Company is tired of people thinking the chime means “Feel free to knock people over if they’re standing between you and your train.”

In rail-reliant Japan, trains come and go with such frequency that most stations don’t bother to have an actual employee individually announce each arrival and departure. Instead, there’s usually a pre-recorded voice that lets travelers know when the train is pulling up, and after it’s been stopped for a few moments, a chime plays from speakers on the platform, signaling that the doors are about to close and the train will be departing shortly.

However, East Japan Railway thinks that some would-be passengers aren’t getting the intended message of “The train will be departing soon, so please step aboard calmly and orderly.” Instead, they think some people interpret the chime as “RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN TO THE TRAIN AND DON’T STOP NO MATTER WHAT HURRY HURRY YOU’RE GONNA MISS IT!” And while Japan is a country that hates being late, it also doesn’t like people running full tilt through the station and crashing into other travelers, often getting to the train just in time to stick a hand in the closing doors, causing the conductor to open the doors back up again and delaying the departure.

▼ Many of Japan’s stations require you to navigate steep stairs on your way to the platform, which can lead to nasty injury-inducing spills if you’re not walking carefully.

So in an attempt to combat such behavior, JR East (as East Japan Railway is also called) will be doing away with the platform departure chime for certain trains on the Joban Line, which runs north from Tokyo. Starting August 1, no departure chime will play from the platform speakers for local trains travelling between Tokyo’s Kameari Station and Ibaraki Prefecture’s Toride Station.

JR’s logic is that the platform speakers are too effective, pumping out the chimes with enough volume that people can hear them even if they’re still at the station entrance or elsewhere in the building yet not close enough to the station to catch the train without running at a dangerous speed. However, the company also realizes it can’t just have trains shutting their doors and leaving without any warning either, and so it’s arrived at a compromise. Instead of using the large platform speakers, the local trains will announce their departure via smaller external speakers mounted on the train carriages themselves, which should still be loud enough so that anyone close enough to make their way onto the train in time while still moving at a reasonable speed can hear the chime.

The Joban Line initiative is a limited-time test program, but if it’s found to be effective, JR says it will consider expanding it to other lines it operates as well. The lower-volume chimes are likely to disappoint some rail chime fans (yes, such people do exist), but on the other hand, having the trains themselves broadcast departure melodies could allow for some cool cross-promotions for specific trains, sort of like how certain Tokyo-area stations have previously played melodies from Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

Source: Kyodo via Jin
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