16 October, 2021

09 October, 2021

A fake Yokosuka Line train?

This is a JR East E231 series train on Joban Line (Rapid). The Line has been known for green commuter trains and blue suburban trains (and also white limited express). These blue and ivory stripes are surely not normal…


Zushi sidings, 27 Jul 2021
It is more like a Yokosuka Line train. The E217 and E235 series trains are painted dark blue and ivory, but no E231 series is allocated to Yokosuka Line. Then, what was the train on the first photo? A fake?


Mabashi, 2 Oct 2021
No, it was a real one. A five-car unit of the E231 series has been repainted in such a way in April 2021, in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of Narita Line (Abiko branch line). It has also been used on Joban Line (Rapid) since June, and it was supposed to be restored to green stripes by the end of summer, but remains unchanged as of 3rd October.


Chiba, 10 Mar 2010
Abiko branch line is now served by E231 series with green stripes, the same ones as those on Joban Line. However, until 1998, the branch line had been served by 113 series suburban trains. The 113 series were painted dark blue and ivory, and mainly used on Yokosuka Line at that time. That is why JR East repainted the E231 series in a such way.

 

Even so, most passengers would not have realised the reason for it, or perhaps even would not have realised that such a train was in service. It is understandable that the company could not hold any event to celebrate the anniversary due to COVID-19, but this decoration might have been unsuccessful.

02 October, 2021

E233 series for private railways

Nishi-Ogikubo, 31 Jan 2017
JR East E233 series is the most common train type in Greater Tokyo Area, used on major commuter lines including Chuo (rapid), Keihin-Tohoku and Saikyo Lines. They are also operated on suburban rail services on Takasaki, Tokaido Main and Utsunomiya Lines. 3,297 carriages were built in 2006-2020, and 116 more are due to be delivered by 2023, as JR East will insert Green Car (first class) coaches to Chuo Line units.

The E233 series was so successful that some other companies introduced trains based on it.


Tennocho, 11 Nov 2020
Sotetsu 11000 series, built in 2008-12, is the best example. It is not easy to find what is really different from the E233s. It reduced costs of designing the new trains and maintaining them. The company intended to use the 11000 series on through-services towards JR Yokosuka and Saikyo Lines as well, but later gave up as upgrading safety systems was more expensive than anticipated.


Tennocho, 11 Nov 2020
Sotetsu 12000 series, which were constructed in 2018-20 for the through-services, are also based on the E233 series. They look completely different from the E233s, but traction and braking systems are the same as those of the E233s. However, body structure and the interior of the 12000s are based on E235 series, the newer rolling stock of JR East.


Kitami, 9 Oct 2017
Odakyu introduced 4000 series in 2007-16 to through-services towards Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, replacing 1000 series. The 1000 series units were only about 20 years old at that time, but the company considered safer trains were necessary just after the Daegu Subway Arson in South Korea in which 192 people have sadly lost their lives. Since 2016, the 4000 series have been running on JR Joban Line (local) as well.


Soshigaya-Okura, 9 Oct 2017
The Odakyu 4000 series look similar to variant 2000 of the JR E233 series, which are designed for underground and run on the same route as the 4000 series (Odakyu Lines - Chiyoda Line - Joban Line). Since the 4000s are almost identical to the E233s, crew members of JR East had little trouble with handling the Odakyu trains.


Minami-osawa, 19 Jun 2017
The last one is 10-300 series of Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation, used on Toei Shinjuku Line as well as through-services towards Keio Lines. The 10-300 series consists of three groups at present, and those introduced in 2013-17 are based on the E233 series. Since the 10-300s run on underground, they are based on the variant 2000 of the E233s as well.


Since the 2000s, several non-JR operators have been introducing trains that are similar or even identical to those developed by JR East. This is because Japan Association of Rolling Stock Industries adopted The Guideline for Standard Specification of Commuter and Suburban Trains in 2003. The Association aimed at reducing costs of introduction by mass-production, as well as making maintenance of trains easier and cheaper.

