Hokuriku Main Line

Hokuriku Main Line

Hokuriku Main Line
Native name 北陸本線
Type Heavy rail, Passenger/freight rail
Regional rail, Intercity rail
System JR West
Status Operational
Locale Shiga Prefecture
Fukui Prefecture
Ishikawa Prefecture
Termini Maibara Station
Kanazawa Station
Stations 43
Opened Stages between 1882-1902
Closed 14. 3. 2015: Kanazawa - Naoetsu (Converted to the three sectors of the private railway)
Owner JR West
Operator(s) JR West, JR Freight
Line length 176.6 km (109.7 mi)
Track gauge 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Electrification 1,500 V DC, 20 kV/60 Hz AC overhead line
Operating speed 130 km/h (80 mph)
Route map

The Hokuriku Main Line (北陸本線 Hokuriku-Honsen) is a 176.6 kilometer railway line owned by West Japan Railway Company (JR West) connecting Maibara Station in Maibara, Shiga, with Kanazawa Station in Kanazawa, Ishikawa. It serves the Hokuriku region on the northern central coast of Honshu, the largest island of Japan, as well as offering connections to the regions of Kansai, Tōkai, Kantō, and Tōhoku.

The line is an important transportation artery along the Sea of Japan coast, because the Shinkansen high-speed network has not yet been extended through the Hokuriku region. The Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened on March 14, 2015 between Nagano and Kanazawa, therefore the interval between the Kanazawa Station and the Naoetsu Station was converted to the three segments of private railway companies; the remaining segment onward to Kansai is still in the planning stages. As a result, narrow gauge limited expresses such as the Thunderbird and Shirasagi are common sights along the line.

The Hokuriku Main Line has double track and is completely electrified: the section from Maibara to Tsuruga use 1,500 V DC power, while the section from Tsuruga to Kanazawa uses 20 kV AC, 60 Hz power.

JR Freight operates a small branch line for freight from Tsuruga Station to a container facility at the port of Tsuruga.


  • Basic data 1
  • Stations 2
  • Rolling stock 3
    • Electric 3.1
    • Diesel 3.2
    • Former rolling stock 3.3
  • History 4
    • Double-tracking and realignments 4.1
    • Electrification 4.2
    • Former connecting lines 4.3
  • Future developments 5
  • References 6

Basic data

  • Operators, distances
  • Stations:
    • Passenger stations: 43, including those with freight services
    • Freight terminals: 4
  • Double-track line: From Maibara to Kanazawa
  • Electric supply: From Maibara to Kanazawa
    • From Maibara to Tsuruga: 1,500 V DC
    • From Tsuruga to Kanazawa: 20,000 V AC, 60 Hz
  • Railway signalling:
    • From Maibara to Kanazawa: Automatic train control
    • From Tsuruga to Tsuruga-minato: Token system
  • Maximum line speed: 130 km/h
  • CTC center:
    • From Maibara to Ōmi-Shiotsu: Shin-Ōsaka Operation Control Center
    • From Ōmi-Shiotsu to Kanazawa: Kanazawa Operation Control Center
  • CTC system:
    • From Maibara to Ōmi-Shiotsu: Safety Urban Network Traffic System (SUNTRAS)


  • For the section between Maibara and Nagahama, see also the Biwako Line article.
  • Rapid or Special Rapid trains from the Urban Network (Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto area) do not skip any of the stations listed below.
Station Japanese Distance
Transfers Location
Through service to/from Tōkaidō Main Line, further to/from Sanyō Main Line and Akō Line
Hokuriku Line (Biwako Line)
Maibara 米原 0.0 Tōkaidō Shinkansen
Tōkaidō Main Line (Biwako Line)
Ohmi Railway Main Line
Maibara Shiga
Sakata 坂田 2.4
Tamura 田村 4.7 Nagahama
Nagahama 長浜 7.7
Hokuriku Line
Torahime 虎姫 12.8 Nagahama Shiga
Kawake 河毛 15.6
Takatsuki 高月 18.2
Kinomoto 木ノ本 22.4
Yogo 余呉 26.5
Ōmi-Shiotsu 近江塩津 31.4 Kosei Line
Shin-Hikida 新疋田 39.2 Tsuruga Fukui
Tsuruga 敦賀 45.9 Obama Line
Minami-Imajō 南今庄 62.5 Minamiechizen, Nanjō
Imajō 今庄 65.1
Yunoo 湯尾 68.7
Nanjō 南条 72.2
Ōshio 王子保 76.7 Echizen
Takefu 武生 81.0 Fukui Railway Fukubu Line (Echizen-Takefu)
Sabae 鯖江 86.2 Sabae
Kita-Sabae 北鯖江 89.4
Ōdoro 大土呂 94.1 Fukui
Echizen-Hanandō 越前花堂 97.3 Etsumi-Hoku Line
Minami-Fukui Freight Terminal 南福井 98.1
Fukui 福井 99.9 Katsuyama Eiheiji Line, Mikuni Awara Line
Fukui Railway Fukubu Line (Fukui-Ekimae)
Etsumi-Hoku Line
Morita 森田 105.8
Harue 春江 108.1 Sakai
Maruoka 丸岡 111.9
Awaraonsen 芦原温泉 117.6 Awara
Hosorogi 細呂木 121.4
Ushinoya 牛ノ谷 124.5
Daishōji 大聖寺 130.2 Kaga Ishikawa
Kagaonsen 加賀温泉 134.3
Iburihashi 動橋 137.5
Awazu 粟津 142.4 Komatsu
Komatsu 小松 148.2
Meihō 明峰 151.0
Nomineagari 能美根上 154.0 Nomi
Komaiko 小舞子 157.0 Hakusan
Mikawa 美川 158.8
Kaga-Kasama 加賀笠間 162.8
Mattō 松任 167.2
Nonoichi 野々市 170.5 Nonoichi
Nishi-Kanazawa 西金沢 172.9 Hokutetsu Ishikawa Line (Shin-Nishi-Kanazawa) Kanazawa
Kanazawa 金沢 176.6 Hokuriku Shinkansen
IR Ishikawa Railway Line
Hokutetsu Asanogawa Line (Hokutetsu-Kanazawa)
Kanazawa Freight Terminal 金沢貨物ターミナル 179.2

