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Tokyo Subways Expand Services as Staffing, Power Improve

Tokyoites Reeling From Quake Show Resilience
People wait in line for East Japan Railway Co. Shinkansen bullet-train tickets at Tokyo Station. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

Tokyo’s biggest subway operator expanded operations this afternoon as power shortages eased and more workers returned, while commuters endured aftershocks from the March 11 quake and crammed themselves into trains and buses.

Tokyo Metro Co. was running all lines at 50 percent to 90 percent of the normal schedule after halting briefly this morning following a 5.1-magnitude temblor. East Japan Railways Co., the nation’s biggest rail company, was running nine of its busiest commuter lines at about 20 percent of capacity and had stopped 29 others, according to its website.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., battling a possible meltdown at a nuclear power station north of Tokyo, scheduled staggered blackouts in parts of the capital and eight surrounding prefectures to conserve power. The city’s subway network, the world’s busiest, carries about 8 million commuters a day on trains that normally arrive every few minutes in central Tokyo.

Service disruptions at JR East, which operates lines that reach into the parts of Japan closest to the 8.9-magnitude quake’s epicenter, helped push the company’s shares down by the most in 18 years in Tokyo trading today. JR East dropped by the exchange-imposed 1,000 yen daily limit, or 18 percent, to 4,450 yen at the 3 p.m. close of trading in Tokyo.

At Yurakucho station in the capital’s central business district, commuters stood 12 deep, waiting to board at 8 a.m. As a delayed train pulled in and passengers got off, people surged forward to squeeze into carriages. Riders who usually read newspapers or check their mobile phones were packed so tightly inside the car, they couldn’t lift their arms to grab a hold.

Leave Early, Arrive Late

Mitsuhiro Okamoto finally got on the Chuo line after 40 minutes of waiting at Tachikawa station, about 40 minutes by express train from the main business districts. He’d left home half an hour earlier than usual and still couldn’t make it to work on time.

“This just can’t be helped because of the earthquake,” said Okamoto, 42, whose office is in Roppongi Hills in central Tokyo. “I will probably try to leave home even earlier.”

The Yamanote line, which circles central Tokyo, and the Chuo line bisecting the city were operating with reduced services, as was the Keihin Tohoku line, according to the website of JR East. The Yokosuka and Tokaido lines running between Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture and Chiba Prefecture weren’t in service, it said.

JR East added limited service on three more lines this afternoon. The Sobu, Takasaki and Chuo-Sobu Kankou lines were operating at 20 percent or more of normal, according to a faxed statement today from the railway.

Tokyo Metro said it increased limited services in the afternoon as a power shortage eased and more workers were able to reach their posts. The network’s Hibiya line is running at 90 percent of normal, while the Hanzomon is at 80 percent and the Ginza, Yurakucho and Fukutoshin lines at 70 percent. The Marunouchi and Nambu lines are operating at 60 percent, Tokyo Metro said on its website.

Business Postponed

Some companies also asked employees to work from home and reschedule business trips.

Anri Iida, a 36-year-old office worker for an electronics installation company, said his commute to Tokyo station took 90 minutes today instead of the usual hour.

“There were fewer trains than usual, so it was extremely packed,” Iida said, standing on a platform in Tokyo station. “I could barely move. Even though my mobile phone was ringing, I couldn’t get to it because we were crammed in.”

Iida said he was still waiting to hear from his company after canceling plans to ride a bullet train to Nagoya, southwest of Tokyo, where the firm has a second office.

“I’m meant to be going to Nagoya now, but my company told me to stop my plans in case I go and I can’t get back,” Iida said. I’m just waiting for them to get back to me on what’s going to happen now.”

Tokyo Bay City Kotsu Co. added two buses to its Tokyo Bay shuttle, bringing the total to 10 that deliver commuters from the bedroom community of Urayasu, Chiba, to Tokyo station in the city’s central business district, Takao Amano, spokesman for Tokyo Bay City, said by telephone.

Keisei Electric Railway Co.’s bus line, which operates six routes from Chiba to Tokyo reduced services on concern overcrowding at pickup points and traffic jams would affect safety, Kazuya Kitamura, spokesman for the line said by phone.

Taxis at Capacity

Nihon Kotsu Co., the capital’s biggest taxi company, was operating at full capacity and may have to reduce services as replacement drivers cannot make it to dispatch points because of canceled or limited train services, said Naoko Kamigaki, spokeswoman for the company.

“We are running all of our 3,200 cars all the time,” said Kamigaki. “We may have to start parking some of them because some of our drivers just can’t come to work due to the delays, or stoppage in some train lines. Some drivers already had to stay at our office on Friday and Saturday because there was no public transportation to get them back home.”

Nihon Kotsu may cut service down to 2,100 cars spread across the city’s 23 wards, Kamigaki said.

JR East also halted service on its Narita Express between Yokohama, Tokyo and Narita International Airport. Keisei Electric Railway, which also runs the Skyliner express train between central Tokyo and Narita Airport, operated only two services today, one at 6:30 a.m. and the other at 7:10 a.m.

Highway to Airport

There were no reports of traffic jams on the Shin-Kuko expressway to Narita airport and roads leading up to Haneda airport, according to the Japan Road Traffic Information Center. Roads are operating as normal, the center said.

The Higashi-Kanto expressway between Ibaraki airport and Ibaraki town is closed, according to the Japan Road Traffic Information Center.

Parts of the Kita-Kanto expressway, Tohoku expressway, Joban expressway, Tokyo-Gaikan expressway, Ken-O expressway, Higashi-Kanto expressway and Higashi-Mito road were closed due to the earthquake, according to the Japan Road Traffic Information Center.

The Tokyo-Gaikan expressway, which links Tokyo’s Nerima ward with Misato city in Saitama prefecture is closed between Gaikan-Misato-nishi interchange and Misato-Minami interchange.

There have been hundreds of aftershocks since the March 11 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. They include a 6.3-magnitude temblor yesterday centered off the coast 115 kilometers (71 miles) southeast of the city of Sendai, the USGS said. A quake this morning triggered an alert for a 5-meter tsunami for Iwate prefecture that didn’t materialize.

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