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Shinkansen conductor caught playing GPS smartphone game on train…for 10 years

47 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

Safety is a top priority for Japanese railway companies, which means staff are required to be alert while on duty, particularly when working on the country’s high-speed bullet trains, which can cover distances at up to 320 kilometers per hour.

So it came as a surprise when news broke of a conductor playing a smartphone game while working on the shinkansen. And it came as a bigger surprise when it was revealed that it wasn’t a one-off occurrence either — in fact, it was something he’d been doing regularly for the past 10 years.

He may well have continued to get away with it as well, if it weren’t for an anonymous person posting a message on the Japan East Rail website that read: “It appears that someone like a shinkansen driver or conductor was playing a location-based game on Nov 6.”

The anonymous tip-off led JR East to investigate the matter, which resulted in the company finding a male conductor in his 40s playing a smartphone game while in the driver’s cabin on the Tokyo-bound Joetsu Shinkansen at 11:30 a.m. on Nov 6.

While the exact game or games the conductor was playing hasn’t been revealed, the Niigata branch of JR East has confirmed the type to be location-based. Upon questioning, the man said he started his onboard gaming habit during his shift about ten years ago, playing about 10-20 times per trip. As for why he was doing it while on board, the man said he was competing for the number of places visited and wanted to get more locations.

With each trip from Tokyo to Niigata being 269.5 kilometers long, the conductor would’ve been able to nab a lot of locations. That didn’t impress any commenters online, however, who said:

“He should take his job more seriously.”

“Customers won’t like it if rail staff can still get paid while playing games during work, especially when it costs so much to ride on the Shinkansen.”

“These days, everything is automated, including the onboard announcements, so incidents like this occur because staff don’t have anything to do.”

“I’d be annoyed if I saw a colleague doing this — I wonder if the whistleblower was another crew member.”

“Lately, there have been a lot of violent incidents on trains, so I’d prefer it if conductors patrolled the carriages more frequently.”

With all eyes now on rail companies to keep commuters safe, JR East Niigata made a formal announcement to the press about the onboard gaming incident, saying: “We prohibit the use of personal mobile phones etc. while on board, and are taking this matter seriously, providing staff with thorough instructions to prevent this event from happening again.”

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Niigata Sogo Television via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese train driver falls asleep while operating train

-- Shinkansen makes unscheduled stop as elderly man whacks other passenger in the head with phone

-- Shinkansen driver disciplined for taking poop break while train was going 150 kilometers an hour

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

47 Comments
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Ban Pokemon Go like Ueno park tried to do, they literally had "poke police" walking around checking if peopel were playing pokemon go

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Maybe he was trying to stay on schedule, Japanese are on time, not like us Americans

-15 ( +3 / -18 )

I am not surprise. No matter what job you do, there will always be moments when the employee need a few moments to play with their phone because of boredom or to relieve stress. We aren't machines. At least nothing happen during the 10 years he had been doing it. And trains had always been on time so at least he did his job. Hope he got off with a warning and they aren't firing him. He did work for them for many years.

14 ( +20 / -6 )

More automation will bring more instances like this.

Until the train becomes fully self driving

7 ( +9 / -2 )

It takes 10 years to resolve a problem in Japan. Simply wow!

3 ( +12 / -9 )

Lol I usually play games on my phone on Friday afternoons waiting for 6pm to roll around. Then again I'm not a conductor entrusted with the safety of passengers.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Two things: One is [ So what? ] He did his job and played a game for 10 years is talent. Two is that why would some [ passenger ] go to the length to complain to corporate about this? Give me a break. Mind your own business but that's what happens here in Japan. People wait for people to do something out of the box then jump to complain. This Shinkansen Conductor did nothing wrong in that he was so good at this job that he could sit back and relax to play a game. Good on him!

4 ( +11 / -7 )

why would some [ passenger ] go to the length to complain to corporate about this?

Because this is something that increases the risk of accidents, the passanger is well justified to report the conductor was distracted during the time the train is operating, in fact some kind of reward would be nice. Accidents happen sometimes precisely because people that noticed something was wrong never took the time to report it.

The driver is not paid to be talented at playing while on the job, but to ensure the safety of the passengers, not getting caught while doing something forbidden is not something to praise.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

I guess there are only a certain number of times one can say “Tickets, please!” And not get bored.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Oh look! Japan has had self driving trains longer than we thought :/

6 ( +8 / -2 )

And after yesterday’s much-hyped headline !?! : “JR East opens test run of autonomous bullet train to media“ - Nov. 18, 2021

https://japantoday.com/category/tech/jr-east-opens-test-run-of-autonomous-bullet-train-to-media#comment-2721889

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wondering if I should criticize the guy while I'm on my phone at work reading this

7 ( +7 / -0 )

National” pride? - Well, at least he wasn’t ‘caught with his pants down’, so to speak:

Shinkansen driver leaves controls for toilet while train running at 150kph” - May 21, 2021.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It takes 10 years to resolve a problem in Japan. Simply wow!

