BCCJ members see inside JR Central

Feb. 5, 2015

Japan's shinkansens are famed throughout the world for timekeeping that is the envy of rail operators, and passengers, overseas. On 29th Jan BCCJ members were invited on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of JR Central to find out how the company achieves its high standards.

Around 15 BCCJ members were given a tour of JR Central's training facilities in Mishima and its Tokyo shinkansen control centre.

The day began with a ride on the fleet's latest model of bullet train, the N700 Advanced, and a visit to JR Central's General Education Centre. The centre, where new recruits live and train for the first two months of their employment, was built in 2011 to replace existing sites in Nagoya and Mishima. BCCJ members were shown how the company is able to instil its five management philosophies, which focus on friendly and reliable service, a cheerful and active corporate culture and community development, via its training programme. As well as the April intake, of around 650 employees, the centre also runs short courses for current staff, with half of the 18,000 employees attending each year.

Participants were allowed to see where shinkansen drivers are put through their paces. Drivers can train on a state-of-the-art simulator which runs various scenarios, and conductors can use a model of a carriage and platform with screens in front and in the floor to ensure their training is as realistic as possible. Conductors are also trained in maintenance so that disruption is minimised in the event of an incident.

BCCJ members were also allowed to see the inside of a ticket office, the mind-boggling workings of the interior of a ticket gate, as well the outside tracks used to train engineers and also run disaster preparation exercises. Guests learned that 3,000 maintenance workers carry out work on JR Central tracks every night, meaning services are not disrupted on weekends.

Back in Tokyo, BCCJ members were given a rare glimpse inside the control centre, where staff from both JR Central and JR West track the movement of every shinkansen on their tracks. The timings and route of each train is plotted on a chart - a train diagram - which must be amended if a delay occurs. As it owns both the tracks and the trains, JR Central is able to vary the number of services each day according to demand, with the number of passengers on any given day predicted with great accuracy, an astonishing six months in advance.

Managers explained that company policy is to never cancel trains unless absolutely necessary as customers have already purchased their seats. The average delay across the Tokaido Shinkansen 0.9 minutes (54 seconds)/ operational train, including hold-ups caused by typhoons, snow and earthquakes. If a train is more than one minute late leaving a station, a member of the control centre team will contact the driver to find out what has happened.

Finally, BCCJ members were able to watch the energetic teams that can clean and maintain a shinkansen and have it ready for its return journey in less than 10 minutes, although the usual turnaround time is just 16-17 minutes at Tokyo Station. The cleaning service is outsourced to SMT (Shinkansen Maintenance Tokai Co.) as the company provided the service before Japan's national railway service was broken up into five parts. Staff are encouraged to submit their ideas on how to improve efficiency, with a moisture detecting broom being one successful innovation. The tour came to a close with the day's final Q&A with JR Central and SMT staff.

The BCCJ would like to thank JR Central for providing our members with such a fantastic and rare opportunity, and for delivering an in-depth and fascinating tour.