Tokyo calls for flexi-hour work to ease morning jams

Campaign will encourage bosses to allow staff to start work before 8am or after 9am

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, a move which has seen big companies, including Panasonic, hopping on board.

The campaign, called Jisa (Time Difference) Biz, starts on Tuesday 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 having 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.

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 into e-money, shopping vouchers or the chance to win e-money points in a lottery.

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 flexi-time," 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 into 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 included having more train runs, 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Tokyo calls for flexi-hour work to ease morning jams'. Print Edition | Subscribe