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Train conductor left behind by own train in Ibaraki countryside

18 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

With things like the shinkansen (bullet train) network and in-station AI drink-vending kiosks, it’s easy to fall into the assumption that every part of Japan’s rail network is high-tech. That image fades the further into the countryside you go, and in many rural areas you’ll find stations without a single employee at them.

That’s the situation at Shizu Station in Ibaraki Prefecture, on the Suigun Line. The small-town stop doesn’t see enough passengers on a daily basis to warrant a full-time attendant, so instead conductors have to pull double duty, hopping off the train while it’s stopped to take care of any necessary fare adjustments, passenger inquiries, or any other issues, then getting back on the train and heading to the next stop on the line.

At least that’s how the system is supposed to work. Last Sunday, though, things didn’t go so smoothly. At about 4:40 in the afternoon, a southbound train pulled into Shizu. The two-car train had two conductors, with the one riding at the back responsible for getting off and taking care of customers on the platform. When he’s done with that, he gives a signal to the driver at the front of the train, via the station’s speaker system that he’s reboarded the train and it can depart. On Sunday, though, for some reason the driver didn’t wait for the signal and just pulled out of the station at the scheduled time, leaving the rear conductor standing on the platform. It wasn’t until the train got to the next station, Urizura, and the rear conductor didn’t appear on the platform that the front conductor realized he’d left his coworker behind.

As you can probably guess, if you’re so far in the countryside that the stations are unmanned, trains don’t come by very often either. The next train wasn’t due to arrive until nearly 50 minutes later, so rather than wait for it, the abandoned conductor did the only other thing he could: he walked to Urizura Station.

▼ The road from Shizu to Urizura, complete with a train speeding away, like the conductor would have seen

Screen-Shot-2022-05-28-at-11.20.20.png

The train waited at Urizura while the conductor completed the 1.4-kilometer journey on foot. After arriving, he got right back to work, and after an 18-minute delay, the train was on the move again, presumably after the driver made extra sure his coworker was ready to depart.

East Japan Railway Company, which operates the Suigun Line, says it has no record of anything like this happening before, and issued an apology to the passengers who suffered delays. Twitter commenters reacted with a mix of laughter at the bizarre mistake, and also sympathy for the unplanned legwork.

“I shouldn’t laugh…but I can’t help laughing.”

“I always thought it’d be funny if something like this happened.”

“Didn’t something like this happen in Thomas the Tank Engine?”

“He was lucky it was a walkable distance.”

“Definitely something to be thankful for.”

Regarding the last two comments, the 1.4-kilometer gap between Shizu and Urizura is one of the shortest on the Suigun Line. For example, had the conductor gotten left behind one station earlier, at Hitachi-Omiya Station, and had to walk to Shizu, he would have been looking at a trek almost four times as long, so at least his partner’s departure timing wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been.

*Sources: Nitele News via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima KikoNHK, *Twitter

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese train conductor flips off rail fan photographer, prompts apology from JR

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

-- Japanese train company issues official apology for “inexcusable” 25-second early departure

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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If the driver pulled away without acknowledging the conductor, the one additional staff responsible for the entire train and all passengers, what other errors is he committing each day?

JR’s comedy of errors continues…

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Humans created artificial intelligence ?

If Humans are so intelligent this wouldn't of happened.

This is the dangers of assuming your intelligent !

High speed super Japanese intelligence.

It just proves that the conductor isn't needed anymore !

18 minutes to walk 1·4 kilometers ?

Super efficient !

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

"...assuming your [sic] intelligent?"

Intentional irony, or unintentional error...?

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

On Sunday, though, for some reason the driver didn’t wait for the signal and just pulled out of the station at the scheduled time

This time the mistake had small consequences, but a driver getting distracted enough to do something without confirmation could have lead to a serious accident, there should be a very serious investigation about how to prevent similar things from happening.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"When he’s done with that, he gives a signal to the driver at the front of the train, via the station’s speaker system that he’s reboarded the train and it can depart."

