By YUTA ICHIJO/ Staff Writer
February 17, 2021 at 07:00 JST
Like other passengers, a 43-year-old male company executive from Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward usually avoids working when he is riding a bullet train out of fear of bothering others around him.
But on a special "office carriage" now being tested on East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) Shinkansen, the man can peck away at his keyboard to his heart's delight.
“I hesitate to make noise by hitting my laptop keys on ordinary cars out of consideration to other passengers, so the office carriages appear to make things easier,” he said.
The executive used the workspace on the first carriage of Hayabusa No. 103 to make a document on his laptop computer after the Shinkansen left Tokyo on the first day of the trial period on Feb. 1.
“I want to continue using the service from now on,” the man said.
JR East started the trial runs to enable passengers to use train cars as workspaces on its Tohoku Shinkansen Line, as more people start working remotely during the new coronavirus pandemic.
JR East is planning to continue the testing through Feb. 26. After examining the demand and challenges it poses, the company said it will decide on whether to introduce the system on a full-scale basis.
Though speaking on cellphones with clients or attending online meetings in seats are activities prohibited in ordinary trains, passengers can do such tasks in the special carriages.
As a masking noise sound is generated in the background, passengers cannot hear others’ conversations easily.
Users can also use free Wi-Fi and special eyeglasses to measure wearers’ concentration levels based on blinking and other factors for free. Passengers can enter the workspaces at no extra cost, if they purchase both the base fare and express tickets as usual.
According to JR East, bullet train ridership has been sluggish during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The number of Shinkansen passengers from Jan. 18 through 22 was only 25 percent of the figure of the previous year.
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