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International Railroad Discussion > Osaka Station Track 24 (Japan)

Date: 02/26/24 01:28
Osaka Station Track 24 (Japan)
Author: cchan006

For TO members who have visited Osaka in the past, they would call me out on Osaka Station having more than 11 tracks.

Tracks 21-24 are part of the new underground station located on the western end of the Osaka/Umeda Station complex. They went into service on March 18, 2023. The complex is served by several railroads, namely JR West, Hanshin Electric Railway, Hankyu Corporation, and Osaka Metro (subway). JR West's Osaka Station hosts 694,156 people per day (#10 rank within Japan), while the Hanshin/Hankyu/Metro Umeda Station hosts 915,571 people per day (#7), for a combined ~1.6 million passengers per day.

As comparison, #1 Shinjuku (Tokyo) hosts ~2.8 million people, #4 Yokohama has ~1.9 million, and #6 Tokyo has ~1 million from the same article. Osaka/Umeda combined would be ranked between #4 and #5. I've cited different numbers in the past, but it depends on when and how the data was sampled.

In any case, Osaka Station sees a lot of people and it does NOT host HSR (Tokaido Shinkansen). Shinkansen's Shin-Osaka Station (not ranked in top 20) is 1 stop away on JR West trains, or 3 stops away on Osaka Metro's Midousuji Line, about 2 miles to the north across the Yodo River.

Track number of Osaka Station skips from #11 (surface) to #21 (underground) now. More on the next post for those interested.

- Ceiling-to-platform safety gates block good view of Track 21.
- Last passenger train of the day to use Track 24, Limited Express Haruka #60 to Kyoto.
- Video of 3 trains on Track 24, all eastbounds, late at night.

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Date: 02/26/24 02:09
Re: Osaka Station Track 24 (Japan)
Author: cchan006

The 2nd and 3rd trains in the video, the high value targets Fukuyama Express and Super Rail Cargo used to run on ground level, on what used to be the Umeda Freight Line. That freight line was what remained of the now-defunct Umeda Freight Terminal, located north and NW from the Osaka/Umeda Station complex.

Umeda Freight Terminal stopped operating in 2013, its function migrated to at least 3 different freight terminals in the area, Suita, Kudara, and Ajikawaguchi Terminals. The land is now going through multi-phase redevelopment, completely transforming the area. The redeveloping area is nicknamed "Umekita," shorthand for "Umeda Kita" or "Umeda North (translated)."

As part of the major redevelopment, JR West (West Japan Railway Company) decided to migrate the Umeda Freight Line underground, so that a new underground addition to Osaka Station can be built. Why? Some of JR West's revenue-generating limited express trains in the past did not stop at Osaka, as the Umeda Freight Line veered away from Osaka Station, too far to make walkable, practical transfers. People who wanted to use those limited express trains had to go to Shin-Osaka to make the transfer.

The limited express trains that couldn't stop at Osaka before were through trains that didn't originate in Osaka. The merging of Kyoto and Kobe Lines plus the Osaka Loop Line created track arrangements that did not allow east/west trains from Kyoto to go north/south out of Osaka to the south, without taking the Umeda Freight Line to go around and merge with the Osaka Loop Line away from Osaka Station.

One of those limited express trains is the Haruka, which serves KIX (Kansai International Airport) and Kyoto. In Japan, conventional speed trains are still important enough that railroads are willing to spend gobs of money to make transfers fewer and easier. What might be considered subtle improvement in convenience is a big deal, especially in the Kansai Region (Osaka Metropolitan Area) where there's fierce competition between the railroads.

JR West's decision sacrificed JR Freight's operational convenience. Note the 2nd train in the video, the Fukuyama Rail Express, which has a manned helper on the rear. The underground migration introduced a steep enough grade that some freight trains now require manned helpers. Super Rail Cargo, the 3rd and last train in the video with 4 powered units, 2 on each end has enough power, no need for manned helpers.

FYI, trains going "westbound," the other direction use Track 21, but due to the safety gates, the trains are difficult to see, and not as "railfannable."

Anyway, unlike in the U.S., needs of the passenger trains outweigh the needs of the freight trains.

- Information kiosk at the underground Osaka Station expansion.
- Holographic buttons. You push the "air buttons." Why? More next...

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/26/24 02:47 by cchan006.

Date: 02/26/24 02:34
Re: Osaka Station Track 24 (Japan)
Author: cchan006

The goal of "Umekita" redevelopment and JR West's underground migration of the freight line is simple: Economy. Introduce more commerce by hosting more businesses (retail and office), and bring in more people to Umeda/Central Osaka.

The timing of the Umeda Freight Terminal closure and redevelopment raises a lot of "what if" scenarios. Had this been done in the late 1950s or early 1960s, it might have been possible that Tokaido Shinkansen would have come to Osaka/Umeda, instead of staying 2 miles away at Shin-Osaka. One of the major reasons why it didn't was due to lack of available land. Without that land, Shinkansen Project planners concluded it was not worthwhile to cross the Yodo River twice, and create a series of curvatures. Project planners were already thinking ahead of Shinkansen's westward extension to Okayama and Hakata (Sanyo Shinkansen) and the land/river obstacles made them conclude that Shin-Osaka + straighter ROW was worth sacrificing access to Umeda/Central Osaka.

In hindsight, a worthwhile compromise, as Shin-Osaka has become a bustling town in its own right with restaurants, hotels, and businesses to cater mainly to business travelers. Osaka Metro Midousuji subway line was already operating through Shin-Osaka before Shinkansen's inaugural service in 1964, and the conveniently-located JR Tokaido Line (now nicknamed Kyoto Line) was in the plans to use as transfer to Central Osaka anyway.

It's my opinion and speculation that had Shinkansen went to Central Osaka, Osaka/Umeda would have been ranked #1 in the world in passenger use.

- Fare gate using facial recognition technology (creepy).
- Restrooms in the underground complex - reservations for stalls can be made via a Smartphone app.


Date: 02/26/24 03:05
Re: Osaka Station Track 24 (Japan)
Author: cchan006

Osaka is preparing to host a World Expo in 2025. There's an interesting off topic historical parallel. Osaka also hosted a World Expo in 1970, 6 years after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 2020, so there seems to be this 5-6 years gaps between Olympics and World Expo in the same citites. Yes, I realize that I'm in pandemic denial (deliberate) that Tokyo Olympics actually occurred in 2021.

The gadgety features of the new underground Osaka Station is in anticipation for the World Expo. I consider them non-essential, technology for the technolgy's sake, but we shall see. Although I didn't see it operating since I was there late at night, the safety gates are supposed to allow multiple door arrangements. so EMU designers need not to adhere to strict tolerances regarding the doors.

While there, a station agent came over and asked if I was OK. She was concerned that I missed the last train departing from Tracks 21-24. I told her transparently (and without shame) that I was waiting for the freight trains. She understood right away, and let me be. It's nice to be in a society where railfanning is a mainstream activity.

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