On all the old trains in Japan I've been on, they do not use the station's speaker system, they use a buzzer in the train. The rear conductor closes the doors. When he confirms they're all closed, he presses a button, twice as I recall, that buzzes in the driver's compartment.

Maybe there's also a confirmation over the station's speaker system, but I really doubt it's the primary system. It sounds like the driver was preoccupied/daydreaming and just took off when he saw that all the doors were closed.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The two-car train had two conductors, with the one riding at the back responsible for getting off and taking care of customers on the platform. When he’s done with that, he gives a signal to the driver at the front of the train, via the station’s speaker system that he’s reboarded the train and it can depart. On Sunday, though, for some reason the driver didn’t wait for the signal and just pulled out of the station at the scheduled time, leaving the rear conductor standing on the platform. 

Agree with virusrex. While nothing "bad" happened does this warrant a serious investigation and follow-up action, if necessary of a disciplinary nature.

This, as there are supposed to be two conductors for security reasons, one conductor leaving without the other one is a problem in itself, the fact that the train continued without a second conductor being a second one.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Laurel and Hardy

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

When it says two conductors is it referring to one driver and one conductor? These are two different jobs with two different titles. One drives the train, while the other takes care of passenger issues, announcements, and door opening/closing.

The driver shouldn't have been able to engage the train motors if the doors were still open. That is a basic safety mechanism. So, how were the doors closed, if the conductor wasn't on the train?

The presumption that this is the driver's fault may not be as cut and dry as it first appears. Perhaps the conductor had closed the doors, and stepped out of his booth door for a moment, only to be left standing there with his thumb up his nose.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@blue

Nothing bad happened

18 minutes late "is" bad !

Especially when people are relying on the service.

It may seem inconsequential to you !

However i doubt everyone would agree with you.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

I once took a JR highway night bus that has a toilet stop. When I came out there was no bus. Driver didn’t count the passengers. I had to spend the night at a closed service area. Luckily I had money in my pocket, because my bag was on the bus. Luckily it was Japan, I could use the first bus in the morning, and staff very nice and took me to lost property to get my bag.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Rodney

Luckily

You wrote luckily twice .

Doesn't seem like luck really tho does it.

It was unfortunate.

Perhaps a blessing in disguise.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Kyo wa heiwa dayo neToday  09:52 am JST

@blue

Nothing bad happened

18 minutes late "is" bad !

Especially when people are relying on the service.

It may seem inconsequential to you !

However i doubt everyone would agree with you.

Well, you're looking at your watch. I'm thinking about people getting hurt or fatalities.

I remember Amagasaki back 17 years ago. Do you? Just to help your memory:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amagasaki_derailment

I believe this...

Of the roughly 700 passengers (initial estimate was 580 passengers) on board at the time of the crash, 106 passengers, in addition to the driver, were killed and 562 others injured. 

..to be of much more importance than keeping a schedule, as in the Amagasaki accident...

Investigators speculate that the driver may have been trying to make up this lost time by increasing the train's speed beyond customary limits. 

Don't you think so too? If you don't, as you so eloquently put it...

. i doubt everyone would agree with you.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I feel sorry for the Conductor that had to walk 1.4km. And the driver who is going to get an earful!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Paul

I feel sorry for the Conductor that had to walk 1.4km. And the driver who is going to get an earful!

Assuming it was totally the driver's fault, which it may very well not be.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hope he had a feel good walk, memorable in his life.

I'd have run faster to try to catch the train on time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@blue

Thats my point exactly.

18 minutes could cause an accident.

I think you misunderstood.

This is where looking at your watch does matter.

Besides when the trains late people also rush about with alternative transport methods as the whole scedual gets out of whack.

A domino effect.

I seriously doubt anything bad didn't happen to anybody because of that 18 minutes.

Not compared to the accident your referring to anyway

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Rodney. Thanks for the upbeat story!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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