Monday, November 9, 2015

Catching a Nambu line express train from Nakanoshima


The name of the railway line that goes through the closest railway station to our apartment in Japan is called Nambu line. The station is Nakanoshima. Nambu line is operated by JR.

Couple of years ago, JR started an express train service on the Nambu line. What's meant by express in this case is that the trains skip the less important stations and ultimately shave off few minutes as a result. They did it without expanding the stations and simply exploited the larger time gaps between each train during the day time. In other words, the express train service isn't available during rush hour where the time gap between trains is short. Still, they have to time it so that the express trains can overtake the slower, regular ones at stations that has the facility to switch tracks (there are only a handful of stations with the capability on the Nambu line). This isn't that hard especially on the Nambu line which doesn't branch into multiple lines and because the trains are punctual.

Being a heavy residential area, Nakanoshima was originally chosen as a station where express trains halted. However, after few months, for whatever reason, they removed Nakanoshima from the list of such stations. Now we have to watch in awe when the express trains whistle past us when we are waiting to hop onto a train.

But all isn't lost. If you are lucky, there is still a way you can hop onto an express train. If there is a train travelling in the opposite direction that is approaching the station soon after you missed a regular train (or if you deliberately missed it to do the following trick), you can board it, go one station (which has to be a station where express trains stop - and in the case of Nakanoshima, both stations before and after it are stations where express trains halt), get off and hopefully get aboard the express train going in the direction you originally wanted to travel. (The good thing is, it won’t cost you any additional charges. In Japan, the charge it calculated as the lowest between two gates where you either insert the ticket in or you touch the Suica card on. There is usually no need to go through a gate when switching the directions.)

We managed to put this trick into test recently.

We were going to see the Tokyo Motor Show 2015 on last Friday. It was 12:58 when we came to the station. Sadly we had to top up our Suica cards, which are what we usually use to pay for the train rides. The train arrived at 12:59 and I hadn't finished topping up the Suica cards and we had to use an elevator to get to other side to board the trains heading Kawasaki direction. It was an impossible task. The next train was supposed to arrive at 13:12. I knew that there would be an express train between them because the gap was too long. And luckily the train heading Tachikawa direction arrived at 13:01. I didn't have time to check it if there was an express train in between or if we could board it even if there was one.

But the worse thing that would happen is having to board the train that was scheduled to arrive Nakanoshima at 13:12. It would only take a minute to get to the next station, Inada-Tsuzumi in the opposite direction. So we took our chances. Despite having to use two lifts to get to the correct platform, we managed to board the express train which arrived at 13:06 at Inada-Tsuzumi station.


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