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Okinawa City planning tramline to revitalize economy

Date Posted: 2004-02-19

Okinawa City officials scrambling to revitalize the city’s crumbling economy have fixed their sights on a 10-year-old idea of boosting the city’s fortunes by building a tram line to improve public transportation.

The idea was first floated over 10 years ago, but it was nudged forward by the inauguration of Naha’s monorail. To realize the idea, Okinawa City has established a new company, called “Umanchu Tetsudo K.K.” or “Everyone’s Railroad Co.”

The new company officers held a press conference at Okinawa City Chamber Of Commerce Building last week, where company president Hideo Higa outlined the plans to realize the tramline. “We are aiming to have our first tram cars to run in 2009 or 2010,” Higa said. He went on to explain that they envisioned the first line to run through the city from Chubu Hospital to Plaza House. “But we would not stop there. We think we could expand the line aggressively to other areas,” Higa said.

Higa also explained that he envisions a new type of tramcar. “That type of tramcar is in use in other cities. It sits low, allowing the aged and disabled people, and even people using wheelchairs can easily get in and out. It is also much cheaper to construct than normal train line or monorail,” Higa said.

He said that the new company would apply for permission from the Ministry of Land and Transportation in June. “We then would set up a budget for research and planning in 2005,” Higa envisioned. He also said he would eventually like to see tram lines running from Itoman in the south, all the way to Nago in north.

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