A new station on the Joban Line between Ushiku and Arakawaoki that has been under construction for the past few years is nearing completion. To be known as "Hitachino Ushiku Station", the new station is located at the intersection of Nishi Odori and the Joban Line, with a section of the platform actually extending over the Nishi Odori underpass.
Like many such projects in Japan two weeks before opening, one look at the project would seem to indicate that there is no way they can get it completed on time. As of the end of February, one pedestrian bridge was still only partially constructed, and there were many other aspects of the station complex that still seem to have a long way to go before the station would be ready for public use. But an all-out effort at the end somehow always seems to bring such projects to a "giri giri" completion.
Construction in adjacent areas, however, will definitely be going on for some time. In fact, the station is only the first part of an ambitious "new town" project being built around the station. While part of the city of Ushiku, the new area will have its own rather unique name, "Hitobito New Town" ("hitobito" simply means "people"). Already, one small development of several "my homes" near the station is nearing completion, and by the time the entire project is scheduled for completion in 2005, the population of the new town is projected to be about 39,000. Of these, 21,000 are to be in the immediate area surrounding the station (to be known as "Hitachino Chuo"), and the remaining 18,000 are to be in a related development about 2 km to the northeast in Ami, to be known as "Arakawa Hongo".
An interesting historical fact concerning the new station is that will not be the first time a station has existed on that spot. For about six months during the Expo '85 World's Science Fair, a station called "Banpaku Chuo" was the point at which thousands of people funneled into buses to make the trek along Nishi Odori to the Fair site.(which is now the Tsukuba Western Business and Research Park where companies such as Texas Instruments and NEC are located). In fact, during that time, there was even a temporary elevated ramp over the intersection of Nishi Odori and Tsuchiura Gakuen Sen that allowed cars and buses returning from the fair to turn right onto Nishi Odori without waiting for the light or clogging up the intersection. With the end of the Expo and the return to normal traffic patterns, however, both the ramp and the station were torn down.
A large parking lot has already been finished on the Tsukuba side of the new station, but it will mainly be for long-term leasing for park and ride commuter. No doubt pay-per-day lots will also open in the future, but as they will not be run by the station developers, no information is yet available as to where they will be or when they will open.
Regular bus service from Tsukuba Center to the new station is likewise planned. The exact schedule is yet to be set, but on the average, 2 to 3 buses per hour will run along Nishi Odori between the new station and the bus center. This should make it a good option for going into Tokyo from central Tsukuba, especially when the potential delays on the expressway bus service due to the almost perpetual traffic jam going into Tokyo might make one late for an important meeting. With this option, no doubt the ratio of the number of people riding the highway bus into Tokyo compared with those coming back by bus (where traffic jam delays are rare) will drop even further.
Adjustments to the train schedule have yet to be finalized, though it's basically just adding 3 minutes onto the time for the Arakawaoki schedule. The following is the tentative schedule for weekdays (with fewer trains on weekends):
(The last train only goes to Abiko, not Ueno).
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