Namie-Odaka stretch of Joban Line to reopen, timed with end of evacuation in Namie town

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) is preparing to resume services on a Joban Line stretch of about 8.9 kilometers between Namie and Odaka stations in time for the lifting of an evacuation order in parts of Namie town, Fukushima Prefecture, planned for March 31. The central government has told Namie authorities that it will seek to end evacuation that day in two of the town’s three areas -- a residency-restricted zone and a zone being prepared for the lifting of the order. The third zone is deemed "difficult to return to" due to still high levels of radiation left by the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant, caused by a devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The Namie-Odaka portion was disrupted by the disaster, leaving positional distortions of bridge piers and other problems. JR East has been engaged in restoration work such as correction of the pier and rail dislocations as well as their reinforcement since January last year, seeking to resume train runs this spring. Operations of Joban Line sections disrupted by the disaster have been resumed gradually, including the Hisanohama (Iwaki city)-Hirono portion in October 2011, Haranomachi (Minamisoma city)-Soma in December that year, Odaka (Minamisoma city)-Haranomachi in July 2016 and Soma-Hamayoshida (Watari town, Miyagi Prefecture) in December the same year. The Tatsuta (Naraha town)-Tomioka section is scheduled to resume operations at the end of 2017 and the Namie-Tomioka stretch by the end of March 2020. (Translated by Kyodo News)