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The Kôbesen runs from Osaka Station to Himeji, along the northern coast of Osaka Bay. It is one of Japan's oldest train lines: the Osaka-Kobe portion was completed by the Sanyo Railway in 1874, and later brought under the umbrella of Japan National Railways. When JR was privatized and split up in 1987, the West Japan Railway took over the Kobe Line.

JR has some stiff competition in this market: the Hanshin and Hankyu railway companies also ply the Osaka-Kobe corridor, with terminals adjacent to JR's, and the Sanyo Railway provides service from Kobe to Himeji. Although the private railways are cheaper than JR, their trains are considerably slower and usually much less comfortable. The Type 223 shin-kaisoku, or "Special Rapid Service," completes the trip from Osaka to Sannomiya in just nineteen minutes, reaching a top speed of 120 kph (about 75 mph): these trains run every ten minutes during rush hour, and every fifteen minutes during the day.

Up to Nishi-Akashi, the Kobe Line is functionally part of a longer line that includes the Kyoto Line and Biwako Line: most rapid trains east of Akashi go to Kyoto or even Maibara before turning around. Beyond Nishi-Akashi, many trains continue through to points on the Sanyo Line.

The Hamakaze and Super Hakuto limited express trains are also seen shooting up and down the line from time to time.

Station        Distance  Transfers                                       
(from Kyoto Line)
Osaka Station            Midosuji Line, Yotsubashi Line, Tanimachi Line,
                         Hanshin, Hankyu, Osaka Loop Line, Tozai Line
Tsukamoto         3.4
Amagasaki         7.7    Takarazuka Line, Tozai Line
Tachibana        10.7
Koshienguchi     12.9
Nishinomiya      15.4
Ashiya           19.2
Konan-Yamate     20.6
Settsu-Motoyama  22.1
Sumiyoshi        23.7    Rokko Liner
Rokkomichi       25.9
Nada             28.2
Sannomiya        30.6    Seishin Line, Yamate Line, Kaigan Line,
                         Kobe Kosoku Railway, Port Liner, Hanshin, Hankyu   
Motomachi        31.4    Kobe Kosoku Railway, Hanshin
Kobe             33.1    Kaigan Line
Hyogo            34.9    Wadamisaki Line
Shin-Nagata      37.2    Seishin Line, Yamate Line, Kaigan Line
Takatori         38.2
Suma             40.4
Shioya           43.3
Tarumi           46.2
Maiko            48.2
Asagiri          50.1
Akashi           52.5    Sanyo Railway
Nishi-Akashi     55.9    Shinkansen
Okubo            58.7
Uozumi           62.2   
Tsuchiyama       65.3
Higashi-Kakogawa 68.6
Kakogawa         72.2    Kakogawa Line
Hoden            75.5
Sone             79.5
Gochaku          83.6
Himeji           87.9    Shinkansen, Bantan Line, Kishin Line, Ako Line
(to Sanyo Line)

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