Rolling stock

A Thunderbird limited express at Takefu Station
A Hoketsu Express 681-2000 series EMU on a Hakutaka limited express service
Biwako Line 221 series EMU



Former rolling stock


The entire line was built by the Japanese Government Railway, with the first section opened being from Nagahama, on the shore of Lake Biwa to Tsuruga in 1882. The Maibara to Nagahama section opened in 1889, and the line was then opened progressively to Fukui (in 1896), Kanazawa (in 1898), and Toyama (in 1899). The next extension opened to Uozu in 1908, and to Tomari in 1910. At the northeastern end, the Naoetsu to Nadachi section opened in 1911, and was extended to Itoigawa the following year. The final section opened in 1913, completing the line.

On 14 March 2015 the name of Terai Station was changed to Nomineagari Station.[1]

Double-tracking and realignments

The initial section double-tracked was between Kanazawa and Tsubata in 1938, with the Maibara to Tsuruga section duplicated between 1957 and 1958. The rest of the line was double-tracked in stages between 1960 and 1969.

There have been three major line deviations. The first between Kinomoto and Tsuruga involving the 5,170 m Fukasaka tunnel opened in 1957 as a new line, with the original line remaining in service until the second new line opened in 1965, including the Shin-fukasaka tunnel at 5,173 m and a spiral section partially in tunnels to ease the ruling grade on the climb from Tsuruga to Biwako.

The second major deviation, between Tsuruga and Imajo opened in 1962 as a dual track line including the 13,870 m Hokuriku tunnel, providing a significantly straighter and faster line as well as avoiding numerous coastal sections vulnerable to disruption during severe weather events.

The third major deviation, the 21 km section between Uramoto and Arimagawa stations, was competed in 1969 as a dual track line, including the 11,353 m Kubiki tunnel, being the final section to be duplicated.


The Tsuruga to Tamura section was electrified in 1957 at 20 kV AC. As Maibara was electrified at 1,500 V DC, steam locomotives hauled trains over the 5 km non-electrified section until it was electrified (at 1,500 V DC, with dual-voltage EMUs being used) in 1962, the year the 20 kV AC electrification was extended to Fukui, extending progressively to Kanazawa (in 1963), Toyama (in 1964), and Itoigawa (in 1965).

The Itoigawa to Naoetsu section was electrified at 1,500 V DC in 1969, whilst in 1991, the Tamura to Nagahama section was changed to 1,500 V DC, this change being extended to Tsuruga in 2006.

Former connecting lines

  • Takefu Station: The Takeoka Light Railway opened a 7 km 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) gauge line to Gobuichi in 1914, converting the line to 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge in 1924, and extending it 7 km to Tono-guchi. In 1941, the company merged with the Fukui Railway, which electrified the line at 600 V DC in 1948. The last 5 km closed in 1971, and the rest of the line closed in 1981.
  • Sabae Station: The Ura Electric Railway opened a 20 km line, electrified at 600 V DC, to Oda between 1926 and 1929. The line also connected to the Fukubu Line at Mizuochi. The company merged with the Fukui Railway in 1945. As a result of double-tracking work on the Hokuriku Line at Sabae, the section to Mizuochi closed in 1962, with the rest of the line closing in 1973.
  • Maruoka Station: The Maruoka Railway opened a 4 km 762 mm gauge line to Shin-Maruoka in 1915. In 1930, it was regauged to 1,067 mm and electrified at 600 V DC in conjunction with the opening of the Eiheiji Line to Shin-Maruoka from Arawa Onsen. The following year, a 3 km electrified line was opened from Maruoka to Nishi Nagata on the Mikuni Awara Line. The company merged with the Keifuku Railway in 1944, and the entire 7 km line closed in 1968.
  • Arawa Onsen Station:

An 8 km line to Mikuni on the Mikuni Awara Line operated between 1911 and 1972.

