The Hokkaido Railway Company (北海道旅客鉄道株式会社 Hokkaidō Ryokaku Tetsudō Kabushiki-gaisha) is one of the constituent companies of the Japan Railways Group (JR Group), and is often referred to using its official abbreviation of JR Hokkaido (JR北海道 Jeiāru Hokkaidō). It operates intercity and local rail services in Hokkaido, Japan. The company introduced Kitaca, a smart cardticketing system, in autumn 2008.
At the time of its privatization in 1987, JR Hokkaido operated 21 railway lines totaling 3,176.6 kilometres (1,973.8 mi) of narrow-gauge (1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)) track, as well as a ferry service to Aomori. Since then, that figure has dwindled to just below 2,500 kilometres (1,600 mi), as unprofitable lines have been shut down or spun off (in the case of the Hokkaidō Chihoku Kōgen Railway). The ferry service has also been replaced by the Seikan Tunnel.
On 19 November 2016, JR Hokkaido’s President announced plans to further rationalize its network by the withdrawal of services from up to 1,237 km, or about 50% of the current network, including closure of the remaining section of the Rumoi Main Line (the Rumoi – Mashike section closed on 4 December 2016), the Shin-Yubari – Yubari section of the Sekisho Line, the non-electrified section of the Sassho Line and the Nemuro Line between Furano and Kami-Ochiai Junction. Other lines including the Sekihoku Main Line, Senmo Main Line, the Naroyo – Wakkanai section of the Soya Line and Kushiro – Nemuro section of the Nemuro Line are proposed for conversion to Third Sector operation, but if local governments are not agreeable, such sections will also face closure.