RailTelework demand drives need for “office cars” that allow a break from social norms, provided by East Japan Railway Company.

Japan’s bullet trains find new purpose in business continuity

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Facilitating work on “office cars” onboard shinkansen that connects the capital Tokyo and the country's northern and central parts.
Facilitating work on “office cars” onboard shinkansen that connects the capital Tokyo and the country's northern and central parts. Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Kyodo

In Japan, speaking on the phone and conducting meetings on trains are frowned upon. With teleworking during the pandemic proving itself an important aspect of ensuring business continuity, Japan’s bullet trains have adapted to address commuters who need to work remotely.

The country’s East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has started offering “office cars” onboard some shinkansen (bullet trains) that connect the capital Tokyo and the country's northern and central parts.

These designated carriages allow passengers to work onboard, talk on the phone, and participate in online meetings from their seats – activities that are discouraged on the rest of the train. Other considerations provided to support telework include small dividers that add privacy to the seat tables, and rental of "smart glasses" that project laptop content before the eyes.

"We want to support a new way of working that is not bound by time and place," said a JR East official.

More remote workspaces onboard the shinkansen are being trialled by Japan’s other railway operators, including Central Japan Railway Co and West Japan Railway Co., on lines running through the major Japanese cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.

With the launch of these special carriages, available on weekdays only, train operators are also seeking to revive business trip demands that have slumped due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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