In some commuter cities it's a small miracle if your train departs on time. One of the most common causes of disruption in rail travel is unforeseen delays, which makes an incident that occurred in Japan on the morning of Tuesday the 14th all the more incredible...
Japan's transport system normally runs like clockwork
The train in question was part of the Tsukuba Express fleet than runs on the line connecting Akihabara in Tokyo to Tsukuba in the Ibaraki Prefecture. The North-bound train is scheduled to leave Minami Nagareyama Station, located just north of Tokyo, at precisely 9:44am every morning - except for weekends when there is a revised schedule. On the morning of November 14th however, said train departed at 9:43:40, precisely 20 seconds earlier than it was scheduled to.
Whilst this early departure may seem meaningless and insignificant to some, the efficient and uber-punctual train travel culture in Japan means that any form of disruption or slight change, no matter how small, is bound to throw a spanner in the works. The Japanese public transport system runs like clockwork, hence why this incident failed to go unnoticed.
In light of this occurrence, the Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company, who are responsible for the over-punctual train, issued a sincere apology to all those affected. SoraNews24 reported that the company expressed their regret over the incident on their website: "We deeply apologize for the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers." With regards to the 20 second early departure, they added that "while that's not a huge difference, it's still an inconvenience, and a potential embarrassment, for the people affected, and all because Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company didn't deliver on its promise that the train would leave at 9:44, not 9:43:40."
The company explained that the train's conductor had not fully consulted the timetable, hence the 20 second early departure. The next train arrived just four minutes later, so it is unlikely that the event drastically impacted the journeys of Tokyo's commuters or indeed caused major delays of any kind.
Tsukuba Express caters for some 130 million passengers per year, and as such has a duty to run its services smoothly and efficiently without delay or disruption. The company explained: "Japanese trains are usually so punctual, some people plan their rail commutes so that they arrive at the platform just as the cars are pulling up." All crew members of the train have been spoken to, to prevent a reoccurrence of this kind in the future.