Could a new city and a mile-high tower prevent natural disasters in Tokyo?

Next Tokyo. Image: Kohn Pederson Fox Associates.

Tokyo is a low-lying city with a long stretch of coastline, due to the shape of Tokyo Bay. This means that, thanks to climate change and its accompanying typhoons, earthquakes and floods, parts of  the city could be in trouble in coming years.

So architects and engineers have been coming up with ways solutions to these future crisis. The solutions which immediately spring to mind include flood barriers, or even trying to raise the ground level at the city's edges.

But one group has come forward with a slightly more complex plan: build an entirely new city on reclaimed islands in the bay to defend against floods. 

If that weren't complex enough, the proposal, dubbed Next Tokyo, would include a mile high skyscraper to house half a million residents, which, in order to supply the upper floors with water, would harvest moisture from the clouds. Oh, and it would also contain cable-free elevators which go sideways as well as up and down. Simple. 

The city's transport needs would be served by a hyperloop: a transport system which fires pods around a closed loop, developed Elon Musk, which, at time of writing, still just a concept.

The proposal, Next Tokyo 2045, comes jointly from Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, an architecture firm, and Leslie E Robertson Associates, a structural engineering firm. Here's a rendering of the city:

The city would stretch across Tokyo bay in a series of hexagonal configurations in order to act as an ocean barrier: 

It would also be part of a larger land reclamation effort, to be carried out over time throughout the bay (the different colours indicate different phases of reclamation):

The idea was submitted as a research paper to the Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat in 2015, and isn't likely to become an immediate reality: unsurprising, given that it contains phrases like "cloud harvesting as a water source". But given that many major cities are on the water, and the water levels are going to continue to rise, we need as many suggestions as we can get. 


All images: Kohn Pederson Fox Associates.

 
 
 
 

What’s in the government’s new rail strategy?

A train in the snow at Gidea Park station, east London, 2003. Image: Getty.

The UK government has published its new Strategic Vision for Rail, setting out policy on what the rail network should look like and how it is to be managed. 

The most eye-catching part of the announcement concerns plans to add new lines to the network. Citing the Campaign for Better Transport’s Expanding the Railways report, the vision highlights the role that new and reopened rail lines could play in expanding labour markets, supporting housing growth, tackling road congestion and other many other benefits.

Everyone loves a good reopening project and this ‘Beeching in reverse’ was eagerly seized on by the media. Strong, long-standing reopening campaigns like Ashington, Blyth and Tyne, Wisbech and Okehampton were name checked and will hopefully be among the first to benefit from the change in policy. 

We’ve long called for this change and are happy to welcome it. The trouble is, on its own this doesn’t get us very much further forward. The main things that stop even good schemes reaching fruition are still currently in place. Over-reliance on hard-pushed local authorities to shoulder risk in initial project development; lack of central government funding; and the labyrinthine, inflexible and extortionately expensive planning process all still need reform. That may be coming and we will be campaigning for another announcement – the Rail Upgrade Plan – to tackle those problems head-on. 

Reopenings were the most passenger-friendly part of the Vision announcement. But while sepia images of long closed rail lines were filling the news, the more significant element of the Strategic Vision actually concerns franchising reform – and here passenger input continues to be notable mainly by its absence. 

Whatever you think of franchising, it is clear the existing model faces major risks which will be worsened if there is a fall in passenger numbers or a slowdown in the wider economy. Our thought leadership programme recently set out new thinking involving different franchise models operating in different areas of the country.

The East-West Link: one of the proposed reopenings. Image: National Rail.

Positively, it seems we are heading in this direction. In operational terms, Chris Grayling’s long-held ambition for integrated management of tracks and trains became clearer with plans for much closer working between Network Rail and train operators. To a degree, the proof of the pudding will in the eating. Will the new arrangements mean fewer delays and better targeted investment? These things most certainly benefit passengers, but they need to be achieved by giving people a direct input into decisions that their fares increasingly pay for. 

The government also announced a consultation on splitting the Great Western franchise into two smaller and more manageable units, but the biggest test of the new set-up is likely to be with the East Coast franchise. Alongside the announcement of the Strategic Vision came confirmation that the current East Coast franchise is being cut short.

Rumours have been circulating for some time that East Coast was in trouble again after 2009’s contract default. The current franchise will now end in 2020 and be replaced with public-private affair involving Network Rail.


This new management model is an ideal opportunity to give passengers and communities more involvement in the railway. We will be pushing for these groups to be given a direct say in service and investment decisions, and not just through a one-off paper consultation.

Elsewhere in the Strategic Vision, there are warm words and repeated commitments to things that do matter to passenger. Ticketing reform, compensation, a new rail ombudsman, investment in improved disabled access and much else. This is all welcome and important, but is overshadowed by the problems facing franchising.

Stability and efficiency are vital – but so too is a model which offers deeper involvement and influence for passengers. With the building blocks of change now in place, the challenge for both the government and rail industry is to deliver such a vision. 

Andrew Allen is research & consultancy coordinator of the Campaign for Better Transport. This article was originally published on the campaign’s blog.

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