The Japan Railways Group, more commonly known as the JR Group (JRグループ, Jeiāru Gurūpu) or simply JR, consists of seven for-profit stock companies that took over most of the assets and operations of the government-owned Japanese National Railways (JNR) on April 1, 1987. Most of the liability of the JNR was assumed by the JNR Settlement Corporation.
The JR Group operates a large proportion of intercity rail service (including the Shinkansen high-speed rail lines) and commuter rail service.
JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku, and JR Freight (JRF) are governed by the Act for the Passenger Railway Companies and Japan Freight Railway Company, also known as the JR Companies Act, and are under the control of the public Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency (JRTT), while JR East, JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu are completely floated in the stock market; in addition, JR East, JR Central and JR West are constituents of the Nikkei 225 and TOPIX 100 indices. Because the railways used to be owned by the government, Japanese people generally make a distinction between JR railways (including former JR lines that are now third sector) and other private railways, and JR railways are almost always denoted differently from other private railways when shown on maps.
Further information: Private railway § Japan
The Japan Railways Group consists of seven operating companies and two other companies that do not provide rail service. The operating companies are organized into six passenger operators and a nationwide freight operator. Unlike some other groups of companies, the JR Group is made up of independent companies, and it does not have group headquarters or a holding company to set the overall business policy.
The six passenger railways of the JR Group are separated by region. Nearly all their services are within the prescribed geographic area. However, some long-distance operations extend beyond the boundaries. The Shirasagi train service between Nagoya and Kanazawa, for instance, uses JR West rolling stock but the segment of track between Nagoya and Maibara is owned by JR Central, whose crew manage the train on that section.
Japan Freight Railway Company operates all freight service on the network previously owned by JNR.
In addition, the group includes two non-operating companies. These are the Railway Technical Research Institute and Railway Information Systems Co., Ltd.
To cover various non-railway business areas, each regional operator in the JR Group has its own group of subsidiary companies with names like "JR East Group" and "JR Shikoku Group."
|Business||Company||Logo / Symbol color||Traded as||Region(s) of operation||Note|
|Passenger||Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido)||Grass||Not listed||Hokkaidō||operates Hokkaidō Shinkansen in Hokkaido|
|East Japan Railway Company (JR East)||Forest||Tōhoku, Kantō, Hokuriku, Kōshin'etsu||operates Tōhoku Shinkansen, Yamagata Shinkansen, Akita Shinkansen, Jōetsu Shinkansen and Hokuriku Shinkansen (with JR West)|
|Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central)||Pumpkin||Chūbu (including Tōkai, its Japanese eponym)||operates Tōkaidō Shinkansen in Kantō and Kansai|
|West Japan Railway Company (JR West)||Ocean||Hokuriku, Kansai, Chūgoku, Kyūshū||operates Sanyō Shinkansen in Kansai, Chūgoku and Kyushu and Hokuriku Shinkansen (with JR East) in Hokuriku|
|Shikoku Railway Company (JR Shikoku)||Sky||Not listed||Shikoku|
|Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu)||Scarlet||Kyūshū||operates Kyūshū Shinkansen in Kyūshū|
|Freight||Japan Freight Railway Company (JR Freight)||Slate||Not listed||Nationwide|
|Research organization||Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI)||Lavender||Not listed|
|IT Services||Railway Information Systems Co. (JR System)||Burgundy||Not listed|
JR maintains a nationwide railway network as well as common ticketing rules that it inherited from JNR. Passengers may travel across several JR companies without changing trains and without purchasing separate tickets. However, trains running across the boundaries of JR companies have been reduced.
JR maintains the same ticketing rules based on the JNR rules and has an integrated reservation system known as MARS (jointly developed with Hitachi). Some types of tickets (passes), such as Japan Rail Pass and Seishun 18 Ticket, are issued as "valid for all JR lines" and accepted by all passenger JR companies.
In 1987, the government of Japan took steps to divide and privatize JNR. While division of operations began in April of that year, privatization was not immediate: initially, the government retained ownership of the companies. Privatization of some of the companies began in the early 1990s. By October 2016, all of the shares of JR East, JR Central, JR West and JR Kyushu had been offered to the market and they are now publicly traded. On the other hand, all of the shares of JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku and JR Freight are still owned by Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, an independent administrative institution of the state.
All the JR Group companies operating in the Honshū region are constituents of the Nikkei 225 and TOPIX 100 indexes.
The demise of the government-owned system came after charges of serious management inefficiencies, profit losses, and fraud. By the 1970s, passenger and freight business had declined, and fare increases had failed to keep up with higher labor costs.
What remained of the debt-ridden Japanese National Railways after its 1987 breakup was named the Japanese National Railways Settlement Corporation. Its purpose was to dispose of assets and debts not absorbed by the successor companies and to execute other activities relating to the breakup, such as outplacement of former personnel.
The new companies introduced competition, cut their staffing, and made reform efforts. Initial public reaction to these moves was good: the combined passenger travel on the Japan Railways Group passenger companies in 1987 was 204.7 billion passenger-kilometers, up 3.2% from 1986, while the passenger sector previously had been stagnant since 1975. The growth in passenger transport of private railways in 1987 was 2.6%, which meant that the Japan Railways Group's rate of increase was above that of the private-sector railways for the first time since 1974. Demand for rail transport improved, although it still accounted for only 28% of passenger transportation and only 5% of cargo transportation in 1990. Rail passenger transportation was superior to automobiles in terms of energy efficiency and of speed in long distance transportation.
The six companies had 18,800 km (11,700 mi) of routes (mostly 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge) in use in the late 1980s. About 25% of the routes were in double-track and multitrack sections, and the rest were single-track. In 1988 about 51% of the six companies' 1,000 locomotives were diesel, and the rest were electric.
Japan Freight Railway Company owns its locomotives (295 diesel and 569 electric locomotives in 1988), rolling stock, stations and Intermodal container, but hires track from the six passenger companies. It runs fewer trains on less track than Japanese National Railways freight service did before its demise, but at increased revenues and higher productivity.
The Shinkansen Property Corporation (新幹線保有機構, Shinkansen Hoyū Kikō) leased Shinkansen railway facilities, including 2,100 km (1,300 mi) of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) gauge high-speed track, to the passenger companies on Honshū. In 1991, the SPC was reorganized into the Railway Development Fund (鉄道整備基金, Tetsudō Seibi Kikin) and the three operators bought their lines on 60-year loans. Some of the Shinkansen electric-powered trains operate at speeds up to 300 km/h.
Another nearly 3,400 km (2,100 mi) of routes are operated by major private railways and by what are known in Japan as third sector railways—new companies, financed with private and local government funds—which often (not always) absorbed some of Japanese National Railways' rural lines. There were twenty-seven private and third-sector companies in 1989.
Various unions represent workers at the different JR Group companies, such as the National Railway Workers' Union, All Japan Construction, Transport and General Workers' Union, Doro-Chiba, and the Japan Confederation of Railway Workers' Unions.