Another new train type based on the E233 series could be developed, but the E233 is no longer the latest type. JR East has been introducing the E235 series since 2015 so that the next standard train for Greater Tokyo must be based on the E235s. In fact, Toei 6500 series for Toei Mita Line is apparently based on the E235s, with microwave-like front end and extremely simple shape of bodies.

25 September, 2021

The new Sotetsu-Tokyu route towards Tokyo: is it worth it?




Introduction

Sotetsu 12000 series (for Sotetsu-JR route)

In 2019, a new route was added to a map of railway network in Tokyo: Sotetsu-JR through-service. Sotetsu, one of eight major private railways in Greater Tokyo Area, launched direct services towards Shibuya and Shinjuku via JR Saikyo Line. However, as this blog argued before, it has not been successful.

Sotetsu's ambitious project does not end there. Another new route, which is so-called Sotetsu-Tokyu through-service, will open in the latter half of 2022. This article describes, predicts and examines whether the new route will be useful.

Note that this article contains my personal predictions.


What we know so far?

The new route is officially named Sotetsu Shin-Yokohama Line and Tokyu Shin-Yokohama Line. The Lines start from Hazawa yokohama-kokudai (hereinafter referred to as Hazawa YK) and end at Hiyoshi, which are marked as the second phase in the map above. Sotetsu manages the section from Hazawa YK to Shin-Yokohama, and Tokyu manages from Shin-Yokohama to Hiyoshi.

The new route will allow Sotetsu trains going towards Tokyo via Tokyu Meguro and Toyoko Lines and vice versa. Sotetsu will get another route towards the capital using other company's tracks, along with existing Sotetsu-JR route. Sotetsu considers that these through-services will attract more people to live in near its railway. The company also estimates that residential areas it developed will be full of workers, students and their families.

Unlike the Sotetsu-JR route, the new route will be beneficial to Tokyu users as well, since Tokyu trains will go to Shin-Yokohama, a major bullet train station. It will certainly be convenient for those going to the west, such as Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.


Sotetsu 20000 series (for Sotetsu-Tokyu route)

According to official statements, there will be 10-14 trains per hour at peak times, and 4-6 at off-peak. Trains towards Tokyu Meguro Line will be formed of eight coaches, and some services go beyond Meguro and run as far as Toei Mita and Tokyo Metro Namboku Lines. Those towards Tokyu Toyoko Line will mainly be formed of ten coaches, but it is not clear at present whether they go beyond Shibuya station and run on Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line.


Fares

There is no official announcement about fares yet, but it is easy to predict them. Sotetsu and Tokyu adopt distance-based scheme, and distance between stations have already been disclosed (available even on Wikipedia). Sotetsu applies additional charge to those using the Sotetsu-JR route, and it is highly likely to be applied to the Sotetsu-Tokyu route as well.

In this article, it is estimated that with regard to standard fare tickets, 30 yen will be charged to each journey between Nishiya and Hiyoshi, and 20 yen to each journey between Shin-Yokohama and Hiyoshi. Predictions below are based on these figures.



Based on presupposition (both facts and my predictions), to what extent will the new route be useful? And how is it like compared to the Sotetsu-JR route?


Frequency

Tokyu 3000 series (for Sotetsu-Tokyu route)

4-6 trains per hour sounds reasonable, as there are twice more services than the Sotetsu-JR route. Through-services towards Tokyu consist of Meguro-Line-route and Toyoko-Line-route, so possibly 2-3 trains on each route. Since it is easy to change from a Meguro Line train to a Toyoko Line train and vice versa at Hiyoshi or Musashi-kosugi, it is less of an issue.


Season tickets

Just like when the Sotetsu-JR route was opened, a season ticket in Japan allows only one route. A person who wishes to divert have to pay a single fare. This means that despite there are three routes from Sotetsu line stations towards Tokyo (via Sotetsu-Tokyu route, Sotetsu-JR route or Sotetsu Main Line changing at Yokohama station), season ticket holders cannot freely choose which train to take. However, since there are considerable number of services, Sotetsu-Tokyu users might not feel it inconvenient.


