Japan’s trains are world-famous for their punctuality, but that doesn’t mean they always run with perfect precision. Sometimes mistakes happen, and West Japan Railways (also known as JR West) screwed up badly enough last Friday that the company felt an official apology and press release were in order.
According to the press release, on the morning of May 11, a train at Notogawa Station in Shiga Prefecture, part of the Biwako Line, mistakenly pulled away from the platform at 7:11:35 a.m. If you think it’s a little strange to see the time written like that, rest assured that it’s not the normal way of doing things in Japan, but JR West felt it necessary in order to fully disclose the damage, as the train left 25 seconds earlier than its scheduled time of 7:12.
In its press release, JR West solemnly stated: “The great inconvenience we placed upon our customers was truly inexcusable.”
The trouble started when the conductor of the train (an express that makes its final stop at Nishi Akashi Station in Hyogo Prefecture at 9:14) mistakenly thought it was supposed to leave at 7:11, and so closed the doors of the 12-car train at that time. Realizing his mistake almost immediately, he looked down the platform, didn’t notice anyone standing there, and so decided to just go ahead and leave 25 seconds early rather than reopen the doors and have to shut them again (a process that might have ended up making the train depart later than 7:12 exactly).
However, it turned out there actually were a few people on the platform who’d been hoping to board the train, and when the conductor didn’t notice them and decided to leave, they got left behind. One of them told a station attendant that the train had left early, and when word got to JR West headquarters, the official apology was issued.
25 seconds may not seem like anything to complain about, but this happened on a Friday morning, when most passengers are people on their way to the office or school (much like with the similar incident/apology that occurred with a Tokyo rail company last fall). The next scheduled train, leaving Notogawa at 7:19, arrives at the end of the line at Nishi Akashi at 9:20, six minutes after the 7:12 train. Being six minutes late is enough to get you in trouble in with bosses and teachers in Japan, and those who missed a transfer because they couldn’t take the 7:12 would be even later reaching their destination.
“We will be thoroughly evaluating our conduct and striving to keep such an incident from occurring again,” JR West said in a follow-up, proving once again that in Japan, customer service standards, from both the company’s and the customers’ perspective, are to be taken very seriously.
Sources: JR West, Asahi Shimbun Digital via Hachima Kiko
Read more stories from SoraNews24.
-- The train station that stayed open for a single school girl finally closes down
-- Woman kills self jumping onto train tracks, delay causes conductor to jump off tracks at other station
-- Drunken salaryman’s solution to barely missing the last train: Ride on the outside of it© SoraNews24
Login to comment
Truly inexcusable. Not quite worthy of seppuku but almost.
Fox Sora Winters
If only trains in Britain could be like this. You're lucky to have the train show up within a month of its scheduled time out here. Leaving 25 seconds early is beyond comprehension. Though I have to admit, I'm quite amazed that there were people who were left behind because of that. 25 seconds... talk about a close shave kind of deal.
Happend to me about 10 years ago in the UK. It was on a Saturday and there was really no one around. I came rushing onto the platform with 30 seconds to spare to see the train trundling towards me. The driver gave an apologetic shrug as he flew past. He obviously made a judgement that no one else was coming.
It is also UK policy for doors to shut up to 30 seconds before the departure time to ensure on time departure.
The British rail companies think that there doing a good job, well i would like to see all of the staff and management go to Japan for a week and see, realise what a good service is/should be, and they would return home realising what a shoddy out dated outfit we run here.
Foreign press picks the story up:
The definition of a humble brag.
Yeah, well the Shonan Shijuku line cancelled my last train from Shibuya this past Saturday. No apologies forthcoming. That first sentence in the story makes me want to throw up. Publicity look-at-how-great-we-are hogs.
Dumb comment. It's a fact that punctuality in public transport is great in Japan. Don't show annoyance after spending money on a cab :)
Any fool can leave early. The difficulty is arriving on time.
Successive UK Governments have botched the railways, and underinvested in infrastructure. The Country is grinding to a halt. Japan on the other hand, is efficient, but lacks people....
Perhaps people from the UK should Brexit here instead ?
Fox Sora Winters
Many trains in Britain leave early. It just doesn't get reported at all since it doesn't fit the 'British trains are always late' narrative that constantly gets pushed.