Faster Commute and Lower Congestion Expected as Sotetsu Main Line and JR East Start Direct Rail Service on Nov 30th

On November 30th, the Sotetsu Railway and JR East started joint direct operation of train service, directly linking the Sotetsu Main line, which runs through Kanagawa prefecture, to central Tokyo for the first time. Until now, the Sotetsu Railway was the only major private railway not to offer through service to Tokyo. The start of direct through service will enable passengers to go from as far south as Ebina Station in Kanagawa prefecture directly to Shinjuku Station and as far north as Kawagoe Station in Saitama prefecture.

Faster commute, less congestion at Yokohama Station

When commuting to Tokyo from the Sotetsu Line, many people currently transfer to the JR and Tokyu Lines at Yokohama Station. The start of direct operation is expected to ease congestion at Yokohama Station and will lead to a reduction in transfer times throughout the station, including to JR and Tokyu lines.

For passengers living along the Sotetsu Main line, completion of direct through service has been long awaited, as the the idea was first floated by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in 2000, but was twice postponed due to construction delays and difficulty in land acquisition.

The Sotetsu Main line is a major train line in Kanagawa prefecture, connecting the cities of Yokohama and Ebina. With the opening of the Sotetsu Shin-Yokohama Line (the section that links the Sotetsu Main line to JR East lines), people commuting from Kanagawa will be able to directly connect to Shinjuku Station and Saitama prefecture via the JR Yokosuka line for the first time. Passengers will be able to go from Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama to Shinjuku Station in a minimum of 44-minutes, which is about 10-minutes less than the current fastest time (by transferring at Yokohama Station).

Trains will operate from Ebina on the Sotetsu Main Line, via Nishiya, Musashi-Kosugi, and enter the Saikyo Line at Osaki. Forty out of 46 trains will terminate at Shinjuku. During the morning rush hours, some trains will go further north towards major stops in Saitama prefecture, including Musashi-Urawa, OmiyaSashiogi, and as far as Kawagoe.

A total of 46 round trips will be operated every day, with a rush-hour frequency of 4 trains per hour, and off-peak frequency of 2-3 trains per hour. A new model car, the 12000 series will also be introduced with the launch of the new section of the Sotetsu Main line.

Sotetsu Railway forecasts that direct linkage with JR lines will lead to an increase of 2.78 million passengers in the four-month period ending in March 2020.

The construction cost for the new 2.7-km section of the Sotetsu Main line which links to JR East lines came to ¥111.4 billion (1 billion USD). Over the next 30 years, Sotetsu Railway will reimburse the cost to the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency from direct revenue.

Redevelopment in Yokohama Along the Sotetsu Main line

With the opening of direct through service to central Toyko, Sotetsu Railway also plans to invest in commercial and residential development at major stations along Sotetsu Main line.

In 2018, a Sotetsu Railway group company opened the Joinus Terrace Futamatagawa shopping center at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama. The company reports that sales of condominium apartments developed near Joinus Terrace Futamatagawa by Sotetetsu Real Estate Co. Ltd. have been strong.

The company sees development potential at other stations, including Nishiya Station (Hodogaya Ward, Yokohama), which will be changed to a Limited Express and Commuter Express stop, and Tsurugamine Station (Asahi Ward, Yokohama), which will be changed to a Commuter Express stop. With Sotetsu Railway’s major investment along the Sotetsu Main line, residents living near stations that have direct through service to central Tokyo should expect to see revitalization of the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Source: Nikkei newspapaer, November 29th and 30th, 2019

Lead photo: Sotetsu 11000 series