tōkai to show the world its new highly advanced N700S stock. So far only the pre-production models have been seen on the Shinkansen.
What will happen now is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the N700S will be delayed and the 700s will have to be kept on a little longer. At the moment there’s nothing to indicate this however. If public transport does see a reduction in use due to the outbreak, there will no doubt be plenty of N700’s and N700A’s to cover services so there obviously wont be any call for 700s to be kept on.
Below is the ultimate special run with the 700’s which occurred on 28th February 2020. Its clear from the tweet practically everyone was wearing masks.
There was much disappointment among enthusiasts that the 8th March celebrations, for which a special website and programmes (which is now deleted – the link has been changed to one at the Web Archive) had been set up. There was a little bit of hope that perhaps a change of circumstances would ensure in due course – because the 8th March is not the end of the 700s – at least not for Japan Railways West. Its a very tight margin though.
JR West still operates 700s on its high speed lines and it announced the end of services for those trains would be on the 13th March 2020. At the time of writing that’s ten days away – and judging by the coronavirus outbreak over there, things shows little sign of abating – which means in all event there wont be any farewell celebrations for the 700’s on JR West’s routes either.
This is indeed quite ironic as the 13th March is the exact 21st anniversary of the introduction of the 700’s. The new trains began operation on the same date in 1999 on both JR Tōkai and JR West’s lines between Tokyo and Hakata.
JR Tōkai’s cancellation and the reasons for it was also announced on the railway company’s main website and explained in more detail here.
From the JR Tōkai website and their Facebook its clear the railway company had gone to great lengths to mark the end of 700 services with a wide range of souvenirs and wares.
Special medallion to commemorate the 700’s end of era. Source: Twitter
Special promotion beer to celebrate the end of the 700’s. Source: Facebook
Some of the other promotions for the 700s finale – including bed covers! Source: Twitter
Some pictures follow in respect of the 700’s – which were at the time of introduction the most advanced high speed trains in the world.
The first 700’s in 1999 came with the motto ‘Ambitious Japan’ emblazoned on the carriage sides. The motto lasted on some units until 2005. Source: Twitter
The present Doctor Yellow (the Shinkansen’s special track monitoring unit) was introduced in 2001. Its a modified 700 and will be the only such example still at work. Source: Facebook
The Series 700’s successor, the N700A, seen passing Mount Fuji in 2015. Source: Twitter (Note: The account is either suspended or deleted thus an archive image has been used here.)
The photographs of the Shinkansen speeding over the Fujikawa crossing and past Mount Fuji are some of the best known train pictures from Japan. However here’s another view of Mount Fuji, this time from Shizuoka with a N700 on the elevated section above the city.
Shinkansen N700A at Shizuoka City. Source: Facebook
To the causal observer, externally the trains look much the same. However as the above and below pics show, the most obvious difference between the sets are the headlights. But there are other differences too, the shape of the nose is rather more pronounced in terms of aerodynamics whilst the driver’s cab windows are smaller on the newer models.
Update: The following image is a nice one of the newer and older models side by side showing the design differences.
N700 and the now discontinued 700 lean into the curve at Hamamatsu Station (238km > Tokyo & 277km > Osaka.) Source: Twitter
700 – ironically seen on 29th February in normal service – with the special commemorative decals announcing the end of services on the 8th March. Source: Twitter
In the same way as the Series 0, Series 100 and Series 300, the original Series 700 stock was delivered from the factory on temporary narrow gauge bogies. Source: Facebook
Alas the narrow gauge method is rarely, if ever used these days. New stock is moved by road – or even by sea!
Some of the N700A stock bound for Torikai depot was transported by sea direct from the factory to Osaka! Source: Facebook