National

Ueno Zoo's popular monorail halts service after over 60 years

JIJI

The much-loved monorail at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo halted its service on Thursday after more than 60 years in operation, due to the aging of the train and facilities.

The monorail was launched in 1957 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s transportation bureau as the nation’s first passenger monorail system. Since then, it has carried over 65 million passengers between the zoo’s east and west gardens.

The metropolitan government will consider whether to restore the monorail by overhauling the system or permanently scrap it.

The 330-meter suspended-type railway has only two stations, with one-way travel taking about 90 seconds. The two-car monorail can hold up to 62 passengers. Since 2001, the fourth-generation type 40 train has been used on the single rail.

On Thursday evening the monorail made its final trip, with passengers chosen by lottery. In a speech before the departure, stationmaster Kazuhide Nagata, 64, stated, “I remember vividly many children saying that the monorail ride was fun.”

“The monorail provided beautiful scenery, such as the Shinobazunoike pond (in Ueno Park), and the train was colorful and popular. It’s very regrettable” that the service has been suspended, he told reporters.

A 38-year-old man from Ehime Prefecture, who visited the zoo with his family on the day, said: “I’m sure the monorail is loved by everyone. I hope it will be restored.”

In the early 1980s, the authorities considered scrapping the monorail, but the metropolitan government decided to refurbish it following an avalanche of requests for it to be continued.

From Friday, a bus service will be available for people traveling between the two gardens. The monorail train will be on display at the East Garden station until Nov. 24.

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