Well known and often envied for its reliability and efficiency, Tokyo’s highly extensive train network is developed over some 60 years, anticipating and growing in tandem with Japan’s capital and most important city.
||Urban planning/transport & mobility
|Period of development
||Approximately 60 years
||63 km2 (area within JR Yamanote line in central Tokyo)
Tokyo has one of the most complex and highly integrated rail network in the world. Photo: Gerold Grotelueschen © 123rf.com
- Tokyo’s railway network enjoys a good global reputation for being highly comprehensive and efficient.
- With its origins dating back to 1872, the last 60 years marked a significant period of its development, in tandem with the economic and population growth of the capital city into a megacity and Japan’s most important city.
- National railways first made large-scale investments in metropolitan Tokyo, while subways formed a mesh underground network in central Tokyo. Subsequent private railway lines connect suburbs with the city centre, together with housing developments along the lines.
- Tokyo aims to become a clean, safe and inclusive city based on transit-oriented development, where people can move freely and efficiently regardless of economic class.
Key issues faced before the implementation of the project
Tokyo faced severe traffic congestion in its early days of rapid urbanisation. Photo: Tokyo Metropolitan Government
- The devastation from the second World War gave the national and city government an urgent need to rebuild Tokyo from scratch.
- The post-war rapid economic growth coupled with population increase saw a lack of public transport capacity in the metropolitan region. Congestion rate in trains exceeded 200% then.
- Insufficient housing in the city centre meant that housing needed to be expanded in suburban areas in order to cater to the increasing population.
- Tokyo needed to find a sustainable model to operate its railway business, as well as allowing anyone to move freely in the megacity regardless of income level and without private car ownership.
Leadership and governance
- A public-private partnership between private railway companies and the government allowed for a transit-oriented development of the city.
- The former delivers profitable projects by combining real estate with railway construction, while the latter develop policies to support the rail network in the metropolitan region.
- The Tokyo Metropolitan Government itself operates the Toei subway and buses, among others, while the national railway company was privatised into JR Group 1987.
Creativity and innovation
Passengers waiting for the train at the Chūō Line (2017 file photo). Photo: bennymarty © 123rf.com
- Tokyo adopted an innovative approach of an integrated development of both railway and real estate:
- Model A: Development synchronised with railway infrastructure construction
- Model B: Integrated hub-station complex development
- Tokyo’s integrated development approach creates high value real estate around stations and along the lines, as well as community areas well served with amenities at many station nodes. Facilities are not just commercial in nature, but also educational and cultural ones.
- Profits earned through the real estate component of railway companies are put back to the railway component, thus benefiting the people with low cost ridership.
- Mutual operation with various railway companies has been promoted in recent years, allowing for travels to final destinations without the need to change trains.
- The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has formulated a standard set of information signs among various railway companies, benefiting both the locals and foreigners alike.
Impacts of the project
Total rail length increased
48% train modal share in 23 Special Wards
80% of commuters use trains and buses
Stations equipped with barrier-free features
Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com
- The total rail length in Tokyo metropolitan area increased from 1,566km in 1956 to 2,705km in 2015, while the number of stations increased from 807 in 1956 to 1,510 in 2015.
- Several mega stations (such as Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ikebukuro) have daily passengers exceeding 2 million.
- The train modal share in Tokyo’s 23 Special Wards is 48%, higher than many major cities in the world.
- Approximately 80% of commuters in Tokyo use public transportation such as trains and buses.
- The centre of Tokyo within the JR Yamanote loop line is well covered by rail networks, with 64% of the area less than 5 minutes from the nearest station on foot, and almost 100% within 10 minutes from the nearest station on foot.
- Tokyo’s measures to ease congestion, such as construction of new lines, adding tracks to existing lines, making trains longer, and enhancing through-services between railway operators, has seen its congestion rate decreased from 221% in 1975 to 164% in 2015.
- Railway stations are equipped with barrier-free features, with 90% equipped with elevators, 100% with guiding blocks for visually handicapped, and 95% with wheelchair-accessible washrooms.
- Underground shopping streets around stations have been developed since the 1950s, providing a comfortable shopping experience for passengers and contributing revenue for railway companies.
Shinjuku Station is one of Tokyo’s busiest stations. Photo: viteethumb © 123rf.com
- The development of an extensive public transport network such as railway can benefit an aging society such as Tokyo. The elderly can still move around freely despite being unable to drive cars on their own.
- By planning and developing barrier-free transport infrastructure ahead, cities can also help to pre-empt the renovation costs in later stages to add these features as the population ages. O