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Keeping the megacity on the move
17 FEB 2021
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.
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.
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.
The train modal share in Tokyo’s 23 Special Wards is 48 percent, higher than many major cities in the world.
Approximately 80 percent 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 percent 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 percent in 1975 to 164 percent in 2015.
Railway stations are equipped with barrier-free features, with 90 percent equipped with elevators, 100 percent with guiding blocks for visually handicapped, and 95 percent 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.
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