East Japan Railway Co. is looking to launch a ferry service connecting Haneda airport with central Tokyo to attract overseas visitors and secure an additional transport route during disasters, company sources said Friday.
Together with its planned train line linking Haneda airport with major stations in Tokyo, the company, also known as JR East, aims to significantly improve access with the envisioned ferry service, which could start operation next year, the sources said.
Modeled after New York's Brooklyn district, the company plans to link popular tourist areas such as Asakusa and Nihombashi by setting the Takeshiba district, located near JR Hamamatsucho Station, as the terminus for the new water route.
The company is also floating a plan to launch routes serving tourist spots ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year, earlier than other routes.
The Takeshiba area in Tokyo's Minato Ward is in the midst of a large-scale redevelopment project being conducted by JR East. Under its project, planned for completion in 2020, the area will house hotels, theaters, offices and other facilities.
JR East will partner with tour boat operators in the city and plans to operate vessels that are small enough to navigate the numerous rivers and waterways near the coast, the sources said.
Passengers will be able to avoid congestion and enjoy the view, while infrastructure costs, such as docking points for boats, will also be low.
From January to November last year, JR East ran a trial of a water route departing from the Takeshiba district. The company received positive feedback from passengers, with comments such as "I saw the city in a different light," and, "It was more convenient than I expected."
In the event of a large-scale earthquake in the capital, JR East could utilize the water route to transport injured people and relief supplies, even when roads are blocked and train services are suspended, the sources said.
As for the redevelopment area dubbed "Waters Takeshiba," JR East plans to partially open it in April in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The area will also feature a new performance venue for the Shiki Theatre Company.