The Eiheiji Railway Co. opened a 25km line to its namesake town in 1929, connecting with the Katsuyama Eiheiji Line at Higashi-Furuichi. The company merged with the Keifuku Electric Railway Co. in 1944. The Arawa Onsen - Higashi-Furuichi section closed in 1969, and the section to Eijeihi closed in 2002 after a fatal head-on collision resulted in services being suspended and subsequently never resumed.

  • Daishoji Station: A 9 km 915 mm (3 ft) gauge horse-drawn tramway opened to Yamanaka between 1898 and 1900. In 1913, the line was converted to 1,067 mm gauge and electrified. The line closed in 1971. The Hokuriku Railway Co. operated an 11km line (known as the Contact Line) from Awazu Onsen (see Awazu station below) connected to the Uwano Line and this line between 1911 and 1963.
  • Iburihashi Station: The Hokuriku Railway had two separate lines connecting here:

On the western side of the line, the 3 km line to Katayamazu opened in 1914 as a 915 mm gauge horse-drawn tramway. It was converted to 1,067 mm gauge and electrified in 1922, and closed in 1965.

On the eastern side, the 3 km electrified line to Uwano operated between 1911 and 1971.

  • Awazu Station: The Awazu Onsen Railway opened a 4 km 762 mm gauge line to Awazu Onsen in 1911, converting the line to 1,067 mm gauge and electrifying it in 1916. The line closed in 1962.
  • Komatsu Station:

A 17 km 762 mm gauge line opened to the Ogoya copper mine between 1919 and 1920. The Meitetsu Railway took over management of the line in 1962, renaming the terminus Ogoya Onsen. The copper mine closed in 1971, and the line closed in 1977.

A 6 km horse-drawn tramway opened in 1906 to serve the Yusenji copper mine. Steam locomotion was introduced the following year, and the mine and line closed in 1918. In 1929, the line was regauged to 1,067 mm, electrified and reopened by the Hakusen Electric Railway, but it was declared bankrupt the following year. The Komatsu Electric Railway purchased the line at the receiver's auction in 1935, and merged with the Hokuriku Railway in 1945. Patronage declined from 2,126,000 in 1967 to 623,000 in 1983, and as a result the line closed in 1986.

  • Terai Station (present-day Nomineagari Station): The Nomi Electric Railway opened a 17 km line, electrified at 600 V DC to Tsurugi on the Hokuriku Railroad Ishikawa Line in 1927. Flooding destroyed the Tedorigawa bridge in 1934, which was replaced nine months later. The company merged with the Hokuriku Railway in 1942. Freight services ceased in 1968, and the line closed in 1980.
  • Matto station: In 1904, the 8 km, 915 mm gauge Matsukane horse-drawn tramway opened to Nomachi on the Hokuriku Railroad Ishikawa Line, and also connected with Nonoichi station on the same line (not the current JR West station of the same name, which opened in 1968), 3 km before the terminus. In 1916, the line was converted to 1,067 mm gauge and electrified at 600 V DC. The line was acquired by the Kanazawa Electric Railway in 1920, which merged with the Hokuriku Railway in 1942. The 3 km Nonoichi to Nomachi section closed in 1944, and the remaining 5 km line closed in 1955.
  • Kanazawa Station: The 5 km 762 mm gauge Jinshi horse-drawn tramway opened in 1898, being converted to 1,067 mm gauge and electrified at 600 V DC in 1914. In 1920, the line was extended to Ono Port, and a further 2 km to Ono Minato in 1923. A 400m branch to Ryokuchi Park opened in 1930, passenger services on the branch ceasing in 1945 though the line remained to service a paper mill. The entire system closed in 1970.
  • Isurugi Station: The Tonami Railway opened a 7 km line to Tsuzawa in 1915, and merged with the Kaetsu Railway in 1919, which extended the line 13 km to Shogawa-Cho in 1922, including a connection to the Johana Line at Fukuno. The line closed in 1972.
  • Kurobe Station: The Toyo Aluminium Company planned to build Japan's first aluminium refinery near Kurobe, and in 1922 opened a line electrified at 600 V DC to the proposed refinery site. The refinery did not proceed, so the company extended the line to Ishida Minato to serve an Onsen. The line closed in 1940.

Future developments

The Hokuriku Shinkansen extension, from Nagano to Kanazawa scheduled to open in March 2015, approximately parallels the route of the Hokuriku Main Line. With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, control of local passenger services on the sections of the Hokuriku Main Line running through Ishikawa, Toyama, and Niigata prefectures will be transferred to the following three third-sector operating companies owned by the respective prefectures.[2]


This article incorporates material from the corresponding article in the Japanese WorldHeritage

  1. ^ "JR西日本 News Release 平成27年春ダイヤ改正について" [West Japan Railway Company News Release. Information regarding the Spring 2015 timetable amendment] (pdf). West Japan Railway Company. 19 December 2014. p. 11. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  2. ^ しなの鉄道(株)、えちごトキめき鉄道(株)、あいの風とやま鉄道(株)及びIRいしかわ鉄道(株)申請の第一種鉄道事業許可について [Details of railway business approval for Shinano Railway, Echigo Tokimeki Railway Company, Ainokaze Toyama Railway, and IR Ishikawa Railway]. News release (in Japanese). Japan: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.