Tokyo’s long-time-coming long goodbye to the Ueno monorail.
Japan is a country crisscrossed by a seemingly limitless number of train and subway lines. Monorails, though, are harder to find, and they’re going to get a little harder still following an announcement from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Transportation that next month the Ueno Zoo Monorail will be officially and permanently closing, and subsequently dismantled.
It’s a sad, but not shocking, development for Japan’s oldest monorail, which started service in 1957. As the name implies, the Ueno Zoo Monorail operates within Ueno Zoo, which is itself located inside Ueno Park. The 300-meter (984-foot) monorail line connects two stations, one on the east side of the zoo and the other on the west.
▼ Footage from the time of the monorail’s initial opening in 1957
The ride only takes about a minute and a half, and it’s possible to walk between the park’s east and west sections too. But the novelty of riding the singular rail, coupled with the fact that it’s strictly a leisure line, means that a lot of people have fond family memories of the Ueno Zoo Monorail, either from riding it when they themselves were kids or of taking it with their children or grandchildren. Those aren’t just cases of local nostalgia, either, as Ueno Zoo is a major attraction for domestic travelers visiting Tokyo from other parts of Japan.
▼ The monorail in 2019
Ordinarily, this would be the cue for rail fans to head to Ueno for one last ride. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. The Ueno Zoo Monorail hasn’t been running since 2019, when service was suspended because of the aged conditions of the train/rail, and as with a lot of things, future plans for the monorail appeared to be in limbo during the pandemic. In July of this year, the Bureau of Transportation declared it would be formally closing the Ueno Zoo Monorail in the summer of 2024, which provided a sliver of hope that it might make a few final runs before then, this week the timetable was moved up, and December 27 is now the official last day for the monorail.
The bureau says that demolition work will begin sometime after January and the monorail’s remains to be removed by the end of next fiscal year, which comes in the spring of 2025, and that a “new substitute vehicle” will go into service by the end of the following fiscal year (i.e. spring 2026). Based on that wording, though, it’s unlikely to be a monorail, leaving the Tokyo Monorail, which connects Hamamatsucho Station and Haneda Airport, as Tokyo’s sole remaining monorail.
Source: NHK News Web, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Transportation via IT Media
Top image: Wikipedia/PekePON
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