Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 16 (pp.2 & 64–67)

New Guided Urban Transit Systems in Japan

Except for the metropolitan areas surrounding Tokyo and Osaka, large cities in Japan have lacked dense urban and suburban rail networks. However, many cities have built subways, monorails, AGTs, etc., in recent years to fill the gap. Some examples are shown on this page.

Tokyo Monorail
Photos: The 17-km Tokyo Monorail was opened in 1964 to link Tokyo International Airport at Haneda to Hamamatsu-cho Station close to the city centre.
Because air transport was not as popular as today and the Tokyo Bay area along the line was still empty, the first few years saw financial difficulties with only around 3 million passengers annually (left). However, thanks to the growth of air transport and construction of a new terminal building (centre), Tokyo Monorail now carries more than 60 million passengers annually. Redevelopment of the Bay area (right) also generated new passengers.
(Tokyo Monorail Co., Ltd.)

The first and latest AGTs in Japan
Photos: Kobe's 6.4-km Port Liner is the first AGT in Japan, opened in 1981 linking new reclaimed land and Kobe's city centre (left & centre).
Tokyo's 12-km Yurikamome (Seagull) Line is the latest AGT in Japan linking reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay and the city centre. Development of the area is still in progress despite financial difficulties, and the line attracts many tourists (right). See main article on pp. 15–19.
(Kobe New Transit Co., Ltd. , Tokyo Waterfront New Transit, Inc. & M. Mashima Photo Office)

LRT in Kumamoto
Photos: Many Japanese cities closed their tramways through the 1960s and 70s in the face of growing motor transport. However, some cities (mostly in western Japan) kept their trams running; Kumamoto was the first among them to introduce a newly designed low-floor car. The city is proud of the attractive look (left), improved riding comfort (centre), and easier access for wheel-chair passengers (right).
(Kumamoto City Transportation Bureau)

Monorails, AGTs and Linear-Motor Metro in Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Tokyo and the surrounding cities form a huge metropolitan area with 30 million inhabitants. In addition to the dense networks of JR East, private railways and subways, some satellite towns have built monorails and AGTs to serve newly developed areas. Some examples are shown below. A linear-motor metro line was recently opened from Nerima to Shinjuku, one of the busiest business and commercial centres in Tokyo, and work is underway to form a circular line covering central Tokyo.

Monorails on eastern and western edges of Greater Tokyo
Photo: Chiba's 14-km monorail runs from Chiba Port to the northeastern suburbs via Chiba city centre, approximately 40 km east of central Tokyo. It is a suspended monorail with complex suspension and driving systems (left).
(Chiba Urban Monorail Co., Ltd)
Photo: The southern half of the 16-km Tama Intercity Monorail (right) is due to open in 1998 (northern half in 1999) to link new towns in the western suburbs of Tokyo to JR Tachikawa Station, some 38 km west of central Tokyo.
(Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail Co., Ltd.)

AGTs on northern and southern edges of Greater Tokyo
Photo: The 13-km Saitama New Shuttle, linking Ina Town to JR Omiya Station 30 km north of central Tokyo, is an AGT built on the shoulder of the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen Viaduct (left).
(Saitama New Urban Transit Co., Ltd.)
Photo: Yokohama's 11-km Kanazawa Seaside Line is an AGT serving redeveloped seafront areas some 40 km south of central Tokyo (right).
(The Yokohama New Transit Corporation)

Monorail and Linear-Motor Metro in Central Tokyo
Photo: The Ueno Zoo Suspended Monorail is only 300 m long, but it has a full-fledged license as a commercial railway. Opened in 1957 in a zoo to carry visitors, it is one of the shortest railways in the world (left).
(Tokyo Metropolitan Government)
Photo: The Transportation Bureau of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, one of the two subway operators in Tokyo, has recently opened the No. 12 Subway, a 12.9-km linear-motor metro line from Shinjuku to Hikarigaoka in the northwestern suburbs. Engineering works are continuing to extend the line to form a circle covering central Tokyo (right).
(Tokyo Metropolitan Government)

Developments outside Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Japan's rapid economic growth brought rapid expansion of urban population. Many large cities found difficulties in securing mobility in the face of widespread use of motor vehicles and inadequate road networks. As a solution, many cities have built subways, monorails, AGTs, etc. Some examples are shown below.

