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Japan railway apologises after train leaves 20 seconds early

A minor lapse in train schedules could affect people, some of whom synchronise their watches with the time shown in train stations so that they don’t miss their trains.

world Updated: Nov 17, 2017 09:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Japan,Japan railways,bullet train
(Representative image)

Commuters around the world frustrated by delays in their favourite mode of public transport could think of moving to Japan, where a private railway operator has apologised after a train left a station in a Tokyo suburb 20 seconds ahead of schedule.

On Tuesday, the morning train on the Tsukuba Express line arrived at the Minami-Nagareyama station at its scheduled time of 40 seconds past 9.43 am. It was scheduled to leave one minute later, at 40 seconds past 9.44 am, but instead left at 9:44:20.

Media reports said most passengers did not notice anything amiss when the train pulled away from the station a little ahead of time, but the private operator believed the matter was serious enough to issue an apology.

“On November 14, at approximately 9.44 am, a northbound Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company…train left Minami Nagareyama Station roughly 20 seconds earlier than the time indicated on the timetable. We deeply apologise for the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers,” the operator said in a statement in Japanese that was translated by Sora News 24.

The company apologised even though it hadn’t received any complaints from passengers who were at the station, it said. The statement added that the train’s crew had been spoken to and instructed to strictly follow procedures to prevent such incidents in future.

The train was going from Akihabara station in Tokyo to Tsukuba in Ibaraki prefecture to the northeast of the city, and the journey takes about an hour. Anyone who missed the train that left early had to wait just four minutes to catch the next train on the same route.

Sora News 24 reported that even a minor lapse in train schedules could affect people, some of whom synchronise their watches with the time shown in train stations so that they don’t miss their trains.

“It stands to reason, then, that at least a few people would miss a train if it left 20 seconds earlier than usual, and even if there’s another coming in four minutes, adding four minutes to that leg of their commute might cause them to miss other transfers on the way to their destinations, with the effect snowballing enough that they end up being late for work or school,” the report said.

But the apology had several social media users scratching their heads.

“This is surprising even to Japanese,” said one user with the handle @takamin_.

“A weird country in which a 20-second difference prompts a sincere apology while faking quality data on aluminium and steel products or misconduct on car check-ups are done just like that,” another tweet read.

This was a reference to a recent string of corporate scandals that has floored the reputation of Japan Inc.

Car giants Nissan and Subaru have admitted that uncertified staff had inspected vehicles while Kobe Steel has been embroiled in a quality data-faking scandal.

However, @cindy176 just commented: “Everyone should be more relaxed.”

(With AFP inputs)

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 09:00 IST