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Non-emergency vehicles to be banned on 52 roads in event of Kanto quake


The National Police Agency and the Tokyo metropolitan government have released a plan to avert traffic chaos in the event that a major earthquake hits Tokyo and the Kanto region.

The plan calls for a network of access roads reserved for emergency vehicles in the event of a magnitude 7 earthquake striking the capital. Non-emergency vehicles will be banned from using 1,770 kilometers of road in Tokyo and the 10 prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Yamanashi, Nagano, Shizuoka and Aichi, Fuji TV reported.

Only vehicles belonging to the police, fire department and the Self-Defense Forces will be allowed to use the designated six major highways and 46 other routes.

Experts believe that in the event of an earthquake occurring in or near the capital, reliable access to the most densely populated areas of the city will be essential in the first hours. Access roads for emergency workers will help them to extinguish fires, treat the injured and free people trapped by rubble much faster.

The NPA said the plan is in response to the massive congestion that followed the March 11 earthquake when millions of people in Tokyo were unable to get home. Trains stopped running, while expressways and streets quickly became jampacked.

The routes include those providing access to and from all of Tokyo's 23 wards and the Tomei Expressway to Gotemba Junction, from Mikkabi Junction to the Okazaki Interchange, the Tohoku Expressway and the Nasu Interchange. It will also include the New Tomei Expressway to Gotemba Junction, and the road from the Chuo Expressway from the Suwa Interchange, among others.

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In other words, they aren't going to let you escape or make your own decisions. The deep pockets will be rolling down to Nagoya in limos with their families.

Reminds of that scene from Titanic when they wouldn't let the lower class passengers up to the life rafts. The better half of the passengers will survive.

Not only will you not be able to get gas next time the big one comes but you won't be able to drive away.

Furthermore, you all know now that the government had drafted an evacuation plan for Tokyo but they didn't disclose it to the people.

That's why I bought a bicycle. I guess I'll have to try to pedal for a day to get about 20km away from the madness. Might take a couple days + to pedal down to Osaka but I'll get there before the cars.

2 ( +11 / -10 )

So by 'averting traffic chaos', assuming the government actually acts soon after the earthquake, they plan to create even greater chaos by trapping everyone in the city?

2 ( +7 / -6 )

This all assumes that the roads arn't broken fallen down and still useable, I think you'll find that the major roads will all suffer major damage if the big one hits tokyo. Remember the elevated express way in Kobe, even in the tohoku quake some of the tohoku express way was badly damaged in places this time.

I think they will be relying more and more on helicopters in those first few days than they realise.

Seems not alot of thought going into this preparation really if they think they going to be freely using roads in the event of a huge quake.

2 ( +3 / -1 )


" In other words, they aren't going to let you escape or make your own decisions. "

You could not "escape" by car anyway. It is a sensible decision as far as it goes, but the gridlock will be there nonetheless.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Sounds like roads clear for " official traffic " screw the plebs So used to hearing and seeing this attitude towards the general population it does not even make me vomit anymore. Is that a good thing?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

i can see some logic in this. After the Tohoku quake all roads in Tokyo came to stand still and highways were closed for days. Bottom line: you would be trapped in Tokyo either way. You just need to prepare for it. Chances are your apartment building will withstand the shakes, but your electricity, water supply, sewer, internet, etc will be stopped. your nearest conbini will be out of food, water, toilet paper, etc. I expect things to come back to life within a week, but that means a week strandled in your apartment constandly rattled by aftershocks, no sewage, water, heating or air conditioning (could be devastating if it hits in july-august) Things you can possible do: walk to large office buildings to use their bathrooms (they have power generators); walk to shinagawa station or haneda aiport in hopes to get first thing out of tokyo how to prepare: keep a week worth of food, water and toilet paper, clothes, underwear, basic medicine, etc. wet tissues also help. have a solar charger for your phone, if you have a car, keep it filled up, because even if may not take you anywhere, it's a good source of power, air-conditioning, and it has a working radio.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Rules do not always apply in a huge eartquake, people panic!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Rules do not always apply in a huge earthquake, people panic!

Exactly! I'm sure every Tokyoite remembers the pandemonium after last year's quake. With all the contingency plans in place, all the earthquake drills and previous experiences the wheels fell off Tokyo very damn quickly last year. This is just another politically motivated statement to make the sheep feel safer.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I wish they had done this last March!! All of those idiot fools jumping into their private cars in such a situation just causes more problems!!

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Well no surprise in this.

This is perhaps not very well-known, but for over one week after the 3.11 earth quake. Armed military forces guarded the entrances to the Joban Express way in Ibaraki. This is the highway that goes from Fukushima trough Ibaraki and south to Tokyo.

I can certainly understand the need of keeping the road clear for emergency vehicles going north towards Fukushima, but the kicker is that they were guarding the south bound entrance, i.e going in the Tokyo direction away from Fukushima.