Great conclusion

1 ( +2 / -1 )

That's ridiculous they let him get away with it for 10 years.

A decade later they decide to take it seriously.

Bullet is not a suitable name for a train carrying passengers.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

A lot of airline pilots play games while on autopilot.

He's just a conductor, not an engineer, so what's the problem?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

If I'm the conductor I would probably fall asleep sometimes so so prevent it I'll probably stand up from time time and stretch or play a game or something on my phone

1 ( +3 / -2 )

That's ridiculous they let him get away with it for 10 years.

A decade later they decide to take it seriously.

Yep it was reported 10 years ago

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Customers won’t like it if rail staff can still get paid while playing games during work

Customers can sit on it. I had a friend that worked for JR, they get paid poverty wages. Maybe drivers get paid more, but I doubt it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Shinkansen conductor caught playing GPS smartphone game on train…for 10 years

That was one long game all right.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I could understand the issue if the complaint was about his performance as a conductor. Otherwise it is questionable what is better: sleepy zombie-like passengers-hating conductor or a motivated conductor doing his job extra well to have a spare minute to progress in his game.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

virusrexToday  08:30 am JST

The driver is not paid to be talented at playing while on the job, but to ensure the safety of the passengers, not getting caught while doing something forbidden is not something to praise.

Don't understand your point here, especially as the subject of the article is the conductor and not the driver.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I can suggest a location activity to keep this conductor on his toes, cleaning the toilets!

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

He is a conductor, not a train driver, relax people. The train drivers have both hands occupied on the same time, no time to use the phone.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Because this is something that increases the risk of accidents

What is your evidence that this increases the risk of accidents? Ten years with no incidents to prompt any kind of investigation kind of argues to the contrary, that the train remained perfectly safe.

Of course, this guy was the conductor, not the driver, so there is that.

But it also wouldn’t be an unreasonable hypothesis that some kind of game to keep the brain alert and attentive during what is usually a mindless, repetitive job might actually decrease accidents. Short distractions are proven to reduce brain fatigue.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@gogogo

Ban Pokemon Go

What is your problem with Pokemon Go ? Forgot your login so can not play ? Did not manage to catch Pikachu so got upset ?

That has nothing to do with the article. The conductor has been playing for around 10 years and game can be played at the speed of shinkansen.

I agree with the team 'so what'. For 10years, nobody ever noticed or feel need to say anything : meaning it was unnoticeable (like turning on phone and clicking in middle of screen which can actually be done without even taking your phone out of your pocket) or so insignificant that it could not be perceive as dangerous and potentially on part with any small distraction which actually help someone kept alertness in the long run as reducing low brain activities phases. It is even possible that his performance was better than other conductors which just end up spacing out for several minutes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Pretty nerdish game, ‘collecting places visited’, and he left an open trail, but I hope they give the guy a break.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

..and it took just 10 years to find out....what a amazing speed.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

10 years playing the same game?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Let’s focus on the work of the conductor in shinkansen. Between two stations that person will walk through the train, check if everything is right and if people are sitting in their designated seats and help passengers if they need something. Sometimes it takes almost 1h between stations and if he managed to do his duty completely I don’t see any issues if he played games in the meantime. He is not a driver. If he neglected his duties because of the games that would be a whole another story.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

He is employed as a conductor, and takes the remuneration to carry out a conductors role and responsibilities.

This is also a valued customer service role.

What was the fool thinking of?

He let down his fellow co-workers, and cast doubt on the future of the conductor role.

If he has been, allegedly consumed in GPS smartphone games, then what is the point of his role as a conductor?

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

And WHY am I not surprised?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

virusrexToday 08:30 am JST

why would some [ passenger ] go to the length to complain to corporate about this?

Because this is something that increases the risk of accidents, the passanger is well justified to report the conductor was distracted during the time the train is operating, in fact some kind of reward would be nice.

A reward ??

This is delation. What about if an airplane pilot watch his phone. The shinkansen is nearly all automatic and the driver tasks are reducing to a minimum. He has just to watch in front of him checking for animals on the track.

Wonder if you can avoid watching your phone while working

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@itsonlyrocknroll

takes the remuneration to carry out a conductors role and responsibilities

Nothing in the article said he did not.

He let down his fellow co-workers, and cast doubt on the future of the conductor role.

No, he do not. What casting doubt about the future of conductor role is the way society function and is going to evolve regarding employment.

If he has been, allegedly consumed in GPS smartphone games

Again nothing said he was consumed in his game. We do not even know what is the so called game.

then what is the point of his role as a conductor?

