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Hokuriku Main Line
A 521 series at Tsuruga Station
Other name(s)Biwako Line (Maibara - Nagahama)
Native name北陸本線
OwnerLogo of the West Railway Company (JR West) JR West
LocaleShiga Prefecture
Fukui Prefecture
Ishikawa Prefecture
Toyama Prefecture
Niigata Prefecture
  • Maibara
  • Naoetsu (section between Kanazawa and Naoetsu is now third-sector)
TypeHeavy rail, Passenger/freight rail
Regional rail, Intercity rail
SystemWest Japan Railway Company (JR West) (Maibara to Kanazawa)
IR Ishikawa Railway (Kanazawa to Kurikara)
Ainokaze Toyama Railway (Kurikara to Ichiburi)
Echigo Tokimeki Railway (Ichiburi to Naoetsu)
Operator(s)JR West, JR Freight
OpenedStages between 1882 and 1902
ClosedMarch 14, 2015 (2015-03-14): Kanazawa - Naoetsu (Converted to a third sector railway)
Line length176.6 km (109.7 mi)
Track gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Electrification1,500 V DC, 20 kV/60 Hz AC overhead line
Operating speed130 km/h (81 mph)
Route map

The Hokuriku Main Line (Japanese: 北陸本線, romanizedHokuriku-honsen) is a 176.6-kilometer (109.7 mi) railway line owned by the West Japan Railway Company (JR West) connecting Maibara Station in Maibara, Shiga, with Naoetsu Station in Joetsu, Niigata. The section between Kanazawa Station and Naoetsu Station is now operated by third-sector railways. 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 section of the line between Maibara and Kanazawa 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 section between the Kanazawa Station and the Naoetsu Station was transformed from a JR line to a third-sector railway; the remaining Shinkansen segment onward to Kansai region 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 is double tracked and 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 operated a small branch line for freight from Tsuruga Station to a container facility at the port of Tsuruga, but the services ceased in 2009.

Basic data


Maibara - Tsuruga

See also: Biwako Line and West Japan Railway Company § Urban Network

No. Station Japanese name Distance
Transfers Location
Through service to/from Tōkaidō Main Line, further to/from San'yō Main Line and Ako Line (shirasagi is Tōkaido main line Nagoya Station)
Hokuriku Line (Biwako Line)
 JR-A12  Maibara 米原 0.0 JR Central:
Tōkaidō Shinkansen
Tōkaidō Main Line
JR West:
( Biwako Line)
Ohmi Railway Main Line
Maibara Shiga
 JR-A11  Sakata 坂田 2.4
 JR-A10  Tamura 田村 4.7 Nagahama
 JR-A09  Nagahama 長浜 7.7
Hokuriku Line
 JR-A08  Torahime 虎姫 12.8 Nagahama Shiga
 JR-A07  Kawake 河毛 15.6
 JR-A06  Takatsuki 高月 18.2
 JR-A05  Kinomoto 木ノ本 22.4
 JR-A04  Yogo 余呉 26.5
 JR-A03  Ōmi-Shiotsu 近江塩津 31.4 Kosei Line (JR-B10)
 JR-A02  Shin-Hikida 新疋田 39.2 Tsuruga Fukui
 JR-A01  Tsuruga 敦賀 45.9 Obama Line
Hokuriku Line (for Takefu and Kanazawa)

Tsuruga - Kanazawa


Electrification Station Japanese name Distance from Maibara
Rapid Transfers Location
DC Tsuruga 敦賀 45.9 Obama Line
Hokuriku & Kosei Lines (for Omi-Shiotsu)
Tsuruga Fukui
AC 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 (Takefu-shin)
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-eki)
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

Kanazawa to Naoetsu

Now a third-sector railway, Kanazawa to Kurikara is IR Ishikawa Railway, Kurikara to Ichiburi is Ainokaze Toyama Railway, and Ichiburi to Naoetsu is Echigo Tokimeki Railway Nihonkai Hisui Line.

Rolling stock



Former rolling stock


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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 completed 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. DC was used in order to match the already-electrified Shin'etsu Main Line, which the Hokuriku Main Line joined at Naoetsu.

In 1991, in order to allow through-running with DC trains from the Tōkaidō Main Line at Maibara, the Tamura to Nagahama section was converted to 1,500 V DC, and the conversion was extended to Tsuruga in 2006.

Former connecting lines

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

The Eiheiji Railway Co. opened a 25 km 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.

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.

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.

Hokuriku Shinkansen

The Hokuriku Shinkansen extension, from Nagano to Kanazawa, 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 was transferred to the following three third-sector operating companies owned by the respective prefectures.[2] An additional extension running between Kanazawa and Tsuruga is set to open March 16, 2024.[3]


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

  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.
  3. ^ "Opening Date Set for Hokuriku Shinkansen Extension; Trains to Run between Kanazawa and Tsuruga from March 2024". The Yomiuri Shimbun. 30 August 2023.