JR East, West to cut commuter services next year amid pandemic

Dec 20 , 2021. 22 hours ago – 12:19 KYODO NEWS

People wait on a platform as a train arrives at Shibuya Station in Tokyo on Oct. 25, 2021. (Kyodo)

TOKYO – East Japan Railway Co. which serves the Tokyo metropolitan area and West Japan Railway Co. operating in the western region will cut the number of trains during morning rush hours next year after the coronavirus pandemic led to a fall in passengers.

Railway companies across Japan are adjusting services due to drops in ridership numbers and changes in passengers’ lifestyles in the wake of the coronavirus spread.

East Japan Railway known as JR East will reduce services by one to four trains per hour on 16 lines in the Tokyo area from March, including on the Yamanote Line connecting the busiest stations in the capital.

As for its shinkansen bullet train services, JR East will reduce the number of regularly operated trains by 25 to 324, the largest cut since the company’s creation through the national railway operator’s privatization in 1987.

JR West will also reduce regular services from March by cutting trains and shortening service routes including those in the Osaka metropolitan area.

Affecting about 500 regular trains, it is the largest service overhaul since JR West’s establishment in 1987, according to the company.

Similarly, Tobu Railway Co., which also serves the Tokyo area, said it will slash its services during the morning rush hours from March.

Other western Japan railway firms like Hankyu Hanshin Holdings Inc. are also considering slashing the number of trains running at peak times due to the pandemic.

Hankyu Hanshin Chairman Kazuo Sumi told Kyodo News in a recent interview, “We would review timetables to meet demand,” but did not mention specific numbers of peak-hour trains to be cut.

“If we reduce the number of trains at peak times, we can also slash the number of trains we need to keep, benefiting our businesses,” he said, referring to the importance of cost reduction.

In September, Keihan Electric Railway Co. adjusted its weekday timetables to reduce the number of trains during morning and evening peak times.