As a foreigner I was let through after explaining my errand, but I doubt any Japanese even dared try to argue with them. And I very much doubt that normal folks would be let through if they tried.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This is the right thing to do. Nobody will be able to escape from Tokyo due to days long traffic jams anyway... On the other hand, it is imperative that fire squadrons and rescue cars can reach whenever they are needed in the shortest time, just so that they can reduce the number of casualties...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

-1, For telling the truth?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

They may want to employ some Caterpillar earthmovers to push the empty cars that are blocking the way to the side. I bet they didn't think of that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What about the status of forces cars with the Y and the A plates? US Military vehicles? The Y and A plate cars etc. technically are US Military cars. What about diplomatic plates?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In fact even in the light of my story above, I don't mind if they close some routes for exclusive use of emergency vehicles in emergencies. As long as the routes are advertised well in advance, together with information on what alternative routes should be used by the public.

Although if it was a workable solution I think closing on lane as "emergency lanes" on a larger number roads would be a better solution.

And if people want to get away from leaking power plants then you'd better let them go, even if the emergency routes are the only routes left working.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

After an earthquake the only type of transport worth having is a bicycle or a helicopter.......

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Wonder if this applies to politician's vehicles and their entourages...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

So if you are in an office space, you can't go home. Even though many people take trains to work, what will happen when the trains stop running?

I think that the planners need to take a look at New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Look at how everyone remained in place at the Superdome and what a fiasco that was. Time for them to go back to the boards and re-work this.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is a positive step, but long overdue. An orderly evacuation of Tokyo is not possible, one of the inherent risks that an overpopulated city with no urban planning and limited infrastrucure carries. At least emergency vehicles will be able to function and keep the city from burning down...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@NetNinja: So, I have to ask the question, you are so downbeat on this place in general, why do you stay here??

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Emergency vehicles need to be able to get to the fires, to the destroyed buildings, to where people are dying and could be saved. As was seen on March 11 last year, that's not going to happen if everyone is allowed on the roads because their's gridlock. This isn't about 'harming the plebs' more like getting as much access as possible to those who need it. And those in Tokyo who would like to evacuate don't need it as much as the neighbourhood on fire or the bloke trapped under a building.

As for the roads leading north being closed. Many of those roads were severely damaged by the quake and a lot of repairs took part in the first two weeks. The only vehicles allowed on those roads were emergency vehicles or those taking supplies. There was limited fuel around and it was the priority to get to the people who needed it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thats good. And which arrangements are in place in case there are complete meltdowns of say 6 nuclear reactors assuming there are multiple earthquakes?

-1 ( +3 / -3 )

No gas, no food on the shelves. I remember, I got videos of that on YouTube. Nope, I won't stay for that. First aid kit is in the boot, along with some canned foods, a can opener and bottles of water. Ain't staying to die with the masses.

Or you could spend a few thousand yen on an earthquake kit that will give you more than sufficient to last a week and then if you want to leave when those who were dying have been saved then you'd be more than able to do so.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It makes sense. In an emergency, who needs first use of the roads, ambulances and fire engines, or netninja in a hurry to trample others in his rush to 'escape'?

Last year while the capital didn't descend into a raging inferno of broken buildings and rioting mobs, the blocked roads did mean that emergency supplies - food, water, blankets, batteries - took hours to travel even short distances to the people for whom they were intended. Selfish people clogging up the roads make things much more difficult for everyone else, that's why netninja's desire to 'escape' should not take top priority.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nothing can move on broken roads unless it has tracks like bulldozer etc what this govt is proposing isnt a reality.

They think the roads will sustain a major quake they are D R E A M I N G ! !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Banned for 52 MORE roads, right? Because I've seen huge signs with picture of a whale/catfish/whatever over the local main roads (Oume, Hino...) saying that they will be off-limits to civilian traffic in the event of a major earthquake.

Here's link for the one in Oume:

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes but A LOT of roads in Tohoku survived the quake. In fact the vast majority did - the main Route (6?) was in far better condition than the Tohoku was for reasons I don't know...

The Kobe expressway did collapse in places but they spent a lot of time and money strengthening the supports in Tokyo. Will this make a difference? Only time will tell.

This plan almost certainly has flaws but it's a heck of a lot better than the previous plan (all non essential vehicles pull to the left to leave a lane open for emergency vehicles). Some roads almost certainly will fail but having a plan for the roads that are undamaged is a good thing.

And don't forget that the Tohoku quake was one of the biggest in recorded history. And many, many of the roads survived.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The routes include those providing access to and from all of Tokyo’s 23 wards and the Tomei Expressway to Gotemba Junction,

Uh oh, that means no speeding on the Tomei for you Heda_Madness ;-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm sure every Tokyoite remembers the pandemonium after last year's quake

What pandemonium? I was right here in the middle of Tokyo and all I saw were people quietly waiting for the trains to resume, people standing in lines waiting for a bus / taxi, and people walking home on the streets. Nobody was yelling or pushing or panicking.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Exactly. I'm the one who should be most upset about this ;-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many Japanese willfully ignore traffic rules at the best of times (yes, I'm talking about you, the multitude of red light runners), what makes the planners think an earthquake induced panic will have the masses suddenly obeying them?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Only vehicles belonging to the police, fire department and the Self-Defense Forces will be allowed to use the designated six major highways and 46 other routes.

