MONORAILS are becoming more commonly seen across the world, whether connecting passengers at airport terminals, or carrying commuters in cities such as Chiba, which is home to the world’s longest suspended monorail.
As more cities opted for trains running along a singular track or beam, the International Monorail Association (IMA) was founded in 2009 to represent people involved in building, operating or supplying the systems.
The IMA organises Monorailex, an annual conference in which about 50 members participate, and specialists from Thailand, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Greece and China are among those who have recently joined the association. Monorailex was held in Chiba, Japan, in November 2019 and one of the post-conference highlights was a dinner in a monorail carriage.
Chiba Convention Bureau met the IMA president at a trade show in America in 2014. The idea of holding Monorailex in Japan was attractive from day one, as the country has a large concentration of monorails, and Chiba’s monorail is a prime feature of Tokyo Bay.
IMA could not hold its next Monorailex held in Japan, but a positive step was taken when a delegation asked to attend the Mass-Trans Innovation Japan 2019 event in Chiba – the home of Urban Monorail. This event was considered the trigger in Chiba securing Monorailex and a site visit was arranged for December 2018.
An Edo-era village called Nipponia, the city’s monorail depot, Nihon University College of Industrial Technology, and the traditional Japanese garden of Mihama-en, which is on the Makuhari Messe convention precinct, were among the sites visited.
Chiba Convention Bureau also set up meetings between IMA, the organisers of Mass-Trans Innovation and a local PCO.
Hotels were on the same precinct as Makuhari Messe and the organisers learned that the language barrier was not an issue thanks to a growing awareness of the importance of inbound business tourism with local organisations and agencies able to deal with requests and inquiries using English.
With Japan’s main gateway, Narita International Airport, 30 minutes from Chiba by shuttle bus, and frequent Japan Rail services to the city centre, access for delegates was made easier.
It was agreed that the Monorailex would take place at Hotel the Manhattan, across from Makuhari Messe, just before Mass-Trans Innovation Japan 2019 opened at the larger venue.
While Mass-Trans organisers helped with custom declarations and transporting the equipment used for Monorailex, Chiba City, Chiba Urban Monorail, local enterprises and the convention bureau cooperated to provide a complimentary post-conference activity programme.
Under a “uniquely Chiba” theme, delegates visited the world’s longest monorail where they were briefed on its history and overall operation of the monorail including production, transportation and maintenance.
A “Skywalk Reception” followed the technical tour. From the depot, the group took a short walk to the nearest station to ride a chartered monorail carriage preloaded with entertainment and local food.
The reception lasted for about 90 minutes during which the group experienced cruising up in the air on a suspended train with music from a shamisenplayer and a magic show.
Monorailex organisers praised Chiba, describing “safety, logistics, accessibility, local transport, venue, accommodation, attractions, social activities, cleanliness” as excellent.
“Everybody we encountered through the conference were so polite and caring that everybody left with a sense of joy and appreciation,” respondents to a convention bureau questionnaire commented.
“After the conference, we received many compliments on how professional and considerate everybody was. The visit to Chiba Urban Monorail and subsequent train event was mentioned by almost all participants and we owed it to CCB and the Urban Monorail.”
EVENT: Monorailex 2019
BIG MOMENTS: ‘Skywalk’ reception in a travelling monorail carriage; visit to the depot of world’s longest monorail
VENUES: Hotel the Manhattan, Chiba; Makuhari Messe for Mass-Trans Innovation Japan event
DATES: November 24-27, 2019