New Monorails Arriving in 2020 at Tokyo Disneyland

In Spring 2020, new Type C monorails will begin operations on the Disney Resort Line, servicing Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea, JR Maihama Station, and the third party hotels at Bayside Station, like the Sheraton and Hilton Tokyo Bay. In this post, we’ll share monorail concept art, info about the design, and why Japan is getting new monorails again while Walt Disney World gets…crickets. 

Tokyo Disney Resort’s current monorail fleet has been in service since shortly before DisneySea opened in 2001, and these new monorail trains will be rolled out between Spring 2020 and the end of the 2024 fiscal year. Once fully introduced, there will be a total of 5 new trains, with 6 cars in each.

The new Type C (or 100 Series) monorails will replace the current 10 Series monorails. Hitachi was the manufacturer of the original Disney Resort Line in Japan, and it would stand to reason they’ll be providing the replacements given the design similarities. (Although that detail has not been confirmed by Disney or OLC.) Before you get excited about Walt Disney World “inheriting” Tokyo’s existing fleet, it’s worth noting that these trains are incompatible with WDW’s monorail infrastructure…

There are a lot of similarities between Tokyo Disney Resort’s old and new monorails. The main distinction on the exterior (pictured at the top of the post) is the colored stripe will two waves rather than one, like the current monorails.

The Mickey Mouse-shaped windows will also increase in size to provide greater visibility–perfect for construction photos of Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea!

On the inside, the development concept goal for the new monorails is providing a more “comfortable moving space.” Both the height and width of the interior space will be increased, and the seat shape is changing into a longer seat to maximize usable space.

Additionally, the Mickey Mouse-shaped straps for standing passengers have been adjusted to fit three different levels, so guests of all heights can reach them. The lighting will also be switched to indirect LED to provide a warmer and more welcoming environment. (This will be nice after a long night in the parks–the old lighting was a bit harsh.)

The redesign of the interior will free up space for wheelchairs and strollers, and there will be more standing space in the middle cars of each train. This is expected to expedite the boarding speed, and also increase capacity of each monorail train.

Increasing capacity and efficiency is an obvious goal of this project, especially as Tokyo Disney Resort anticipates an influx of guests next year for the Beauty and the Beast expansion, followed by a surge from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, followed by yet another for Fantasy Springs.

Tokyo Disney Resort’s monorails run only a few minutes apart at peak times, and already they can come close to fully filling up. (And this is even as most locals walk from JR Maihama Station to Tokyo Disneyland.)

Designing for the anticipated increase in crowds is a smart move here that should help “future-proof” the Disney Resort Liner, even as attendance grows and more hotels that will utilize Bayside Station open.

We are huge fans of Tokyo’s Disney Resort Line. The renderings of the new monorails look nice, although it’s unlikely anything will ever match the Kawaii-tacular Duffy Monorail from a few years ago (just take a look at these photos!).

It’s also worth noting that, pursuant to laws governing public transportation in Japan, fares are charged on the monorail. Single use tickets are around $2.50, while 4-day unlimited passes cost roughly $13 per adult.

That’s a pretty nominal added cost, especially if you’ve booked a monorail loop hotel like the Hilton or Sheraton for ~$160/night. (Unrelated heads up: there’s currently a 40% off Hilton flash sale for Japan, Korea & Guam that includes Hilton Tokyo Bay–we actually just booked it for $123/night!)

For guests of the official Disney hotels, the cost of monorail fare is baked into the hotel rate…just as it is at Walt Disney World. Either way, we’re perfectly willing to pay–indirectly or directly–for monorails that are safe, reliable, and nice.

As Tokyo Disney Resort replaces its well-maintained and reliable monorail fleet that’s now 18 years old, it’s logical to ask when Walt Disney World will update its monorails. Florida’s fleet has been in use since 1989, are now 30 years old, and break down for extended periods so frequently now that it’s become a non-story when they do.

You might recall that last year, rumors surfaced that Walt Disney World was in negotiations with Bombardier to purchase a new monorail fleet. Nothing ever came of that, and these rumors have subsequently fizzled out. Irrespective of that, Walt Disney World either must replace the current monorail fleet or retire the monorails at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Running this fleet indefinitely risks further incidents, which could expose the company to negative PR or worse. Walt Disney World’s monorails have become increasingly unreliable in recent years, to the point that if we have an ADR or are otherwise tight on time, we typically avoid them due to fears of a breakdown or delay.

This is really unfortunate, as longtime Walt Disney World fans likely remember a time when the monorail was nice and efficient. Likewise, those who have visited Tokyo Disney Resort in recent years no doubt have witnessed firsthand what that is still like, with monorails that run on time, don’t randomly break down, etc. (And keep in mind, these exceptional monorails are what’s being replaced in Japan!)

In fairness to Walt Disney World, the differences between the two resorts monorail systems are largely reflective of cultural attitudes towards mass transportation. Americans are comfortable with crumbling or non-existent mass transit infrastructure, and many efforts to improve public transportation have been undermined.

By contrast, public transportation is the lifeblood of Japan, and there’s great national pride in these systems. From numerous railway museums (we’ve been to several and rank them here) to significant investments in bleeding edge technology to public apologies for “truly inexcusable” inconveniences caused by departing 25 seconds early, the Japanese have astronomically high standards for their public transportation.

Those two fundamentally different ways of thinking about public transportation are reflected at their respective Disney resorts. On one hand, the resort in more urgent “need” of a monorail replacement is obviously Walt Disney World. On the other hand, Japan is also the place that is in the midst of supplanting its existing Shinkansen (bullet trains) with even faster levitating trains propelled by superconducting magnets. I wouldn’t have guessed the Disney Resort Line monorails “needed” upgrading, but it’s good to see guests and Oriental Land Company holding Tokyo Disney Resort to high standards!

If you’re thinking of visiting Japan for the first time and are overwhelmed with planning, definitely check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Planning Guide. It covers much more than the parks, from getting there to WiFi to currency and much, much more. For more photos and an idea of what we did day-by-day during our first visit, read our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report.

Your Thoughts

Have you experienced the Disney Resort Line in Japan? Did you think these monorails “needed” to be replaced? How do they compare to the Walt Disney World monorail for you? Think it’s time WDW guests held the monorail to a higher standard? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of this news? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!


33 Responses to “New Monorails Arriving in 2020 at Tokyo Disneyland”
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