The Red List of Trains in Japan

JR West 281 series

Data (as of 31 Mar 2024)

Status:  Least Concern 
Constructed in: 1994-95
Number built: 63
Registered: 63


The 281 series has been used exclusively on Limited Express Haruka since 1994, when Kansai Airport was opened. Each unit consisted of five coaches at first, but now there are three and six-carriage units, and can form up to nine coaches. In 1994, the Brunel Award was awarded to it.

Due to significant increase in demand, JR West introduced 271 series to Haruka services in 2020, which was supposed to be used alongside the 281 series. However, due to COVID-19, most of the units (both the 271s and 281s) were taken out of service and have been stored at depots.

Current Operations & Future Prospects

The 281 series trains are used only on Limited Express Haruka (mostly Kyoto - Kansai Airport via Tokaido Main, Umeda Freight, Osaka Loop, Hanwa and Kansai Airport Lines). JR West once planned to replace the 281 series with the 271 series from around 2024, but it has been deferred indefinitely because of sharp drop in demand caused by the pandemic and global chip shortages.


Hello Kitty pictures have been added to all units since 2020.

(Updated: 31 Mar 2024)

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