Higher up are thanking you for feeding and spreading the justification of the low and decreasing salary of bottom and middle range as they are not working hard enough.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What strikes me more about this whole thing is that it took 10 years. And judging by the playing time during the ride, it's even more astonishing. That it didn't come up during some random inspection, or any inspection at all... I reckon he's the only one who's going to have a problem from all this, but no one thinks to look at his employer anymore and how it could have gone unnoticed for so long.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Maybe he was trying to stay on schedule, Japanese are on time, not like us Americans

How about uni students? They're not always on time

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

With all eyes now on rail companies to keep commuters safe, JR East Niigata made a formal announcement to the press about the onboard gaming incident, saying: “We prohibit the use of personal mobile phones etc. while on board, and are taking this matter seriously, providing staff with thorough instructions to prevent this event from happening again.”

ah, the usual verbal warning. No apology for failing to detect it for 10 years or any real plan to prevent it from happening again in the future.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Flute, lets at least be realistic here, no employee, whether a board member or other-wise can clock-in at there work place and play games, surf the internet, browse YouTube when required to carry out the role they are paid and contracted to fulfill.

No ifs or buts, your employment contact states clear boundary's.

Many data centric business, analytics, secure financial trading and brokerage, insist on arrival all smartphones are handed in, then paired , with secure independent communications handsets.

Flute you know this.

Please don't pretend otherwise

1 ( +1 / -0 )

To clear up another point, I am "higher up", your words.

My business is successful because I value my employees contribution above my own.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@itsonlyrocknroll

Many data centric business, analytics, secure financial trading and brokerage, insist on arrival all smartphones are handed in, then paired , with secure independent communications handsets.

How does any of these job is on par with a conductor one ? Or even most job done by people ? You know most of these rules are for security.

He playing game did not mean he was not fulfilling his duty. He was not browsing or surfing anything. We are talking about a localisation game. Do you know these ?

If you have employee, you should be aware that during their workshift they are working at 100%, 100% of the time you neither. Sometimes people go to toilet, sometimes people drink, sometimes people talk to other people, sometimes people watch time, sometimes people brain just freeze for a few in order to protect itself, sometimes people daydream, sometimes people think about what they are going to eat, sometimes people think they need to go to the toilet then look at the time and calculate if that is worth going now or they better go a bit later, sometimes then they notice someone else is not at their desk so ask where they are and when told they are in the toilet decide they better to wait for the other one to come back, sometimes people go to pour a drink without noticing someone else is already doing it then end up waiting and when waiting end up discussing about their weekend, and so on ...

Everyday everybody in every workplace have times where are not in the boundary of their contract. It does not mean they are not carrying on their responsabilities, they are letting down their coworkers, they are casting doubt about the future of this line of work...

My business is successful because I value my employees contribution above my own.

No idea why it comes here ? Good for you if your company is successful. Perhaps you should value your contribution too, because said like this and in the context it could be interpreted in a way which could be different of the one you are expecting.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Was he bored at his job???.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The conductor's job is closer to the cabin attendant than the pilot on a plane. There isn't much safety or emergency aspects related to his day to day job.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The conductor's job is closer to the cabin attendant than the pilot on a plane. There isn't much safety or emergency aspects related to his day to day job.

On Shinkansen I believe the person operating the train is called the "Conductor". Look at this website and it shows a "Conductor" at the controls and mentions Conductors receiving training on driving with system failures. They don't have a separate "Operator" or "Engineer" as one finds on many US railroads.

https://www.tsunagujapan.com/3-secrets-behind-the-wonders-of-the-shinkansen-japanese-bullet-train/

Btw, watch the video of the cleaning crew. I had no idea the banks of seats rotated 180 degrees so the passengers are facing in the direction of travel when the train departs the last station in the opposite direction it arrived.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Then I see this and realize I am incorrect. Apologies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMHjVgqRYEk

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It makes little significance, whether a carpenter, care nurse, cook, caddy, circus catapult operator or in this case a train conductor.  

Now flute, chatting to the local JR train conductor this morning, quote

Conductors are primarily involved in the opening and closing of doors, visually checking for foreign objects on the tracks, operating the trains in emergency situations, passenger welfare.

His words, he also stated that if he was playing games on his smart phone, he would irresponsibly be putting his passengers at risk.

Moving on, your point on “comfort breaks”.  No business with there head on the right way up, would restrict employee having to visits the bathroom.

Likewise, conversing, appropriate banter, etc.

No employee can or should be expected perform their duties 100% of the time.

Owing to the fact that are human beings, not robots  

Contracts of employment are primarily in place to protect both the employee and the employer.

Setting clear standards, health and safety, hour of work attendance, remuneration. etc.

As for whether a person has to leave there work station, I think they are adult enough to be left to make that call themselves.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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