He might have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for an anonymous tip-off.

Safety is a top priority for Japanese railway companies, which means staff are required to be alert while on duty, particularly when working on the country’s high-speed bullet trains, which can cover distances at up to 320 kilometres (200 miles) per hour.

So it came as a surprise when news broke of a conductor playing a smartphone game while working on the Shinkansen. And it came as a bigger surprise when it was revealed that it wasn’t a one-off occurrence either — in fact, it was something he’d been doing regularly for the past ten years.

He may well have continued to get away with it as well, if it weren’t for an anonymous person posting a message on the Japan East Rail website that read:

“It appears that someone like a Shinkansen driver or conductor was playing a location-based game on 6 November.”

The anonymous tip-off led JR East to investigate the matter, which resulted in the company finding a male conductor in his 40s playing a smartphone game while in the driver’s cabin on the Tokyo-bound Joetsu Shinkansen at 11:30 a.m. on 6 November.

▼ The Joetsu Shinkansen runs between Tokyo and Niigata.

While the exact game or games the conductor was playing hasn’t been revealed, the Niigata branch of JR East has confirmed the type to be location-based. Upon questioning, the man said he started his onboard gaming habit during his shift about ten years ago, playing about 10-20 times per trip. As for why he was doing it while on board, the man said he was competing for the number of places visited and wanted to get more locations.

With each trip from Tokyo to Niigata being 269.5 kilometres (167.5 miles) long, the conductor would’ve been able to nab a lot of locations. That didn’t impress any commenters online, however, who said:

“He should take his job more seriously.”
“Customers won’t like it if rail staff can still get paid while playing games during work, especially when it costs so much to ride on the Shinkansen.”
“These days, everything is automated, including the onboard announcements, so incidents like this occur because staff don’t have anything to do.”
“I’d be annoyed if I saw a colleague doing this — I wonder if the whistleblower was another crew member.”
“Lately, there have been a lot of violent incidents on trains, so I’d prefer it if conductors patrolled the carriages more frequently.”

It’s true that crimes on trains have been increasing lately, including on the Shinkansen network, where one man had to be taken off the train by police after whacking another man in the head and another man attempted to start a fire, all in the space of two days earlier this month.

With all eyes now on rail companies to keep commuters safe, JR East Niigata made a formal announcement to the press about the onboard gaming incident, saying:

“We prohibit the use of personal mobile phones etc. while on board, and are taking this matter seriously, providing staff with thorough instructions to prevent this event from happening again.”

We guess things could’ve been worse — at least he wasn’t like this driver, who fell asleep at the controls of a Tokyo train.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Niigata Sogo Television via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/MaedaAkihiko
Insert image: Wikipedia/toki200

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