Approximately 700 passengers were on board at the time of the incident. 

Japanese trains are globally renowned for being clean, efficient and safe. However, as this story out of Tokyo this week shows us, that’s not always the case.

Just before 1 p.m. on 9 February, a passenger who alighted at Ikebukuro Station saw the driver of a train dozing at the controls. Seibu Railway was made aware of the incident after the passenger filmed the driver, who was operating a semi-express train on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line.

Upon questioning by company staff, the driver, aged in his twenties, admitted to falling asleep multiple times over the space of about 17 minutes. This occurred between 12:35 p.m. and 12:52 p.m., while the train travelled from Hoya Station to Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo.

▼ The route during which the driver was dozing off at the controls.

Seibu Railway says a warning sound is sounded in the driver’s seat every time the train approaches a station stop, and the driver operated the train properly at the three stations along the route from Hoya to Ikebukuro without incident, meaning there was no negative impact on operations.

That wasn’t enough to allay the concerns of the train-riding public, who said:

“This is scary. Now I’ll be wondering what the driver’s doing when I take the train tomorrow.”
“With 700 people on board? That’s way too dangerous.”
“The driver has the most important role in the team so I hope the company provides them with adequate rest breaks.”
“Passengers should be the only ones snoozing on the train, not the driver!” 
“Some people are prone to drowsiness due to the rocking motion of the train, so I hope they keep an eye on the driver to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Seibu Railway issued an apology over the incident yesterday, saying they’ve verbally reprimanded the driver, and issued strict guidance on “the weight of the responsibility of taking care of customers’ lives“.

While they failed to mention whether or not the driver will be allowed to continue shouldering that responsibility at the controls of Seibu Railway trains in future, the company assures us that they’re taking proper precautions to ensure this incident doesn’t occur again.

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again, because a dozing driver is a lot more serious than drivers sipping water in between train stops.

Source: Seibu Railway, NHK News Web
Featured image: Pakutaso

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