Lesson learned from Japan Rail Construction and Land Use Development Models

The built environment is not just the physical backdrop of human activity; it is the stage upon which the drama of urban life unfolds. At its heart lies the transportation infrastructure, with railways standing as pillars of connectivity and drivers of urban development. On 14 September 2023, SEGi University was privileged to host Professor Fumio Kurosaki from Toyo University, Japan, for an enlightening industrial talk. Professor Kurosaki’s presentation focused on ‘Japan Rail Construction and Land Use Development in Japan,’ offering profound insights and valuable lessons for the Malaysian rail system.

Comparison of Railway Systems

Professor Kurosaki’s presentation initiated a comparative analysis between Tokyo’s sophisticated urban railway network and Malaysia’s evolving rail landscape. Tokyo, a bustling metropolis of 13 million inhabitants, boasts an intricate network comprising Japan Rail (JR), Metro, and Private Railways, with over 1,200 km of tracks crisscrossing the city. In stark contrast, Malaysia, with a population of 32 million and Kuala Lumpur as its pulsating heart with 1.72 million residents, operates a mix of transportation modes, including the Electric Train Service (ETS), urban Light Rail Transit (LRT), Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), and KTM Komuter lines. This disparity underscores the imperative for Malaysia to glean insights from Japan’s rich tapestry of railway development and its integration with urban planning.

Japan’s Railway Success Story

Japan’s journey in railway development unfolds in three distinct stages, each offering invaluable insights for Malaysian stakeholders:

Stage 1 – The Kobayashi Ichizo Model: During periods of explosive population growth and urbanisation, Japan’s railways emerged as lifelines, expanding transportation networks and fuelling economic dynamism. Coordinated efforts between railway infrastructure development and regional land use planning were pivotal. Private railway companies spearheaded the construction of suburban rail networks, catalysing transit-oriented development (TOD) and maximising land values along railway corridors. This symbiotic relationship between railway construction and land use development fostered a vibrant tapestry of economic activities, including real estate development, commercial enterprises, and residential enclaves.

Stage 2 – The Integrated Development Model: As Japan’s population growth stabilised, private railway companies encountered formidable financial challenges stemming from escalating costs and risks. In response, integrated development laws were enacted to align railway planning with regional development objectives. Public-led initiatives facilitated land readjustment and provided essential financial support to sustain railway operations and land development initiatives. The regional government, as proactive shareholders in railway construction projects, reaped dividends and augmented real estate tax revenue, amplifying the benefits of integrated development.

Stage 3 – The Compact + Network Concept: Amidst shifting demographics and evolving urban dynamics, Japan faced the imperative of sustaining railway operations amidst the sprawl of urban landscapes and changing travel preferences. Public financial support emerged as a linchpin for promoting integrated development and bolstering unprofitable railway lines. The concept of compact cities and network integration gained traction, underscoring the importance of coordinated transport and urban planning strategies. Vertical separation between public infrastructure and railway operations, financed by public funds derived from land value increments and tax revenue, became indispensable for sustaining growth and efficiency.

Key Lessons and Collaborative Initiatives

The sagacity distilled from Japan’s railway success story underscores the criticality of collaboration among diverse stakeholders in Malaysia. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) involving railway operators, governmental bodies, real estate developers, and financial institutions serve as linchpins for driving economic vibrancy and sustainable development. Strategic focal points such as the development of transportation hubs like KL-KLIA and Seremban or the seamless connectivity between Singapore, Johor Baru, and Malacca necessitate bespoke adaptations of existing models. Embracing innovative approaches and assimilating lessons from Japan’s experiences will be pivotal for Malaysia’s railway ecosystem to ascend to new echelons of efficiency and efficacy. 

Professor Kurosaki’s insightful exposition unveiled the intricate interplay between railway development and urban land use planning in Japan. Malaysian stakeholders stand to glean invaluable insights from Japan’s rich repository of experiences to steer the trajectory of the nation’s railway infrastructure. By fostering collaboration, embracing innovation, and charting bespoke adaptations, Malaysia can harness the transformative potential of its railway system to propel economic progress, enhance connectivity, and foster sustainable urban ecosystems that resonate with the aspirations of its populace.

About the Author:


Associate Professor, Quantity Surveying, Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment, & Information Technology, SEGi UniversityAssociate Professor Sr Ahmad Faris Omar is a distinguished academician and seasoned professional in Quantity Surveying, boasting over three decades of experience. Holding the designations of Associate Professor and Chartered Surveyor/Registered Surveyor (Sr), he has garnered accolades for his expertise and leadership. With esteemed certifications including FRISM, MRICS, and BQSM, Sr Ahmd Faris exemplifies a commitment to excellence in Quantity Surveying. His academic journey includes a BSc from Heriot-Watt University, UK, and an MSc from UCL, UK, underscoring his expertise in the built environment. Prior to SEGi University, he served as a lecturer at UITM for 15 years, holding leadership roles such as Deputy Director and Head of Asset Management. At SEGi, he contributes significantly, ensuring program accreditation and mentoring staff and students towards professional accreditation. His research interests encompass Built Environment, Sustainable Development, Contract and Project Management, and Risk & Value Management, with numerous publications in prestigious journals. Sr Ahmad Faris’ unwavering dedication continues to make a profound impact, advancing Quantity Surveying and nurturing future leaders in the field.


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