Shibuya Station gets an upgrade thanks to an intense race against time.

The trains in Tokyo stop running a little after midnight and don’t start up again until the morning. That’s an inconvenience for anyone who’s ever missed the last train and either had to shell out for a taxi home or spend the night in an Internet cafe, but the upside is that train lines are rarely shut down for maintenance or renovations during their normal operating hours.

Last weekend was an exception though, and a big one. The Yamanote Line, which loops around downtown Tokyo, is arguably the most crucial piece of transportation infrastructure in the city, but a needed platform-widening project for Shibuya Station was going to be too large a project to finish in just one night, because they weren’t just going to be adding to the platform. They also needed to relocate part of the track, as shown in the model example video below.

▼ Basically, the curve of inner track had to be tightened by moving a section of rail inward to create space for the platform expansion.

So rail operator JR East made the difficult decision to shut down part of the Yamanote Line entirely for two days, with no southbound trains running between Ikebukuro and Osaki Stations. With essentially the last train for Friday leaving Ikebukuro at 12:31 a.m. Saturday, and the first train of Monday departing at 4.34 a.m., JR East had roughly 52 hours to get the job done, and even then they needed to mobilize a huge workforce.

Over the course of the 52 hours, a total of approximately 3,300 on-site workers toiled away, with the clock ticking the entire time. Since trains on the Yamanote’s outer track (north from Osaki to Ikebukuro) were still running, as were other lines in the area, plenty of passengers and rail fans got to catch a glimpse of the hard-working crew as they passed by.

▼ At times the workers had trains passing them on both sides.

This wasn’t a job where everything was done by robots or powered construction machinery, either. Teams of a dozen-plus men shouting coordinated cadences could be seen fitting parts into place by hand.

Not that there wasn’t some cool heavy machinery deployed too, though.

Honestly, it’s enough to make you exhausted just looking at it, but come Monday morning, the new platform, as many as five meters (16.4 feet) wider in parts than its predecessor, was finished!

Here’s hoping everyone involved got to take the rest of the day off, and the next time we’re waiting for the train at Shibuya, we’ll be sure to take a moment to appreciate all the hard work that goes into making Japan’s train network so great.

Source: Yahoo! Japan New/Impress Watch via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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