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Osaka Station Updates – May, 2023

During the last decade, JR West has managed to remove a freight yard, sink the Umeda freight line, build new platforms and connect these platforms internally to Osaka Station. They've even implemented an AI Face Detection gate so you don't have to tap.

The Umeda area had been slated for redevelopment for quite a while, but the heavily-used freight yard and rail line had to be removed. After Suita was upgraded to cope with the freight that was handled in Umeda, the yard could be removed, but the line could not. The line was still used by limited express trains to the airport and Wakayama.

Instead of removing the line, the plan was to sink it and create a separate station, known as Ume-Kita (North Umeda), underground. At some point during the planning, the idea changed and it was decided that the underground platforms and rail alignment should be moved close enough to Osaka Station, to become a single entity. Making this change to the design was honestly a perfect idea and well-needed for anyone transiting around Kansai.

Umeda Freight Yard

The Umeda freight line runs direct between Shin-Osaka Station and Fukushima Station. Umeda Freight Yard used to be in the middle of this, directly north-west of Osaka Station. The Umeda Freight Line was also used by the Kuroshio and Airport Limited Express trains, with the only stops in central-Osaka being at Tennoji and Shin-Osaka Stations. The latter, although great for transferring to the Shinkansen, wasn't optimal for anyone wanting to get into the northern area of the Osaka loop line.

Here's what the area used to look like back in 2009/2010 when the freight yard was operational. The Umeda freight line is on the far side, running down the edge of the yard, with Osaka Station in the bottom-right of the image.

It was a pretty magical area with the limited express trains bolting between the freight (more photos here)... but that's all history as Suita was extended to cope with the freight capacity removed here.

New Construction

Without depairing too much, the new design is perfect for both passengers and freight nerds! First there's the ability to ride the Higashi Osaka Line from Osaka station and secondly the freight to-and-from Ajikawaguchi still runs... actually, there are now more freight trains than ever. Even better, due to the sinking of the line, the incline required to enter/exit the underground station platforms has required freight trains occasionally have a banker loco on the rear!

To check it all out, I first took a Osaka East Line service from Shin-Osaka to Osaka Station. These services used to terminate at Osaka Station, but now travel along the Umeda freight line and terminate at the new platforms.

From the Nakatsu area, the rail starts to descend into the station. It's two tracks on this side of the platforms, but each split into two, forming two island platforms with rails either side. Only the platform closest to the main Osaka Station building has a full glass platform wall. I assume they're getting around to installing these on the other platforms. Thankfully they weren't installed yet on the Shin-Osaka bound side!

As that all of the limited express trains stop, and the locals terminate, any 'passes' showing on the board will be freight!

As mentioned above, the Kuroshio bound for Shin-Osaka was to come through first. I was hoping forthe dolphin, but got a newer set instead...

And then it was freight time!

Excuse the lighting... here's a video instead.

And another...

And the dolphin!

And that was what. I never managed to get down there when there was a banker engine attached.

Checking the area out on-foot

A few days later I decided to take the subway to Nakatsu Station and check out the area on foot. Something became very apparent (and it's happening in Melbourne too): as soom as a railway is sunken into the ground, the area around the tracks becomes inaccessible. Sure, it's the same around the inclines/declines for elevated rail, but once the rail is in the air then there's space underneath to do things with. I suppose, this is also true if you cover the rails... but in Melbourne they haven't.

Fortunately, everything is still under construction, meaning that they'll hopefully add better access to allow crossing the railway line. Also fortunate is that this area was always a ground-level freight yard and was never cross-able.

There's still quite a bit of infrastructure to remove... and you can see they've quickly hacked away other things. Meanwhile, here's a great comparison. Here's what the Hankyu overpass looks like now:

Compared to 2009/2010:

There are two buildings that match in that shot, the rest are demolished (in the old) or brand new (in the new.) Anyway, I kept dawdling around...

And of course, everywhere needs art... including the new entrance to the new platforms from the above-ground.

It was actually drawing quite a crowd.

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