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 have said.
Together with its planned train line linking Haneda — officially known as Tokyo International Airport — with major stations in the capital, the company aims to significantly improve access with the new ferry service, which could start operation next year, the sources said Friday.
Modeled after ferry services in New York’s Brooklyn borough, the railway company, also known as JR East, plans to link popular tourist areas such as Asakusa and Nihonbashi by making the Takeshiba district, located near Hamamatsucho Station, the terminus for the new water route.
The company is floating a plan to launch routes serving tourist spots earlier than other routes and ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.
The Takeshiba area in Minato Ward is in the midst of a large-scale redevelopment project being conducted by JR East. Under the project, planned for completion in 2020, the area will house new 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 docks, are expected to be low.
From January to November last year, JR East ran a ferry trial departing from the Takeshiba district. The company received positive feedback, with passengers saying they saw the city in a different light and that it was more convenient than expected.
In the event of a large 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.