Japanese bullet train driver in trouble for going to toilet

The 36-year-old driver left the cab mid-journey while hundreds of passengers were on board the train

Joanna Taylor
Friday 21 May 2021 17:51
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<p>The driver told the operator JR Central that he couldn’t recall what happened but said he was experiencing stomach pains </p>

The driver told the operator JR Central that he couldn’t recall what happened but said he was experiencing stomach pains

The driver of a Japanese bullet train is facing disciplinary action after he left his cab to go to the toilet.

The unnamed driver left the train, which was travelling at 90 miles an hour with some 160 passengers on board, under the supervision of a conductor who was not licensed to drive the train.

He was only found out after an inquiry was launched by bosses after the train arrived one minute late at its destination.

The driver was absent for three minutes as the Shinkansen bullet train sped between Atami and Mishima in Shizuoka Prefecture, southeast Japan, according to the Kyodo News Agency.

The conductor, who is also facing disciplinary action, sat on a jump seat in the cockpit, but did not touch any controls during the incident, the Central Japan Railway Company said.

At a hearing, the driver told the operator – better known as JR Central – that he couldn’t recall what had happened, but said that he had been experiencing stomach pains.

He reportedly added that he didn’t stop the train at the nearest station because he wanted to avoid causing a delay.

Japan’s public transport system is famous for its efficiency and punctuality, putting drivers under immense pressure to deliver their passengers on time.

But under JR Central rules, drivers who become unwell during a journey should report the matter to the operations centre and either stop the train at the nearest station or leave it in the care of a conductor who is licensed to drive it.

After investigating, JR Central reported the driver’s temporary absence to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism who described the incident as “regrettable”.

The company also expressed their regret, with a senior official, Masahiro Hayatsu, telling a press conference: “It was an extremely inappropriate act. We apologise.”

JR Central added that it is the first time a bullet-train driver has abandoned his post with passengers on board on their Tokaido Shinkansen Line service.

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