Tokyo government hopes to ease morning squeeze on trains with flexiwork campaign

Tokyo's governor had previously proposed other ideas to ease the congestion on commuter trains, including double-decker trains on regular commuter lines, but the idea received lukewarm response.
Tokyo's governor had previously proposed other ideas to ease the congestion on commuter trains, including double-decker trains on regular commuter lines, but the idea received lukewarm response.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - The Tokyo Metropolitan Government hopes to ease the morning squeeze on commuter trains with a campaign that encourages employers to offer flexible work hours.

The campaign, called Jisa (Time Difference) Biz, starts on July 11 and, hopefully, will reduce the overcrowding faced by commuters during the morning rush hours, The Japan Times reported.

For a start, the campaign will be a short-term trial that runs till July 25.

"To resolve the issue of Tokyo's packed trains, it's important that firms, railways and riders cooperate," said Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, who announced the campaign in a statement on the official Jisa Biz website, as quoted by The Japan Times.

Ms Koike had previously proposed other ideas to ease the congestion on commuter trains, including double-decker trains on regular commuter lines with doors on both levels. These trains would be served by double-storey platforms.

The idea, however, received lukewarm response, according to The Japan Times.

During the Jisa Biz campaign, companies will be encouraged to allow their employees to report for work before 8am or after 9am.

Rail companies are also urged to give incentives to support the effort.

"Our aim this time is to raise people's awareness of the practice of flexitime," The Japan Times reported, quoting Mr Keiichi Tanizaki, head of the metropolitan government's Traffic Planning Division, which is leading the campaign.

He added that the campaign has no set goals.

The Japan Times reported that about 200 companies are taking part. They include Microsoft Japan, Panasonic and Suntory Holdings. Railway operators, including East Japan Railway (JR East), Odakyu Electric Railway and Tokyo Metro, are participating.

To encourage people to start their commute early, railway operators are offering incentives such as extra points on their mobile payment card, which can be converted to e-money, shopping vouchers or the chance to win e-money points in a lottery.

Railway operators have tried various ways to ease the overcrowding on commuter trains in the morning rush hours in Tokyo. Some of the measures include train runs and track sharing, The Japan Times reported.

The Tokyo government may launch campaigns like Jisa Biz from time to time, according to The Japan Times, such as during the lead-up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.