THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
May 7, 2021 at 14:04 JST
Evening commuters at Oimachi Station in Tokyo on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line on May 6 (Toshiyuki Hayashi)
East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) scrapped its reduced, anti-virus schedule in the Tokyo area on May 7 after commuters overcrowded the fewer trains available, increasing the risk of infection.
JR East, complying with requests from the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments, announced plans to curtail train services by 20 percent from regular levels on three days—April 30, May 6 and 7.
The state of emergency over the novel coronavirus started on April 25 in Tokyo mainly to discourage people from going out during the Golden Week holidays.
But passenger numbers did not go down as anticipated.
On the morning of May 6, the first weekday after the five-day holiday period, the train usage situation of the Yamanote Line was at the same level of April 26, a conventional weekday.
On some trains, the occupancy exceeded 180 percent, and major stations were clogged, JR East said.
“This doesn’t look like we are under a state of emergency,” a morning commuter wrote on social media.
“Fewer trains cause more congestion,” another wrote.
A 57-year-old male company employee who rides from Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture to Shinjuku Station in Tokyo every morning said the train he rode on May 6 “was crowded as usual.”
A female company employee who boarded a train at Akabane Station said, “I don’t understand why (JR) has put fewer trains into service when we are told to avoid congestion.”
JR East said no big confusion was reported during the morning and evening commutes on April 30.
But after the morning of May 6, the company received “many opinions about the cutback,” a representative said.
JR East decided to return to its regular schedule on May 7.
Other railway operators were also asked to curtail services.
Seibu Railway Co. planned to cancel nine train runs on its Shinjuku, Haijima and Ikebukuro lines on April 30, May 6 and 7.
But the company eased up on the cancellation plan for the mornings of May 6 and 7 after it found its trains were crowded during the morning commute on April 30.
Seibu Railway decided to operate the Shinjuku and Haijima lines on May 7 on the regular schedule for weekdays.
The transport ministry said it has not heard from other companies about changing their May 7 schedules.
(This article was written by Takashi Ogawa and Masanori Isobe.)
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