Trainspotting: New Subway Line Opens In Tokyo


Tokyo Metro opened a 13th subway line in June, linking busy Shibuya with Ikebukuro and Saitama prefecture to the north west of Japan's sprawling capital. As Alex noted in his post about Beijing's 5th subway line, this is a costly affair, but with peak oil, rising gas prices and road congestion, what city is not trying to improve public transportation?

Construction of the Shibuya-Ikebukuro section, which began in 2001, cost ¥250 billion. The entire Fukutoshin Line runs 20.2 km between Shibuya and Wakoshi in Saitama Prefecture. Starting in 2012, this line will be directly connected to Tokyu’s Toyoko Line, one of the privately owned train companies here, which runs between Shibuya and Yokohama. The deepest station is Higashi-Shinjuku at 35 meters. Most of the civil engineering costs (tunnels and infrastructure) are being subsidized by the Tokyo metropolitan government’s road-use tax revenue.

This is already my new favourite - the new line goes to parts of Tokyo I often go to, and stops at Nishi-Waseda, near my office at Consumers Union of Japan.


Commuting in the Kanto region (Tokyo plus the prefectures of Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba) is now a lot more hassle-free with the introduction of PASMO, an IC card that can be used on most private rail companies, subways and buses. You can also shop with the pre-paid card.


The subway system in Tokyo is crowded during rush hour, but many people avoid that and commute smart. It may be one of the world's most efficient and in their recent campaigns they are also eager to point out that taking the subway is "kind for the environment". I like this kind of environmental education.


This photo shows the Hitachi 10000 Series Train, used on the new Fukutoshin Line.

The posters in the stations point out that you can reduce CO2 and other green house gasses by not driving. Moving a distance of one km by subway - instead of an average car - will dramatically reduce your CO2 emissions. Studies show that energy consumption per passenger-km by road transport in Tokyo during rush hours is about 23 times that of railways, not to mention the traffic congestion and air pollution.


Tokyo Metro has 195 kilometers of track and operates 179 stations. By comparison, the city’s other subway system, the metropolitan government-run Toei network transports has 109 kilometers of track and 106 stations on its four lines - a total of 304 km of subway tracks, in addition to ordinary railroads.

Written by Martin Frid at