East Japan Railway wants to cut travel time to Tokyo Station in half.

If you’re flying into Tokyo, Haneda Airport is where you want to land. Sure, rival Narita Airport sometime gets called “Tokyo International Airport,” but it’s actually all the way out in Chiba Prefecture, while Haneda is the one truly located within Tokyo.

However, just because Haneda is located closer to the Tokyo city center doesn’t mean it’s super close.

▼ Foreground: Haneda Airport
Waaaaay in the background: Downtown Tokyo

So no matter how long your flight to Japan was, once you get off the plane at Haneda and grab your bags, your next move is going to be to hop on a train to get into downtown. However, East Japan Railway (also known as JR East), has just announced that it’s building a brand-new train line to help get you to the fun part of your time in Japan more quickly.

Tentatively called the Haneda Airport Access Line, the new line will start at a new station to be attached to the airport building. From there it’ll run north to Tokyo Freight Terminal Station, at which point the track will flow into one of the preexisting JR lines which lead into Tokyo Station and continue out of the capital towards Tochigi and Gunma Prefectures.

Currently, the trip from Haneda to Tokyo Station takes about 38 minutes, starting on either the Tokyo Monorail or Keikyu lines, neither of which are operated by JR. Both routes also require a transfer, at either Hamamatsucho or Shinagawa, two extremely busy Tokyo commuter stations which can be difficult to navigate even if you’re not hauling an overseas-trip amount of luggage.

▼ Shinagawa Station is basically the bullet hell shooting video game of train stations.

The Haneda Airport Access Line, though, would require no transfer between the airport and Tokyo Station, and, according to a previous feasibility study by JR, would make the trip in 18 minutes, roughly half the time it currently takes. Best of all, the entire route being on JR trains means it would be free of charge to travelers with JR’s popular unlimited-use rail passes, and quicker access to Tokyo Station would be helpful for those hopping on the Tohoku Shinkansen, whose line starts at Tokyo Station, as well as the Hokuriku Shinkansen, which begins at Takasaki Station in Gunma.

JR says the project, which was just given the green light by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, will involve installing around five kilometers (3.1 miles) of new rail. As you might expect, though, laying tracks through the middle of Tokyo is no quick or cheap endeavor, and JR is estimating costs of roughly 300 billion yen (US$2.9 billion) to get the line ready to start carrying passengers in 2029.

Sources: JR East, IT Media
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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