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New line to halve travel time between Haneda, downtown Tokyo

The rail project is part of a tourism-boosting initiative.

TOKYO -- East Japan Railway plans to build by the mid-2020s a new line linking Haneda Airport and downtown Tokyo that would slash travel time to roughly 20 minutes, helping to make it a more convenient Asian hub for travelers.

     The government aims to double the number of visitors to Japan to 20 million a year by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic Games. To this end, it will raise the number of international slots at Haneda to 130,000 annually from 90,000 over the same period. With the number of travelers shuttling between central Tokyo and the airport expected to swell, expanded rail service is a necessity.

     Transit between South Korea's Incheon Airport and downtown Seoul takes roughly 45 minutes, and around 20-30 minutes are needed for equivalent trips in Hong Kong and Singapore.

     JR East's new line will put Haneda at the top of the regional list in terms of downtown access. This will not only draw more tourists, but also improve Tokyo's attractiveness as an Asian business base, making it easier to lure companies and international conferences.

     The rail company, which will handle the bulk of the work, plans to divide the 300 billion yen ($2.93 billion) price tag evenly between itself, the central government and municipalities. Design and construction will take about 10 years, meaning that the new line is expected to start running in the mid-2020s at the earliest, after the Olympics.

     The project will convert to passenger use an inactive freight line running from near Tamachi Station on the Yamanote Line to the Tokyo Bay area. From there, the company would build a nearly 6km subway line to Haneda. By eliminating transfers, this would cut travel time to Haneda from Shinjuku Station to 23 minutes from 41-46 minutes and from Tokyo Station to 18 minutes from 28-33 minutes.

     JR East estimates that 28 million people will use the new station each year, and it expects to recoup its investment in about 15 years after opening.

     Haneda and downtown Tokyo are currently linked by the Tokyo Monorail, which is run by JR East, and the Keikyu Line. But these routes are not expected to be able to handle the influx of additional traffic when Haneda's international slots are expanded.


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