An Interview with the President
Has the recent significant revision of the timetable produced benefits? Also, how does JR East plan to develop the railway network?
- We realized two major projects: the openings of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line to Kanazawa and the Ueno-Tokyo Line. These projects gave us a fresh sense of railways’ potential. By expanding and improving the railway network, we can increase overall passenger flows significantly.
- To remain customers’ first choice, JR East aims to make concerted efforts to enhance transportation quality and become “No. 1 for customer satisfaction in the Japanese railway industry.”
In an era of population decline, encouraging customer usage by improving the quality of railway transportation services is vital. In this regard, the realization of two major projects with the openings of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line to Kanazawa and the Ueno-Tokyo Line, following the March 2015 timetable revision, gave us a fresh sense of railways’ potential.
The numerous customers using the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line are increasing total passenger flows between the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Hokuriku region significantly. Consequently, we anticipate these increasing passenger flows will lead to a ¥29.5 billion rise in revenues in fiscal 2016. By opening Shinkansen lines, we have sought to not only capture passengers from other modes of transportation, such as aircraft, but also vitalize regions and enrich local economies by increasing overall passenger flows. I feel we have taken a firm first step toward this goal. In addition, I think it is important to increase passenger flows in all line-side regions by developing wide-ranging sightseeing routes not just in the Hokuriku region but in Niigata, Nagano, and Gifu prefectures. March 2016 will mark the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line to Shin-Hakodate Hokuto. By continuing to create a new high-speed railway network focused on tourism, we will grow interregional railway travel and help energize local communities.
Meanwhile, the opening of the Ueno-Tokyo Line has improved the conventional line network in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The new line has shortened travel times by eliminating the need to change trains at Tokyo and Ueno stations and lessened congestion on the Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku lines, which run parallel to it. For example, data shows that one month after the line’s opening congestion on the Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku lines between Ueno and Okachimachi stations was down about 30%. A further benefit is that total passenger flows have risen, which is expected to generate approximately ¥2 billion in additional revenues. I think this is very significant because the new line has shown us one strategy to increase the number of passengers using conventional lines. If we enhance convenience by introducing direct services and seating services, conventional lines have the potential to raise passenger numbers. To realize this potential, we need to exploit opportunities arising from major emerging trends, such as the increasing number of working women and seniors. With this in mind, we intend to expand passenger usage by enhancing the quality of transportation services through such initiatives as the introduction of Green Car services to the Chuo Line Rapid Service in fiscal 2021.
Regarding transportation quality, we will reduce travel times, through such initiatives as the Ueno-Tokyo Line, and enhance comfort, through the introduction of Green Car services and other measures. Moreover, as a measure to heighten transportation reliability, we plan to enable rapid resumption of transportation services following disruptions by increasing contingency shuttle operations. We have taken countermeasures based on a range of scenarios with the intention of minimizing customers’ loss of valuable time. To remain customers’ choice, JR East aims to make concerted efforts to enhance transportation quality and become “No. 1 for customer satisfaction in the Japanese railway industry.”