Photo/IllutrationA JR West train runs on the Kansai Airport Line on Sept. 18 for the first time since Typhoon No. 21 cut off the main access route to Kansai International Airport on Sept. 4. (Kazushige Kobayashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Passengers expressed joy, relief and anxiety after train operations resumed Sept. 18 on Kansai International Airport’s main access bridge that was severely damaged by a drifting tanker set loose in Typhoon No. 21.

West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) and Nankai Electric Railway Co. in the morning started services connecting the mainland with the airport on a man-made island in Osaka Bay for the first time in 14 days.

“I am lucky because I have so many bags to carry,” said Akemi Kimura, 70, a culinary expert living in Kaizuka, Osaka Prefecture, who returned from Uzbekistan on a morning flight on Sept. 18. “What a wonderful surprise that the train services have been restored so quickly.”

The train services normally carry 67,000 passengers daily, accounting for 80 percent of public transportation to the gateway airport to western Japan.

But the access bridge, which is also used for vehicle traffic, remains far from a full recovery.

The tanker that smashed into the bridge seriously damaged massive traffic girders that must be replaced.

Only the north-side road lanes can be used for certain vehicles, such as expressway buses, but private and rental cars are still banned from traveling on the bridge.

Keiichi Ishii, the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, said a full recovery will likely come around the Golden Week holidays in May next year.

At 5:20 a.m. on Sept. 18, the first train on Nankai Electric Railway’s Nankai Airport Line departed Izumisano Station on the mainland in Osaka Prefecture.

The train ran at a reduced speed on the access bridge because damaged girders had been removed, leaving no barrier to block strong wind gusts.

Passengers anxiously viewed their relatively vulnerable situation from the windows of the train.

Kansai Airports, operator of the airport, on Sept. 21 is scheduled to reopen the north side of Terminal 1, which has been shut down since it was flooded during the Sept. 4 typhoon, the strongest to hit Japan in 25 years.

Nearly all flight schedules are expected to be back to normal on that day.

On Sept. 18, 137 international flights and 113 domestic flights were expected to use the airport, surpassing 50 percent of the average number under normal conditions.

Shoji Tateno, the 43-year-old station master at JR West’s Kansai Airport Station, said he felt nervous seeing passengers with suitcases disembarking from trains for the first time in two weeks.

“Although it must be a familiar sight for me, I welcomed passengers with feelings of both tenseness and delight,” he said.

Nankai Electric Railway staff welcomed passengers when a limited express train arrived at Kansai Airport Station on Sept. 18. The workers carried a banner with the message, “Thank you for using (our) services.”