By JUNICHIRO NAGASAKI/ Staff Writer
August 4, 2020 at 07:00 JST
JR Hokkaido’s Ozora express train (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Financially struggling Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) is offering a six-day unlimited ride pass for express and regular trains and some bus services at half the normal cost.
Making use of subsidies from the Hokkaido government to counter the sharp drop in travel demand amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the railway will sell the Hokkaido Love! excursion pass for 12,000 yen ($112).
The pass is valid until Jan. 31, 2021, except between Aug. 10 and 19 and between Dec. 28 and Jan. 6.
It can be purchased from ticketing machines and ticket offices at JR Hokkaido’s major stations between one month before and the day before the first day of use.
Sales will be suspended if the upper limit of the subsidies is reached.
“We want passengers to use the bargain-priced ticket to go around places and find new attractions of Hokkaido,” a company representative said.
Pass holders can use express and regular trains, as well as JR buses (except city-to-city services), and can take reserved seats on an express train up to four times.
The special pass costs less than the regular fare of 14,520 yen for a round trip between Sapporo and Obihiro stations in a nonreserved seat on an express train.
The pass is also bundled with perks for renting a subcompact at shops inside or near JR stations for between 2,970 yen and 5,190 yen for 24 hours (including the collision damage waiver), which is nearly half of the usual price.
JR Hokkaido also offers a commemorative ticket to celebrate the July 12 opening of the National Ainu Museum and Park (aka Upopoy), Japan’s first national facility devoted to the indigenous people of Hokkaido in Shiraoi.
The ticket, which covers a round trip between the nearest Shiraoi and Sapporo stations on a nonreserved seat on an express train, costs 3,800 yen, which is 1,800 yen cheaper than the regular fare. Accompanying elementary and junior high school students will be charged 500 yen each.
Ticket buyers are required to present admission tickets or other documents to confirm their reservations to visit Upopoy.
JR Hokkaido posted an operating loss of 42.6 billion yen in the year ending in March 2020, its seventh straight year of record losses.
It expects a decrease of up to 40 percent in railway earnings in the year ending in March 2021 due to the pandemic, and is seeking support from the central government.
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