06 December 2006
How much did the Shinkansen cost?
Patrick Crozier

On InstaPatrick I am currently making the claim that the Japanese Shinkansen cost (all told) about £100bn (or getting on for £1000 per person).  I am basing that on the debt of 25 trillion yen that JNR had managed to rack up by the time it was liquidated in 19871 (the rate of exchange is about 250 yen to the pound last time I looked).

Reasons why it might be lower:

  • There were all sorts of other items included in JNR’s debt from operational losses to pensions for colonial railway staff.
  • Positive externality effects.

Reasons it might be higher:

  • They’ve built a whole bunch of lines since.  They are heavily subsidised by the government.
  • The Japanese government may well have been subsidising JNR’s Shinkansens even before 1987.
  • Inflation. Which is a whole other issue.

Whatever it is, it is a lot of money.

1. p29 The Privatisation of Japanese National Railways, Ishikawa and Imashiro, Athlone Press, London, 1998.

  1. I think it is probably the case that Japan has had deflation rather than inflation for the last 15 years or so, too. Heaven knows what that does to your calculation.

    - very good point (PCCC)

    Posted by Michael Jennings on  12 December 2006 at 04:27 am

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