Bullet trains back in service between Iwate and Miyagi after quake

© Kyodo News

East Japan Railway Co. on Monday resumed bullet train services between Iwate and Miyagi prefectures that were suspended after a powerful earthquake hit northeastern Japan more than two weeks ago.

Tohoku Shinkansen trains are back in service between Ichinoseki and Sendai stations, allowing Hokkaido and Akita Shinkansen trains to reconnect to Sendai, a major transportation hub in the northeast region.

The trains will operate at a reduced speed of up to 160 kilometers per hour and the number of services will be kept at around 60 percent of normal times, according to the company, also known as JR East.

The M7.4 quake on March 16 derailed a Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train in Shiroishi, Miyagi causing suspension of services in areas stretching from Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, to Iwate Prefecture. JR East has gradually restored its services in the affected areas, aiming to start operating the entire line around April 20.

The tremblor left three people dead and more than 200 injured across more than 10 prefectures.

Hiroyuki Takasawa, a 64-year-old resident of Sendai who was on his way to his workplace in Morioka, Iwate, welcomed the resumption.

He said he had been forced to take a bus to go to Morioka during the suspension and stay at a hotel in the city on weekdays.

"It's been so long," he said.

JR East said recovery efforts are under way at the scene of the derailment, with workers hurrying to restore damaged equipment such as rail tracks.

The derailed train has been already removed from the site of the accident and is expected to be transported to JR East's facility in Miyagi soon, according to the company.