Punctuality

Tokyu Toyoko Line is no longer a punctual route, as trains on Seibu, Tobu and Fukutoshin Lines are often delayed for 3-5 minutes. Therefore, the Sotetsu-Tokyu route would suffer from minor delays every day. In the case of severe delays, through-services are highly likely to be suspended for a while, even after Main Line services are restored to good service.

Tokyu Meguro Line is better than Toyoko Line, but through-services must be the most vulnerable to disruptions.


Comparison with current routes

Given the data, how will the new Sotetsu-Tokyu look like? In this section, the new route is compared with current routes. In tables below, the starting point of Sotetsu is Futamatagawa, a major station in Yokohama city and where Sotetsu Izumino Line branches off. Journey times are typical figure during morning rush hours, and those marked * are based on official advertisements.


First, the new route will dramatically make Futamatagawa and Shin-Yokohama closer, with cheaper fares. It will surely make those living in western part of Yokohama and surrounding cities easier to access to Tokaido Shinkansen bullet trains.


Second, the journey from Shibuya to Shin-Yokohama will be cheaper as well. This may encourage some people living in Tokyo to use Shin-Yokohama station rather than Tokyo station, to get on a bullet train.


Third, the journey from Futamatagawa to Meguro is also going to be cheaper and shorter than the current route. 51 to 38 minutes does not sound a dramatic change, but it is reminded that time is always precious in the morning.


Comparison with rivals

In the past article, it was proved that Sotetsu-JR route is useless when compared to Odakyu, as the rival offers more frequent, faster and cheaper services. Then, is Sotetsu-Tokyu route going to change something?

It is not clear at the moment whether Sotetsu-Tokyu through-services run on Sotetsu Main Line or Izumino Line, so there are two patterns of prediction.

Since the current Sotetsu-JR through-services mostly start from and terminate at Ebina (Main Line), the new Sotetsu-Tokyu through-services might run towards Izumino Line.



From stations on Sotetsu Main Line (i.e. Ebina and Yamato) to Shinjuku, journey times of the new route are expected to be almost the same as the Sotetsu-JR route, but the new route will be cheaper and likely to have more frequent services. However, Odakyu still prevails over both Sotetsu's through-services.


(The journey time from Shonandai to Shinjuku via Sotetsu-JR contains changing trains at Futamatagawa)

How about from Shonandai (Izumino Line)? Again, Odakyu is better than both Sotetsu's through-services in any means. Thus, it is hard to believe that Sotetsu can win the race with the rival.

However, Sotetsu has the advantage of less-crowded trains. Both Ebina and Shonandai are terminus of Sotetsu, meaning that all trains start from there. In other words, trains are always empty and a passenger can get a seat easily. Meanwhile, Odakyu trains are always packed with commuters. During the pandemic, and as long as ventilation remains important for everyone's well-being, not a few passengers might choose Sotetsu's new route.


Conclusion

The new Sotetsu-Tokyu route is likely to improve railway transport from western part of Yokohama and other nearby cities to Shin-Yokohama station, and even towards Tokyo. In addition, Shin-Yokohama station will be closer to Shibuya so that some people in Tokyo might consider using Shin-Yokohama rather than Tokyo station, to get on a bullet train.

However, with regard to interchange stations served by Sotetsu and Odakyu, it is not certain that if the new route can be attractive enough for residents, as Odakyu is more frequent, faster and cheaper. As long as the COVID-19 remains a matter of concern, not a few people might choose the new route to avoid overcrowded trains with poor ventilation.

And finally, when the new route opens, the existing Sotetsu-JR route looks even more useless. Unlike the Sotetsu-Tokyu route, the future of Sotetsu-JR route does not seem to be bright.