An Interview with the President
What measures is JR East taking with respect to its highest priority task of improving the safety and reliability of transportation, and what are the tasks for the future?
- We will take measures aimed at improving the safety and reliability of transportation, thereby providing customers and local communities with peace of mind based on assured safety.
- We will steadily upgrade personnel development, management, equipment, and facilities through continuous plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycles.
The trust of customers and local communities is the bedrock of the JR East Group’s business management. To reinforce this trust, we must take measures aimed at improving the safety and reliability of transportation from a customer-focused perspective and thereby provide customers and local communities with peace of mind based on assured safety.
Safety is not a given. Moreover, we cannot achieve safety solely through the application of systems and machines. Each employee’s consistent performance of basic actions creates safety. In other words, safety is established through the “multiplication” of each employee’s performance of duties. If the contribution of even one person’s work is “zero,” this could lead to a major accident. Keeping this fact firmly at the forefront of our minds, we will continue to embrace the challenge of pursuing “extreme safety levels.”
In ensuring safety, it is indispensable to increase practicality of education and training so that each employee understands the nature of their job and internalizes basic procedures. However, because safety has improved since JR East’s establishment, young employees have little experience of serious accidents. Therefore, we use simulators to mimic the experience of accidents involving train collisions, electrocution, falls, and other events. The aim of this type of training is not simply to ingrain basic procedures but also to give employees a sense of their own role, which will motivate them to consciously take the initiative in performing duties thoroughly.
Further, the division of responsibilities and roles among JR East, Group companies, and partner companies is becoming increasingly flat. As a result, Group companies and partner companies are responsible for maintenance operations for railcars, railway tracks, and electrical equipment. For this reason, JR East needs to continue personnel exchanges among the Company, Group companies, and partner companies through personnel reassignment. We also need to continue concerted Groupwide efforts focused on identifying risks and vulnerabilities and raising the level of safety and services even further. Nobody is more familiar with the type of underlying risks that exist as well as where they are located than Group companies and partner companies. Therefore, to ensure that their opinions are properly heard, I think it is important to establish an open corporate culture in the JR East Group.
Another imperative is to strengthen equipment, facilities, railcars, and other physical infrastructure. To date, JR East has taken many different measures in this regard. It has introduced systems that automatically control train speeds to prevent train collisions and installed automatic platform gates to prevent accidents on station platforms. Recently, the increased operating speeds of Shinkansen has caused new problems, such as overhead wires severing more readily and the window of a Shinkansen being cracked by a component that had been installed under rail tracks but was loosened due to wind pressure from the train. In response, we have reinforced equipment and stepped-up the management of components. In addition, to prevent the incineration of communication cables by malicious third parties, we have encased them in metal tubing or separately installed dual cables as a redundancy measure. Also, we are developing image detection technology that ensures nobody is left inside the gates of railway crossings.
Realizing reliable transportation is similar to ensuring safety in that it is fundamentally based on each employee performing their day-to-day duties properly and the provision of railcars and equipment that do not fail. Every aspect of our work, including the work of divisions that do not have direct contact with customers, is connected to providing customers with services. We must never forget that our day-to-day work underpins service quality.
Customers’ expectations of services have increased significantly over the past 30 years. Of course, safety is the major premise of services. In addition, however, employees need to take a proactive approach to tackling issues so that we can pursue and realize higher levels of service quality with respect to the reliability, comfort, speed, and convenience of transportation.
In this way, improving the safety and reliability of transportation calls for addressing issues from the viewpoints of personnel development, management, and equipment and facility improvement. Therefore, we will steadily upgrade these three elements as we proceed through PDCA cycles. There is no finishing line for efforts to improve the safety and reliability of transportation. Without complacency, we have to continue setting ourselves ambitious goals.