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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tohoku Jukan Line in Tokyo


Construction of the Tohoku Jukan Line over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo, Japan.

JR East has been working since 2008 on a new line to connect Ueno and Tokyo stations: the Tohoku Jukan Line (literally the "north-east longitudinal" line) .

 Ueno and Tokyo are already connected by the Keihin Tohoku Line (which curves through Tokyo from Omiya up north down to a little past Yokohama) and Tokyo's loop line, the Yamanote Line. However, people coming down to Tokyo from lines that connect the north have to change at Ueno Station to the Keihin Tohoku Line or the Yamanote line to get to Tokyo Station, making for a lot of congestion on that stretch of those lines.

There are three main lines ending at Ueno Station that join the Tokyo metropolis with the rest of Honshu.

The Joban Line runs from Iwanuma Station, about 350km north of Tokyo on the Pacific coast of Honshu, all the way down to Ueno (except for the section between Hirono and Haranomachi in Fukushima, closed since the 2011 earthquake. NB Service resumed on this stretch of railway on June 1 2014).

The Takasaki Line begins about 100km NNW of Tokyo, in Takasaki (Gunma prefecture), runs to Omiya station, and connects to Ueno station via the Tohoku Main Line.

The Utsunomiya Line is the section of the Tohoku Main Line between Kuroiso Station in Tochigi, about 160km NNE of Tokyo, and Ueno Station.

With the construction of the new Tohoku Jukan Line, passengers coming to Tokyo on these three lines will now be able to go all the way to Tokyo Station (and beyond) more quickly and smoothly than before.

Underneath the Tohoku Jukan Line railway construction over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo.
Jukan Line, center, crossing Yasukuni-dori, flanked by Tohoku Shinkansen Line, right, and Yamanote Line, left.

The Tohoku Jukan Line is a stretch of track between Tokyo and Ueno stations about 2.5km long. It's actually not new, but a re-laying of tracks that used to exist before, but had a 1.3km gap put in them in 1991 to accommodate the Tohoku Shinkansen line when it was extended from Ueno Station to Tokyo Station. The Tohoku Jukan Line will close this gap by squeezing in between the the extended Tohoku Shinkansen line and the Yamanote line.

I cycle to work every day along Yasukuni-dori Street, and pass under the Hiranaga rail bridge which carries Yamanote line trains between Akihabara Station just 200m to the north and Tokyo Station just 400m to the south. Running parallel to it, separated by about 10 meters, is the Tohoku Shinkansen line bridge, also spanning Yasukuni-dori.

Since a few months ago, the track of the Tohoku Jukan Line, sandwiched in those 10 or so meters between the Yamanote line track and the Tohoku Shinkansen line track has become visible from Yasukuni-dori as the construction has slowly made its way from Tokyo Station north towards Ueno Station.

Pictured here is the state of the construction about three weeks ago, on April 29 - taken from near Iwamotocho intersection on Yasukuni-dori. The huge green steel contraption on top is the  Tohoku Jukan Line being built.

The Tohoku Jukan Line is due to be completed next year, 2014. It is estimated to end up costing about 4 billion yen, or roughly USD400 million at today's exchange rate.

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