Japan's Yamanote Line to be paper-ad free

This file pictures taken on June 24, 2005 shows the Shinkansen bullet train "Fastech 360S", during its unveiling by East Japan Railway (JR East), the largest rail operator in Japan, at JR East's rail yard in Miyagi prefecture.

New train cars will be introduced on the Yamanote Line for the first time in 13 years next autumn.

The exterior green colour remains, but the interior will change markedly. One change is the installation of large LCD monitors to replace paper ads hanging from the ceilings.

But the question remains whether these monitors will find fans among a rocking car full of commuters.

Beginning with operations next year, East Japan Railway Co. is currently considering the introduction of the new cars in all Yamanote Line services.

Creating more space

The paper ads are being replaced to increase the feeling of space inside the cars, according to the railway operator. In the current Yamanote line cars, in addition to the paper ads, 15 inch LCD monitors are installed above the doors, playing commercials, news, and other programmes.

In the new cars, three 21 inch LCD monitors will be placed above the windows on each side of the cars, in addition to the 15 inch monitors above the doors. The result will be an increase from 16 monitors to 30 monitors or more per car. Elimination of all paper ads will also end the need to replace them manually. The train operator said it aimed "to pursue an open design wherever passengers look in the carriage."

Ad publisher concerned

The new monitors can show both videos and still images, including TV commercials, which has the advantage of reducing production costs for advertisers.

Currently, according to an advertising company in Tokyo that handles paper ads used on trains, digital advertising on monitors in trains remains a minority, with paper ads accounting for over 80 per cent of all ads.

While a JR East official says, "The LCD monitors can handle both videos and still images, and gives us a lot of display options," a Tokyo publisher of train ads that does not make TV commercials is concerned. "It's all well and good for fashion magazines, for example, to produce videos, but how can we make effective videos to advertise weekly magazines?"

Priority seats to be red

The new cars are expected to become the main model operated during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, so one of their special features is being more accommodating to foreign tourists, whose numbers are expected to increase. All the cars feature more free space to allow passengers to bring large suitcases and baby strollers on board. The number of priority seats per train will also be increased from 60 to 88, and the colour of the seats will be changed to red to make them stand out.

The iconic green colour that has characterised the Yamanote Line will remain in the form of vertical lines at the doors instead of the current horizontal line along the train. Due to the introduction of platform doors, the bottom half of trains that feature the current horizontal line is often obstructed from view.

JR East will hold test runs of the new model from next spring, and begin putting the new cars in service in autumn. If the train operator decides to introduce the new cars in all its Yamanote Line services, the new models are expected to replace all the older cars within four to five years.

The cars will be named the "E235 series." The front of the train's first car has a large glass section reminiscent of a smart phone. The display showing the train's destinations has also been made larger, and will show text in full colour.