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Elevator at Roppongi subway station, Japan's deepest, out of service for 2 months

The elevator at Tokyo's Roppongi subway station, which is out of service, is seen on Jan. 24, 2023. (Mainichi/Shinji Kurokawa)

TOKYO -- An elevator at Roppongi subway station in Tokyo, the deepest in Japan's underground railway network, is set to remain out of service for over two months due to a delay in procuring components, causing confusion among users.

    The elevator at the station on the Toei Oedo Line has been out of service for more than one month due to a mechanical failure. This is due to a delay in procuring supplies because the overseas maker that shipped components withdrew from Japan. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Bureau of Transportation revealed on Feb. 6 that it plans to resume services at the end of February. While users have voiced confusion, an expert has suggested that the Tokyo government lacked preparedness for this risk.

    The No. 2 elevator connecting the station's B1 and B5 floors broke down on the night of Dec. 17, 2022. It had shown no sign of abnormalities during a regular inspection carried out just eight days before.

    An investigation by Toshiba Elevator and Building Systems Corp., which is entrusted with maintenance and management, detected an abnormality in the driving gear and concluded that it was necessary to replace components. However, the manufacturer Kone Corp. is based in Finland, and because the company has already withdrawn from Japan, the components could not be procured.

    As an emergency measure, the transportation bureau swapped components of the No. 3 elevator, which travels between the B5 and B7 floors, and those of the No. 2 elevator. As a result, the No. 3 elevator, which connects the floors with the Shinjuku and Hikarigaoka-bound platform and the Monzen-nakacho and Kuramae-bound platform, has been out of service since Dec. 23.

    Roppongi Station lies some 42 meters below ground level at its deepest point. The approximately 60,000 passengers per day who use the station have to use escalators and stairs to go between the B7 and B5 floors.

    Among those who had to grapple with the situation recently were a 33-year-old man from the city of Tochigi and his wife, who visited Roppongi to go shopping with their three young children, only to discover that the elevator wasn't working. The man held his baby son, while his wife pushed a stroller carrying their 3-year-old child with baggage also hanging from it. Their 6-year-old was also with them. The man said it was dangerous for them to have to fold up the stroller and get on the escalator with their young children, and said he wished for more consideration toward people needing elevators.

    Elevators made by Kone Corp. at other stations have already been updated to other companies' products. When the Tokyo government installed the Kone Corp. elevators, it did not check whether they were set up elsewhere within the country. It says that it currently uses elevators of businesses with a track record in Japan.

    Toyo University professor Yuji Nemoto, who is familiar with deterioration in infrastructure, pointed out, "The expected life of metal equipment is short. If the Tokyo government didn't make thorough plans for the exchange of components, then its measures were insufficient." He added, "The government should inspect whether businesses can respond to future risks, rather than just conducting technical inspections of equipment, at the contract and bidding stages, and deal with the situation if countermeasures are insufficient."

    (Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa, Tokyo City News Department)

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