OK. Its easy to keep people from using expressways- just block off the entrances/exits. But how on earth will they stop people using the "other routes"? block off every single one of thousands of side roads and driveways? how many police/soldiers will it take to organize this? And even if they try to do this, will the people obey, if the lives of your children depend on trying to use the roads to get the hell out before the radioactive holocaust arrives?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If these roads are empty, I wonder if the ambulances will still travel at 30kph with their sirens blaring... I mean, they already do that at 3am, again when roads are relatively empty.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Will the police be enforcing this by wasting time pulling people over?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Silly question, but it begs to be ask.

Depending upon the time of the super-quake hits, these roads might already be quite filled with cars, trucks, etc. , right?

Is there a plan of this plan to get these vehicles safely off these roads or are they just going to expect everyone to abandon their vehicles and flee on foot?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

stupid idea. this wont work in chaos.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Geez Netninja, you sound just a bit too pessimistic to still be here in Japan, that is if you are still here in Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Good, silly question, rmistric. Wonder if they've thought of that? (They have, after all, only had a year to come up with this). Duh.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

almostshatMAR. 09, 2012 - 04:09PM JST Good, silly question, rmistric. Wonder if they've thought of that? (They have, after all, only had a year to come up with this). Duh.


Let's say the Tomei is crowded with vehicles. You can block all of the entrances to stop any more people from getting on. But, how do you get those that are already on off? Do you just have everyone get off at the nearest exit? What if the nearest exit is also one of the 52 roads designated for closure? Do you tell them to go to the nearest SA and wait it out? Do you tell them just to take what they can and abandon their cars?

1770 kms of vehicles can hold lots of cars, trucks, buses, etc. Abandoned vehicles can also block roads and prevent emergency vehicles from getting where they are needed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Do you tell them just to take what they can and abandon their cars?

Well, when the Japan Police Patlabors (you know they have them, they just hide them in fear of otaku crime wave just to see them in action) start to heave cars off the road, people will get the drift.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Forget your car; in the immortal words of Norman Tebbit "get on yer bike" (or tandem, or tricycle, maybe with one of those little trailers behind for the kids or grandma). More environmentally friendly too; not that there will be any environment left to be friendly to!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Assuming that buses -- much more efficient (space-wise) and egalitarian -- will be provided to evacuate ordinary people, I think this is a good plan.

Contrast this with Katrina, in which an evacuation order was issued but no buses were provided to get people out of the city! The imbeciles running things just assumed that everyone had their own cars. This left not just the poor, but plenty of elderly and physically impaired people stuck in their homes, not because they didn't want to flee, but because they had no means of fleeing. There's a famous photo of a fleet of school buses that sat in their parking lot, unused, because no one thought to use them.

Closing the roads to private cars and providing buses to help people get out, with priority on the roads given to emergency and fire vehicles, is the ideal solution. Good job, Tokyo government.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What makes them think the roads will be passable? First, they might collapse, buckle, or disintegrate. Second, buildings might collapse on top of them. And the cars, buses, and trucks already on them will block more than a few roads, I'm sure. (as rmistric has said.)


Armed military forces guarded the entrances to the Joban Express way in Ibaraki.

I can't believe the central government could react this fast to an emergency; even after Kobe, they were totally unprepared for Tohoku. When the shinola hits the Tokyo fan, they'll be paralyzed.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Bicycles are not bad. A scooter would be better. A motorcyle, even better. Mind you, none of the above are going to be allowed on the highway anyhow, and the first two never are. Its going to be backroads all the way out, dodging traffic and obstacles.

But this plan is just another example in the long list of utter ineptitude of the simple minded Japanese authorities. What they need is a plan to make sure one lane in and one out is clear, not the entire damned highway. They also need to make breaks in the barriers in the center of the highway so that people can make a U-turn in emergencies, or, they can redirect traffic if one side is impassible. Inability to turn around is going to ensure that people won't be able to get off the road when the big one hits. So many are going to be plain stuck there. Ban them all you like, if they can't get off, they can't get off.

And rather than ban all vehicles, they should allow all motorcycles and also other vehicles that are at their occupancy limit. If everyone is forced to carpool if they want to leave, the traffic won't be as bad and it will get people out of the way of emergency teams.

Heck, even yearly manadatory disaster education for all Tokyo residents would be a big plus, because ultimately, the people will have to help themselves or have people die waiting anyway.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Nothing new here.

The road outside my apartment has been designated as such for more than 10yrs. Same reason why the Fire Brigade introduced Fire-fighting Motorbikes, etc as they can get through roads that are blocked to ambulances, fire-engines, etc.

And there is also a reason why there are local volunteer fire-brigades that anyone can join. Nothing new here, just another article to get posters worked up.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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