AGT and Monorail in Osaka
Photo: Osaka is the centre of a huge metropolitan area including Kyoto and Kobe, which is served by dense rail networks run by JR West, private railway companies, and municipal subways. In addition, AGTs, monorails and linear-motor metros have been built in Osaka and surrounding areas. The 8-km AGT nicknamed New Tram serving the port and seafront areas is the second oldest AGT in Japan after Kobe's Port Liner (left).
(Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau)
Photo: New Tram is a fully automated system with unmanned platform completely enclosed with automatic doors (centre).
(Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau)
Photo: Osaka Monorail links Osaka Airport at Itami to the northern and eastern suburbs of Osaka (right).

Hiroshima's AGT
Hiroshima recovered quickly from the A-bomb damage, and the expanding population worsened the transport problems. The city is known for its surviving tram network run by a private company, but a number of small rivers running through the built-up areas has hindered subway construction.A 18-km AGT nicknamed ASTRAM Line was opened in 1994 from the city centre, forming a semi-circle covering the northern and western suburbs.
Photo: Most parts of ASTRAM were built over trunk roads (left).
(Hiroshima Rapid Transit Co., Ltd.)
Photo: A 6-car driver-only train carries 286 passengers at 150-second intervals during peak hours (centre).
(Hiroshima Rapid Transit Co., Ltd.)
Photo: The interior design was awarded the Good Design Prize by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (right).
(Hiroshima Rapid Transit Co., Ltd.)

Kitakyushu Urban Monorail
Kitakyushu at the northern end of Kyushu was once a centre for industries including coal mining and steelmaking. Industrial decline has brought various difficulties to citizens and local authorities, but they are trying hard to survive. The 9-km monorail was built to link the southern suburbs to JR Kokura Station. Most parts of the line opened in 1985.
Photo: The last short stretch to Kokura Station was finally opened in April 1998 (left).
(Kitakyushu Urban Monorail Co., Ltd.)
Photo: A 4-car driver-only train carries 400 passengers at 6-minute intervals during peak hours (right).
(Kitakyushu Urban Monorail Co., Ltd.)

Developments in Asian Cities

Many Asian cities still suffer from lack of adequate public transport systems. However, some are making progress, and examples from Manila and Taipei are shown in the main articles. Photographs on this page show examples from other major Asian cities.

Kuala Lumpur's elevated LRT and KTM's suburban services
Photos: Although Kuala Lumpur's population (about 1 million) is moderate compared with its Asian counterparts, it has suffered from serious road congestion. However, a 12-km elevated LRT line was opened in 1996 (left, centre). A branch line is under construction.
Recently privatized Malaysian Railways (KTM) also double-tracked and electrified their main lines near Kuala Lumpur and started frequent EMU services in 1995 (right). The privately financed monorail construction is in abeyance because of financial difficulties.

Shanghai's full-size subway
Photos: Shanghai's legendary traffic jam was eased slightly by the opening of Subway Line 1 in 1995 (See also JRTR 10, p. 31–37) and the completion of elevated expressways to the airport. Subway Line 2 is under construction, but Line 3 is still being discussed. Discussions are also underway on the possibility of cheaper solutions such as a monorail, AGT, etc., but with no concrete conclusion so far. Shanghai's huge population (nearly 20 million) will require more fundamental solutions. Ninety-six German-built EMUs (left, centre) are in service on Line 1 from Jin Jiang Park Station (right) to Shanghai Railway Station.

Bangkok's rail projects
Photos: Bangkok is also known for its choking traffic jams, but there are some good signs. In the city centre, construction of new elevated urban railway lines is in progress (left & right), and subway construction has also started, despite the financial difficulties since 1997. However, the construction works of the so-called Hopewell Project (JRTR 4, p. 26) have been interrupted.

New Guided Transit Systems in France, Canada and Australia

All kinds of new guided transit systems including people movers in large airports have been tested and put into practical use notably in western Europe, north America and Australia. Some examples are shown below.

French VAL and LRTs
The VAL in Lille (left) is one of the first fully automated light-weight unmanned guided transit systems. Many French cities including Strasbourg (centre) and La Défense (right) in western Paris are proud of their new LRTs. See main article on pp. 20–25.
(Matra Transport International, CTS–Strasbourg & RATP–Audiovisuel)

SkyTrain in Vancouver
Photos: Vancouver's SkyTrain is one of the earliest fully automated unmanned guided transport systems in the world. Twenty stations along the 29-km guideway are served by frequent four- or six-car trains. See main article on pp. 44–45.

Sydney Light Rail and Monorail
Photos: Sydney has a proud history of public transport. The newly built LRT (left) and Harbour-Link monorail (centre) run parallel at the newly developed waterfront area (right). See main article on pp. 42–43. (Photos: R. A. Smith & H. Clark)