East Japan Railway Co. on Monday rolled out “office cars” on selected Shinkansen bullet trains that connect Tokyo with the country’s central and northern areas to satisfy the growing demands for a fresh working style amid the outbreak of coronavirus.
Passengers who want to enjoy such facilities should travel on the 8 numbered cars of the Tohoku, Joetsu, and Hokuriku lines. The passengers can also have calls and participate in online discussions in their seats which was usually frowned upon in other normal cars.
“We are looking to implement an innovative way of working that’s not restricted by location or time,” said an official of the railroad operator of JR East, which finally started the train service following successful trials.
Media were allowed access to the running Hokuriku bullet train this Monday. There was the word “office car” affixed to the door in the No. 8 car. Also, there are leaflets with information on the seats. An employee from the JR East staff demonstrated to the media how she worked remotely using noise-cancelling headphones.
Passengers can also use “smart glasses”, which project the contents of their laptops right in front of their eyes. On bullet trains along the Tohoku line, passengers will be able to make use of free small dividers for their tables at their seats. An equivalent measure is being considered on the Hokuriku as well as Joetsu lines.
The remote work areas onboard the shinkansen can also be found on a different railroad operator’s shinkansen line located in Hokkaido that connects directly to the Tohoku line.
JR East hopes the new service will enable people to take “workstation” travel trips to work online and travel. It will also boost demand for business travel which an epidemic of COVID-19 has slowed.
To prevent congestion, areas for work are not available on public holidays, weekends, and during the New Year holiday period, in addition to other times. The exterior design of the office vehicles and seats will remain the same, but JR East said that they might consider redesigning the interior shortly.
Central and West JR have also been thinking of introducing similar individual workspace facilities on Nozomi Express and other Shinkansen lines. Mainly in the bullet trains that travel around the populated cities like Tokyo, Osaka and such.