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News Japan's Transport Ministry eyes conveyor belt between Tokyo and Osaka


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Is it a bureaucratic pipe dream? An expert panel from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has suggested creating automated logistics routes on median strips or through underground tunnels along expressways. Discussions on this new system began in February. The ministry aims to complete the project, potentially between Tokyo and Osaka, by 2034. With the rise of online shopping, small parcel deliveries have doubled over the past 30 years. By 2030, labour shortages may result in about 30% of packages not being delivered.

Tokyo-Osaka conveyor belt

Photo credit: Daily Yomiuri

The number of small parcel deliveries has doubled in the last 30 years amid the spread of online shopping. By the year 2030, it is estimated that about 30% of packages will not see delivery due to labour shortages. The panel estimates that automated logistics highways could cover the cargo carried by the equivalent of 25,000 truck drivers per day. Pallets that can carry up to a ton of small-sized cargo, such as agricultural and marine products and daily necessities, would be used. The biggest challenge is cost. According to a survey of construction companies, the cost of building an underground tunnel ranges from JPY 7 billion to ¥80 billion per 10 kilometres, so a system linking Tokyo and Osaka would cost up to JPY 3.7 trillion. When the ministry in 2000 first planned logistics links above ground, it estimated construction costs of JPY 25.4 billion per 10 kilometres. The outline calls for discussions on using the private sector to fund the project, along with creating an organization to allow a wide range of companies to participate in the scheme.

sounds way too expensive to build and maintain vs gains but I am not an expert. Using existing rail seems better heck even having freight shinkansen is probably cheaper. Rail due to the regularity and defined routes and schedules seems easier to automate than self driving cars so I expect that to spread as well so automated trains just seems cheaper than new underground tunnels for a conveyor belt.
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