Japan's railway operator launches "office cars" amid growing telework demand
Japan's East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) on Monday launched onboard "office cars" on certain Shinkansen bullet trains on lines connecting Tokyo and the country's northern and central parts to meet the growing demand for telework amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without additional charge, the new service allows passengers to talk on the phone and participate in online meetings from their seats – activities that are discouraged on the rest of the train, local media reported Monday.
Media were granted access inside a running Hokuriku bullet train on Monday, and a JR East staff demonstrated how she works remotely using noise-canceling headphones.
Passengers will also be able to borrow "smart glasses", which can project the content of their laptop screens in front of their eyes. On bullet trains on the Tohoku line, they also can use free of charge small dividers to put around their seat tables.
To avoid congestion, the workspaces will not be available on weekends and some public holidays.
JR East hopes the new service will help people to combine working online with travel, while also stimulating demand for business trips, which has decreased due to the pandemic.
Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. have also been trialing the introduction of onboard workspaces since October on the trains that run through the major Japanese cities.