On 9 February a symposium was held at the Japanese Cultural Centre in Paris on the role played by the Japanese and French railways in developing high speed rail systems. Attended by, in particular, His Excellency The Japanese Ambassador to France Mr Yasuo Saito and the Vice-Chairman of East Japan Railways and UIC Chairman Mr Yoshio Ishida, this symposium, entitled “If the Shinkansen and TGV had never existed…” was chaired by Mr Masateru Nakagawa, President of Paris’ Japanese Cultural Centre, invited various major figures to debate the socio-economic impact of building a high speed line: how it affects the urban fabric and daily life, and the benefit felt by individuals and communities above and beyond the industrial and technical aspects that are traditionally emphasised or which are used when comparing high speed rail with other modes of transport, such as air.
Against this backdrop, participants shared their expert insights, based mainly on the presentations delivered by Yoshio Ishida, Guillaume Pépy, Alain Bullot, SNCF Director of Rolling Stock, Shûji Takashina, Director of Japan’s Ohara Museum, and Yves Crozet, Economist and Professor at the University of Lyon. The overriding conclusion of their contributions and the question-and-answer session led by Jean-Marie Metzler, former SNCF Director of Mainline Trains, was of the benefits of high speed development, which historically was largely the result of dedicated efforts by both the Japanese and French railways. However, the session also allowed less mainstream subjects to be addressed, imagining for example that such trains had never existed and what the impact would have been on development in the surrounding areas.
Though the participants at the debate all recognised the fact that high speed trains have become a more or less essential part of day-to-day life and have played a particularly significant role in the socio-economic development of both France and Japan, Yoshio Ishida and Guillaume Pépy also wished to acknowledge the mutual influence between France and Japan, which in the words of Mr Ishida are “two countries like two brothers”. It is a positive, stimulating and mutual influence “that must continue to be developed together” added Guillaume Pépy, “by incorporating future challenges and the many cooperation areas to be developed”.