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Japanese government to postpone plans to extend a bullet train line to Sapporo

The Japanese government is set to postpone its plan to extend the Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train line to Sapporo by the spring of 2031 amid delays in construction and the city's plan to abandon its bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, government sources said.

The transport ministry and Hokkaido Railway Co. will arrange a new deadline, but the 212-kilometer extension project between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Sapporo still faces a labor shortage in the construction sector, which is expected to worsen when Japan introduces new overtime regulations in 2024.

The move comes as a part of the construction work is already projected to be up to four years behind schedule due to problems including a massive rock obstructing tunnel construction.

The bullet train to Sapporo would not have been realized in time for the Olympics even if the construction had progressed as scheduled.

Sources familiar with the matter said that Sapporo is set to abandon its bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics and will instead aim to stage the games in 2034 or later.

The government approved the extension of the bullet train line in 2012, with the cost estimated at 1.67 trillion yen ($11.2 billion). The estimate soared to 2.32 trillion yen last year due to rising material costs.

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