Last Railway Crossing on Yamanote Line in Tokyo to be Removed

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Pedestrians cross the No. 2 Nakazato railroad crossing in Kita Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 3.

The only remaining railroad crossing on the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo will be removed as the Tokyo metropolitan government decided to build a new stretch of road near the crossing in Kita Ward and construct an overpass over the tracks.

Following Tokyo’s decision, the ward office and the line’s operator East Japan Railway Co., known as JR East, have agreed to eliminate the crossing after the overpass is completed.

On Dec. 3, at the No. 2 Nakazato crossing, which is about 14 meters long and 5 meters wide and located between Tabata and Komagome stations on the loop line, children were waiting to cross it on their way to school.

There are many nurseries and schools in the area, and both pedestrian and vehicular traffic is heavy. At peak hours, the crossing gate is closed for more than 40 minutes for a one-hour period. Some people in the area complain that the gate always seems to be closed.

The Yamanote Line is a major transportation artery, and JR East has shortened intervals between trains. As a result, the crossing’s gate bars go up and down frequently.

During rush hour, when commuters and students were traveling to work and school, the crossing was open for about 30 seconds each time. An adult and a child on bicycles went into the crossing after the alarm started to sound and the gate bars were about to go down.

“The crossing is narrow and trains constantly go by,” said Mitsuko Tsutsumi, 72, a children’s traffic safety instructor in the ward who has been watching over kids there for about 10 years. “So, it’s dangerous to use this crossing on the route to school,” Tsutsumi said, adding, “It’s convenient, but I think it should be removed for safety reasons.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Children wait for the No. 2 Nakazato crossing gate to open in Kita Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 3.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has compiled a list of about 1,000 railroad crossings nationwide that are in need of improvement to enhance safety. In 2017, the ministry added the No. 2 Nakazato crossing to the list due to its “prolonged blockage,” among other reasons.

Since then, the Kita Ward office and JR East have been in talks to improve the situation. In 2019, the ward office presented a proposal to the ward assembly to construct a pedestrian bridge with an elevator along a ward road at a cost of about ¥1.7 billion, but the situation took a sudden turn in November.

According to Kita Ward and Tokyo metropolitan government officials, the metropolitan government has decided to build a road based on the City Planning Law at a location about 200 meters northeast of the crossing. As part of the construction, an overpass with a sidewalk is expected to be built over the Yamanote Line and other railway tracks.

Anticipating a decrease in the number of vehicles and people using the No. 2 Nakazato crossing, the ward office has decided to abolish the crossing while receiving support on the plan from JR East.

However, the envisioned plan will take “about 10 years” before the overpass is usable, according to a metropolitan government official.

“The ward office offers its support so road construction proceeds as planned together with the removal of the crossing,” a Kita Ward official said.