More than 80 years after Tokyo’s first subway line opened between Asakusa and Ueno, the city gets another subway line, as Tokyo Metro opens the Fukutoshin line on Saturday. First planned back in 1985, the Fukutoshin line will travel 8.9 kilometers from Ikebukuro to Shibuya, with six stations in between. However, the line will connect to the Tobu Tojo line via Wakoshi, and the Seibu Yurakucho and Ikebukuro lines via Kitake-mukaihara. Through service is planned with the Tokyu Toyoko line at Shibuya for 2012, completing a broad rail network linking southwestern Saitama with central Tokyo and Yokohama.
Being promoted under the dubious slogan of “Subways that harmonize with towns and are loved by people along the line,” the Fukutoshin (the name means subcenter) is the ninth subway line to be operated by Tokyo Metro Co Ltd, which carries 5.9 million passengers a day along 195.1 kilometers of track via 179 stations. By comparison, the city’s other subway system, the metropolitan government-run Toei network transports 2.03 million passengers daily and has 109 kilometers of track and 106 stations on its four lines.
The construction of the Fukutoshin line was decided back in 1985, said Tatsuya Edakubo, a spokesman for Tokyo Metro. “It was planned by the central government’s Council for Transportation Policy and construction began in 2001.” Up until recently, it was referred to as Line No. 13. “This time, we decided on the name of the line within the company by asking employees for suggestions. In prior cases, we sometimes carried out a public campaign to select the name,” said Edakubo.
Fukutoshin will be the last line that Tokyo Metro will open, he said, because the Council for Transportation Policy has held review meetings every five years for the past few decades and believes the city is now fairly well covered by subway lines. Toei, on the other hand, is planning to add to the Mita and Oedo lines by 2015.
For Tokyo Metro, the opening of the Fukutoshin line ends an 80-year journey. Tokyo’s first subway opened on Dec 30, 1927, between Asakusa and Ueno (now part of the Ginza line) by the government. The Teito Rapid Transit Authority was established in 1941 and since then, it has overseen the extension of the Ginza line, and the construction of seven other lines (Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho, Hanzomon and Namboku). In 2004, the authority was transformed into a special company called Tokyo Metro, its first step toward privatization.
Building a new subway line is not cheap when you consider how deep some stations are. The deepest station on the Fukutoshin line is Higashi-Shinjuku at 35 meters (Roppongi on the Oedo line is Tokyo’s deepest station at 42.3 meters). Construction can cost up to 247,000 million yen per kilometer. Most of the civil engineering costs (tunnels and infrastructure) on the Fukutoshin line are being subsidized by the national and Tokyo metropolitan government’s road-use revenue.
When a new line is planned, the first step is deciding where the stations will be. “The locations are part of the council’s plan, although each ward office has a say,” explained Edakubo. “The same applies to the name of the station.” Before construction can begin, the area is surveyed for historical relics. This is normal procedure in Japan at all building sites in accordance with the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. The area near Zoshigaya Station, for example, has turned up relics dating back hundreds of years, among them sake containers and ceramic pots and containers.
Six stations beneath Meiji-dori
Six of the stations along the Fukutoshin line lie beneath Meiji-dori, which will ease traffic congestion on that artery, and be particularly convenient if Tokyo is successful in its 2016 Olympic bid, since many events will be held in that area. From Shibuya, the line passes through Meiji-jingumae, Kita-sando, Shinjuku-sanchome, Higashi-shinjuku, Nishi-waseda and Zoshigaya before reaching Ikebukuro.
"Trains will run every three minutes, 35 seconds during rush hours, and every five minutes at other times,” said Edakubo. Rush hour congestion remains a big headache for commuters. “We can only estimate how many passengers will use the Fukutoshin line. Currently, our most congested line is the Tozai line. On the Fukutoshin line, trains will have ten cars and eight when it becomes the through service with the Toyoko line from Shibuya. That’s because some of the stations on the Toyoko line can only accommodate eight cars. With our other lines, all have ten cars, except for the Ginza line which has only six and the Hibiya line with eight because their platforms are shorter.”
As for women’s only cars, which are already operated on the Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho and Hanzomon lines, Edakubo said, “Eventually we will have women’s only cars on the Fukutoshin line, but not right away. We don’t know which cars they will be yet because when we have through services, we have to accommodate other rail companies and their policy on the issue.”
The through service with other subway and rail companies is one of one of the most efficient features of Tokyo’s subway. The subways were initially planned to replace the streetcar network, and passengers traveling into the center of Tokyo from the suburbs had to change trains at terminal stations. To ease congestion, through-services were created, the first one being on the Hibiya line just prior to the Olympic Games in 1964. Commuting in the Kanto region became even more hassle-free last year with the introduction of PASMO, an IC card that can be used on most private rail companies, subways and buses.
With the decision not to build any more lines, Edakubo said Tokyo Metro will concentrate on improving its facilities and new businesses, such as real estate and IT. All stations on the Fukutoshin line will offer wireless LAN services, as well as barrier-free facilities and Braille vending machines. The platforms have half-height platform doors to prevent people accidentally falling off platforms due to overcrowding (and suicides). The ceilings on the Fukutoshin are much higher than at other stations. Shinjuku-sanchome has a mezzanine floor overlooking the platform. At Ikebukuro, Tokyo Metro plans to open another Echika-type complex similar to the one at Omotesando, said Edakubo.
For anyone interested in the details of how a subway is constructed, the Fukutoshin Line Construction Office has built an Exhibition Hall at Shinjuku-sanchome Station. Exhibits include a diorama of the Fukutoshin line, construction machinery models and explanations of how tunneling is done and what happens to all the soil and slurry dug up.© Japan Today