On April 8, NHK broadcast a special report on the New Joban Line being built between Tokyo and Tsukuba. First conceived in the 1980's at the height of the "bubble economy", the line has been delayed by numerous problems, not the least of which is the faltering economy. As plans began falling further and further behind, an inside joke was to refer to this grandiose project as the "New Jodan Line" (jodan=joke), as many began to wonder if it was just going to be a pipe dream. The "joke", however, now seems to be turning serious.
The land right-of-ways have all been purchased and the beginning at Akihabara Station are already well under construction. The Tsukuba Terminal is to be built underground in the area just north of the bus center. The recently completed car tunnel connecting Chuo Dori with Tsuchiura Gakuen Sen was part of the preparations for the Tsukuba Station. Already, 28% of the entire line is under construction, with the sections requiring the most time, such as bridges and tunnels being built first. If there are no further delays, people should be cruising into Tokyo in 45 minutes, roughly half the present travel time on the bus (and much less than half if the traffic is heavy!).
The total cost of the project is now projected to be 1.5 trillion yen, which works out to an average of 25 billion yen per kilometer, presumably the most expensive train line ever built! The delays, totally up to 5 years already, have added an extra 200 billion yen in costs, and further delays would simply add to the cost overruns. This is one reason local governments are committed to making sure the schedule isn't allowed to slip any more.
An integral part of the overall plan is to develop new housing areas along the line as it is being built. Plans call for an additional 100,000 residents in Tsukuba by the time the line opens, with much of that increase being attributed to commuters moving out into the new "bed towns" scheduled to go up. Simply building the infrastructure of roads, sewers, etc. for these new developments will mean an additional 100 billion yen in the Tsukuba City budget per year, and thus, as budgets are tight,
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