Arguably the largest metropolis in the world, Tokyo has two public subway operators: Tokyo Metro Co Ltd (Tokyo Metro) and Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation (Toei Subway). The subways carry nearly 10 million passengers daily. Working in tandem, the systems link together several hundred stations and ferry 26 million passengers around Greater Tokyo, which is home to approximately 36 million people.
As stated in a document by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan, 74% of Tokyo’s commuters use railways for their commute, compared to 52% and 43% in London and New York, respectively. Hence, the railway is an integral and essential part of everyday life in Tokyo.
Amongst nearly 20 railway companies that circulate in and around the city, Tokyo Metro serves 6.73 million passengers daily (2.45 billion per year) via nine subway lines that run across the city center.
Despite the heavy load, its services are topnotch. The facilities are clean and trains are frequent and very punctual — there were 10 railway system-related incidents in the 2013 fiscal year, 40 including incidents caused by natural disasters and passengers. The impeccable service and safety standard are a result of the tireless efforts of staff and implementation of the latest technology.
As a leader in railway services, the rapid transit operator ensures subway operation know-how is shared at international conferences, including the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) and American Public Transportation Authority, and by co-hosting the UITP Asia-Pacific Assembly with East Japan Railway Company. Receiving great attention from around the world, they have assisted overseas railway projects by hosting international inspectors and sending skilled staff abroad.
Starting in 2013, Tokyo Metro has been working on its first full-scale overseas project, assisting the establishment of an agency to manage and operate the Hanoi Metropolitan Railway Management Board (MRB). Hanoi Metropolitan Railway (HMR), currently under construction, is due to alleviate the chronic traffic congestion and to serve the rapidly growing economy and population in the Vietnamese city. Tokyo Metro is in charge of assisting the operation and management of three HMR lines: Line 2, 2A and 3.
According to Kazuyuki Fujii, Deputy Manager of International Affairs, Tokyo Metro, the assistance focuses on helping the Hanoi staff build the system on their own. Indeed, over 80-years-worth of knowledge on subway operation and management is being shared with local staff to help them develop their own solutions for all imaginable challenges. Utilizing local methods of management, instead of simply pushing their own ones, seems to reflect Tokyo Metro’s values for building community relationships. One year into the project, in February 2014, the partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding for mutual cooperation and continuing assistance.
Tokyo Metro has become a company that assists other railways. However, Tokuji Hayakawa, the founder of Tokyo Underground Railway Co Ltd (Tokyo Metro’s predecessor), learned from peers by studying the underground railway in London, Paris and New York in the early 1900s in order to build a metro system in Tokyo. The construction of the very first subway in Tokyo was assisted by a German engineer and got its inspiration from the Berlin subway of that period—it was built in 1927, between Ueno and Asakusa (now Ginza Line).
Starting as a four-stop subway line, Tokyo Metro has expanded its services with the development of the city, thereby meeting the needs of a growing metropolis. Examples of the subway’s expansion include the reciprocal and direct connection with other railways in 7 out of 9 of their lines to facilitate the flow from the outskirts into the city.
In 2014, a decade after the company’s privatization -- Tokyo Metro is jointly owned by the government of Japan (53.4%) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (46.6%) -- the president of the company, Yoshimitsu Oku, underlined three key goals of the company: “providing greater peace of mind,” “growing in step with Tokyo,” and “exploring new opportunities.”
Therefore, in preparation for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, when an even greater number of passengers will need to be accommodated, Tokyo Metro has started working on improving its services. Multilingual services, barrier-free facilities, Wi-Fi services at all stations will be implemented. In addition, an opening of a new station on the Hibiya Line between Toranomon and Kamiyacho is scheduled to facilitate access to Olympic venues.
While carbon dioxide emission is only one eighth of automobiles, their effort on the environment, especially energy efficiency, is underway. To further cut down on energy use they are installing eco-friendly railroad cars and LED lights, and using ground heat for air conditioning.
Beefing up the infrastructure to cope with natural disasters is another inescapable challenge, particularly against earthquakes and floods. Tokyo Metro is constantly upgrading its infrastructure for safety reasons, including strengthening pillar beams, setting up water gates for flood prevention, and establishing better informatics, including public announcements in English.
Challenges remain, however, for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For example, railway users may wish for further integration of other railway systems in the city, especially the ticketing system, and late night services for the games, which has so far been inconvenient due to requirements of general maintenance of the railway facilities.© Japan Today