Saturday, 11 May 2013

NEX's Little Side Trip to Izu Peninsula

EMU JR East E259 series, "Maine Express Odoriko" stands at Atami Station

As I mentioned in my blog on April 15th, 2011, the NEX (Narita Express) is an airport access train on the JR East Line. The rolling stock is the EMU E259 series, which was launched in 2009. A total of 22 sets, 132 units, have been manufactured so far. The E259 has been specially designed as the airport access train between downtown Tokyo and the New Tokyo International (Narita) Airport; however, it has also started to be commissioned as a sightseeing express to Izu Peninsula since March of this year. The NEX has started to make a little side trip.

Look at the top photo. It is the E259, "Marine Express Odoriko", standing at Atami Station. This train is operated between Tokyo and Shimoda on the Izukyu Railway. You can see a special emblem for Marine Express Odoriko on the front of the train. Currently, it is operated only in peak vacation seasons. Two sets of the E259 series have been commissioned for that purpose.

I think that the background of this "special operation" was caused by a slump in popularity of the NEX. As I mentioned before (see my blog on September 13th, 2011), JR East's competitor, Keisei, is also operating an airport access train known as the "Skyliner". Lower fares and a faster operation are encouraging more passengers to take the Skyliner rather than the NEX. As a result, JR East has been forced to decrease its operation of the NEX on some sections since March of this year. In other words, there is a surplus of NEX rolling stocks.

"Narita Express (N'EX)" logo (left) and the emblem of "Marine Express Odoriko, E259" (right)