Japan Data

Commuter Train Lines More Congested in 2022

Society Economy

More people commuted by train in Japan in fiscal 2022, although there is still much less congestion than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent report of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism shows that rail congestion rates in Japan’s three major metropolitan areas increased by 5 to 15 percentage points in fiscal 2022. However, the peak-hour commute is more tolerable than before the COVID-19 pandemic, when trains were far more crowded.

The ministry report found that the average rate of congestion during peak morning hours for the Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya metropolitan areas, respectively, was 123% (up 15 points year on year), 109% (up 5 points), and 118% (up 8 points). This is the first major increase in three years, following a major drop in fiscal 2020 due to the pandemic and a basically unchanged situation in fiscal 2021.

The graph below shows the changes in rate of congestion and train capacity for 31 major train lines in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Until around 2000, train capacity could not keep pace with the increase in passengers, so that the rate of congestion reached as high as 180% to 200%. In the years leading up to the pandemic, the rate was hovering around the 160% range.

Average Congestion Rate and Capacity of Major Tokyo Train Lines

A congestion rate of 120% is 20% more than the maximum occupancy (a situation where passengers are able to either sit down, hold on to a strap, or hold on to a bar near the train door), so there is almost no direct physical contact with other passengers.

The table below shows what in fiscal 2019 were the most crowded train lines in the three metropolitan areas during morning rush hours and their rates of congestion for fiscal 2019 and 2022.

Changes in Train Congestion Rate at Rush Hour in Japan’s Three Main Metropolitan Areas

Tokyo Area

FY 2019 FY 2022
Kiba to Monzen-Nakachō (Tōzai Line) 199 138
Musashi-Kosugi to Nishi-ŌI (JR Yokosuka Line) 195 124
Kinshichō to Ryōgoku (JR Sōbu Line) 194 127
Ikejiri-Ōhashi to Shibuya(Den’entoshi Line) 183 125
Shimo-Ochiai to Takadanobaba (Seibu-Shinjuku Line) 164 123

Osaka Area

FY 2019 FY 2022
Kanzakigawa to Jūsō (Hankyū-Kobe Line) 149 134
Umeda to Yodoyabashi (Midōsuji Line) 148 123
Mikuni to Jūsō (Hankyū-Takarazuka Line) 146 118

Nagoya Area

FY 2019 FY 2022
Jingū-Mae to Kanayama (Meitetsu Line) 149 132
Sakō to Meitetsu-Nagoya (Meitetsu Line) 147 130

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

Congestion rates in the Tokyo metropolitan area prior to the pandemic were as high as 200% (a level at which there is considerable body contact, but a person can just manage to read a magazine); however, the congestion rates in fiscal 2022 were far lower for nearly every train line.

The train line with the highest congestion rate in fiscal 2022, according to publicly available data, was the Nippori-Toneri Liner between the Akado-Shōgakkōmae and Nishi-Nippori stations, at 155%; followed by the Nishitetsu Kaizuka Line between the Najima and Kaizuka stations, at 154%, and the JR Saikyō Line between the Itabashi and Ikebukuro stations, at 149%. Congestion rates remain high on certain train lines due to the difficulty in increasing capacity due to facility constraints or other factors.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

railway transport