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Bullet train driver in trouble after 90-mph restroom run

By | May 23, 2021

Conductor, unlicensed to operate train, left in control in cab; incident discovered because of 1-minute delay

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White high speed train in Japan
White high speed train in Japan
A Central Japan Railway Shinkansen train passes through Maibara, Japan, in 2011. The driver of one of the railway’s trains is in trouble for leaving the cab to go to the restroom while the train was in operating at more than 90 mph. (Bob Johnston)

NAGOYA, Japan — This is not usually what people mean when they talk about a quick trip to the bathroom.

The driver of a Central Japan Railway Co. Shinkansen bullet train is in trouble after leaving the cab of his train one day last week to go to the restroom while the train was operating at 150 kilometers per hour (93 mph), leaving the train in charge of a conductor who was not licensed to drive the train.

Japan Times reports the railway reported the incident to the fedral Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Tourism, and Tourism, with a senior official issuing a public apology for the “extremely inappropriate act.” Both crew members could face discipline from the company.

The incident came to light because the train fell one minute behind schedule at one point in its trip, leading to a hearing in which the driver said he left the controls because of abdominal pain, with the conductor occupying a jump seat without operating the train. The trains can operate while gradually slowing down in the absence of a driver.

Company rules require a driver experiencing a health problem to turn over the controls to a conductor licensed to operate the train or to stop at the next tation. The driver told the company he wanted to avoid delaying the train by stopping it.

7 thoughts on “Bullet train driver in trouble after 90-mph restroom run

  1. If a hearing was triggered every time an Amtrak train fell one minute behind schedule, there would be a backlog of about twenty years to obtain a hearing date.

  2. Wow. If only all our politicians and the public could know just how good our infrastructure could be– that a one minute delay would be cause for concern.

  3. Surely there is a DSD (dead man’s device) operating that functions once a pedal or button is not actuated within so many seconds?

  4. Note to Bob Johnston (on a separate subject) – Amtrak’s service notices page shows that the Crescent #20 will operate on a different schedule, about 2 hours later, over the entire route as of June 7 (when daily trips resume). Train 19 also has some rescheduling, am looking forward to your reporting on this, as to how the change came about between Amtrak and NS (which has seriously delayed 19/20 between Atlanta and New Orleans almost daily for well over a year now). Thanks!

  5. A US expat living in Japan, the story was front page in the Japan Times paper, an extremely rare event, train travel here is super great.

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