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20131219_train_article_main_imageRail transport services in Japan are provided by more than 100 private companies, including

  • Six Japan Railways Group (JR) regional companies (state owned until 1987) which provide passenger services to most parts of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu;
  • The nationwide JR freight company; and
  • 16 major regional companies which provide railway services as part of their corporate operations. There are also dozens of smaller local private railways.

Many of the private rail companies rank among the top corporations in the country. Railways were built by private corporations developing integrated communities along the railway lines, allowing them to achieve profitability by diversifying into real estate, retail, and numerous other businesses.[1] Regional governments, and companies funded jointly by regional governments and private companies, also provide rail service.

There are 27,268 km of rail crisscrossing the country. JR (a group of companies formed after privatization of JNR) controlled 20,135 km of these lines as of March 31, 1996, with the remaining 7,133 km in the hands of private enterprise local railway companies. Japan's railways carried 22.24 billion passengers (395.9 billion passenger-kilometres) in fiscal 2006.[2][view full post »