This afternoon, we visited the JR East company. JR East is the company that builds, manages and maintain the railway tracks and the stations in the eastern part of Japan, including most of the standard railways in Tokyo. We arrived at the Shinagawa station where 3 employees of the JR East were already waiting for us. After departure at exactly 3 PM, we took some small doors and stairs to go to the construction shack.
When we arrive at the construction shack, of course our shoes has to be taken off and the employer of JR East gave a short presentation about the project going on between Shinagawa station and Tamachi station. The project consisted of two main projects. Project part 1 was to remove more than half of the existing rail yard. This main purpose of this measure was to create space for a few new high buildings (up to 30 floors) for residence, offices and shops. The second part of the project was building a new train station. The purpose of the new station was to increase accessibility in the area around the new station, increase the capacity of the existing lines and make a new connection as a preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. We were quite surprised they build a complete new station (with 4 tracks and 4 floors) only 900 meters away from the next station on the line. To give an indication: we walked from the Shinagawa station to the construction site in about 5 minutes.
After the presentation we went to the roof of a 7 store building to have a nice overview of the construction site. On the roof we could ask the employees substantive questions about the project and about the Japanese railway system in general. We discovered for example JR East never closes a track because of construction works. So, as a result, the only time they could work on the tracks is during night between 1 and 5 AM.
Despite of the rain, the best part of the excursion was the last part. We visited the actual construction site of the new station. After crossing a tunnel that was big enough for trucks to cross, we continued to the 4th floor of the station. Here the employees gave us some tablets with a virtual reality model of the station, so we could see what would be the end result of the project. A striking safety measure that was installed at the new station during the construction, were some big blue light with sirens. They give light and sound signals when a train was coming on the adjacent tracks and if there was a problem, they could use an emergency button that stops the trains.
After crossing some new tracks and walking around the construction site, we left the site by a very small tunnel, which was about 1,50 meters high, but nevertheless used by cars, bikes and pedestrians. After returning to another building and have the opportunity to ask some more questions, the excursion became to an end.