The face of airport travel will change next month in Japan (July 17 to be exact) with the complete upgrade of the Keisei Railway SKYLINER train service. Once a ride that took 51 minutes from Narita Airport to Tokyo, new trains with a top speed of 160 km/h (100 miles per hour) traveling over new and refurbished track over a more direct route (when will this run-on sentence end) will make the nonstop run from the Airport to Tokyo’s Nippori station in only 36 minutes. The overall travel time from end to end is less than 45 minutes.
The new Skyliner service will better compete with the Narita Express service offered by Japan Railways. Skyliner trains will now be the outright fastest trains operating into the Tokyo area, while Narita Express trains will continue to offer direct one-seat train rides to the bullet trains and to most of Tokyo’s major train stations.
With one month or so to go before the start of this new train service, and with the information about the train trips available, I offer my suggestions on how to tackle the new Skyliner service… as well as provide information about the new line the Skyliner will travel on, and how it will cause direct competition with another major transit route out of Narita.
I’ll be focusing only on the services operated by Keisei Railway, a private railway operator, out of Narita Airport. I’m sure that there are other places in my blog where I talk about the JR airport trains…. Ahh, here it is!
With the introduction of new SKYLINER services comes another train route into/out of Narita Airport: The Narita Sky Access Line. This means Keisei will run their trains on TWO lines to/from the airport: The Sky Access, along with the existing Keisei Main Line. The new Sky Access train uses most of the Hokuso Railway which runs in the most direct path from Tokyo to Narita Airport; the Keisei Main Line is a less direct path, and the JR lines basically take a path that doglegs in Chiba city. The new segment of track, which extends from the end of the Hokuso Line into Narita Airport, completes the Sky Access Line.
The Sky Access Line and Keisei Line operate on TWO different fare tables, with the Sky Access being the more expensive one. To enforce the separate fares, the platforms at Narita Airport’s two train stations (Narita Airport station for Terminal 1, Airport Terminal 2 station for Terminal 2) are being segregated – so one part of the station will be for Sky Access trains (Skyliner included) and the other will be for regular Keisei Main Line trains. Upon entering the train system at the airport, you will pass through a ticket barrier. If you are going to Sky Access you then proceed down to the platform, otherwise you must go through ANOTHER ticket barrier in order to access the Keisei Main Line trains.
The comfortable, fast, all-reserved Skyliner trains cost 2400 yen per person, and only operates from the Airport to Nippori and Ueno stations with no intermediate stops. At Nippori there is an easy connection to the JR Yamanote Loop Line… a better connection at that, now that the platforms at Nippori station have been completely rehabilitated. Keisei’s station at Ueno is separate from the JR Ueno station but you can still access two subway lines (including the Ginza Line) with relative ease.
If you are on a budget and want to sacrifice speed for money in the wallet, then you should use a commuter train. During the morning and afternoon hours, Keisei Main Line trains depart for Nippori and Ueno stations every 20 minutes. In the same timeframe, Sky Access commuter trains, known as ACCESS EXPRESS (Tokkyu) trains, depart every 40 minutes and run into the subway. During the morning and afternoon hours, the best way to reach Nippori or Ueno by commuter train is to use the Keisei Main Line. Commuter trains take about 80 minutes to cover the journey at a cost of 1000 yen. The reason is that Access Tokkyu trains are infrequent for the most part, plus you’ll have to end up changing trains anyway at a station like Aoto for a train that will bring you to Nippori and Ueno.
When it gets to the evening hours, then ACCESS EXPRESS trains start to make direct runs into Nippori and Ueno. The fare structure is higher, so a one-way trip would cost 1200 yen. But at the same time it’s easier, since it is just a one-seat ride – not to mention the ride is one hour, too.
ACCESS EXPRESS trains, upon reaching the subway, are the best way to reach the Asakusa and Nihombashi districts of Tokyo… Ginza is also close by changing trains at Nihombashi.
If there is one more secret about the ACCESS EXPRESS trains, it’s that the trains can operate directly from Narita Aiprort (Tokyo’s International Airport) to Haneda Airport (Tokyo’s Domestic Airport closer to the city center) multiple times a day. The fact that this service exists may give Airport Limousine buses a run for their money. If you’re willing to carry your own luggage on the train and brave the crowds, it is possible to reach Haneda from Narita in 1 hour, 45 minutes at a cost of only 1760 yen. This compares with approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes and 3000 yen by airport limousine bus. Limousine buses are prone to traffic…. so a train trip from Narita to Haneda is now a viable, and perhaps a quite logical, option.
There are a few more options that you COULD consider depending on the time of day, so I encourage you to visit Keisei’s revamped Skyliner home page for more details. The Wikitravel Narita page will also be updated with information once July comes around.
Have fun landing at Narita, weaving through the ticket barriers, and enjoying the Land of the Rising Sun!