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2013年3月26日 (火)

都市の鉄道網 相互乗り入れで沿線活気づく

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 26, 2013)
Train links could vitalize areas along connected lines
都市の鉄道網 相互乗り入れで沿線活気づく(3月25日付・読売社説)

A new train network has been created in the Tokyo metropolitan area. If it can create new passenger flows, it may lead to economic revitalization, such as tourism promotion and expanded commercial opportunities.

Tokyu Toyoko Line and Tokyo Metro's Fukutoshin Line were recently connected.

The connection means that lines operated by five railway companies--Tobu, Seibu, Tokyo Metro, Tokyu and Yokohama Minatomirai--were linked, enabling passengers to travel a maximum distance of 88.6 kilometers from western Saitama Prefecture to Yokohama without changing trains, an extraordinary development.

In Saitama Prefecture and Yokohama, local authorities and businesses are stepping up campaigns to lure visitors from remote locations through such efforts as extending business hours of shopping areas and collaborating with sightseeing facilities.

Department stores and other commercial facilities in Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, which are located along the connected lines, are competing with each other to attract customers. The intensified competition apparently resulted from the latest linking of the railway lines.


Annual ridership in billions

In major cities in the country, railway networks cover wide areas, transporting a huge number of commuters to their workplaces and schools. Thirteen billion people a year use trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area, 4.5 billion in the Osaka area and 1 billion in the Nagoya area.

More than 70 percent of commuters in Tokyo use railways, a figure far above the 40 percent to 50 percent in New York and London.

The connections of urban subways and railway lines stretching to suburban areas have been driving the development of these urban railway networks.

The total length of connected railway lines in the Tokyo metropolitan area was 155 kilometers in 1970. The figure now tops 900 kilometers, including the length of the latest connected lines, accounting for 40 percent of the total length of lines in the area.

Railway companies are reluctant to invest in new lines as they cannot expect an increase in ridership due to the declining birthrate and the aging population. These factors apparently prompted railway companies to link their lines with other operators to cope with the changing demographics.

Connecting lines by making use of existing lines allows railway companies to shorten traveling time by eliminating the inconvenience of changing trains. Railway operators may also be able to attract new passengers.

They can expect even more advantages, such as relieving overcrowding at terminal stations, making transportation services more efficient and improving property values of areas along their service lines.


Advantages can be exemplars

These advantages will serve as good examples for railway operators in other regions beyond the Tokyo Metropolitan area, including the Osaka metropolitan area.

But some concerns remain.

In recent railway line connections, multiple railway companies with different car specifications are involved, and their trains run quite long distances. If an accident or trouble involving a train car occurs on one line, it may trigger a chain of delays in other connected lines.

About 40 percent of train delays of up to 30 minutes in the Tokyo metropolitan area are caused by trouble that originally occurred on connected lines, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

Railway operators must make more efforts to minimize delays in train services in case of accidents and other problems.

They also are urged to expand sections on which they can offer shuttle train services in case of accidents or other problems. It will also be necessary to promptly provide information to passengers.

Setting up platform barriers to prevent passengers from falling onto the tracks is another issue that has to be addressed. Railway companies must expedite efforts to develop technologies to enable them to set up barriers that can cope with cars with different numbers of doors or those with a different width.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 25, 2013)
(2013年3月25日01時12分  読売新聞)


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