Time Check

Shinkansen Time Check - Yokohama, Japan

Shinkansen Time Check – Yokohama, Japan

I was at the station platform early, taking photos of the wonderful Shinkansen when I happen to catch this. The conductor outside his “cockpit” checking the time. All of the trains in Japan seem to run on time, but I’m sure there’s extra pressure and pride to have the flagship system be especially punctual.

With a densely packed country, especially in the Tokyo Metro Area with some 30 million, I’m sure on time public transit is a must. About 20 years ago, my wife and I took a trip to the Japan Alps, in the mountainous region in the center of the country. The travel agent who planned our trip, proceeded to use a graph lined paper, and with a ruler, made a precise Gantt chart like diagram outlining all the trains and buses we needed to take. That document would have made any project manager proud. I had to laugh, because it gave us a 2 to 5 minute window between each of our train and bus transfers. Of course, the travel plans when off without a hitch. Even the buses were on time, which really amazed me.

When I worked in Italy, the Italians complained about the unreliable train system. My experience was that the trains were usually about 10 – 15 minutes late (if there wasn’t a sudden, unscheduled strike). I told them that it was about as reliable as the Amtrak trains that I used to take between Philadelphia and New York City.

Over an extended weekend, back in the 80s, I took at trip from Bologna, Italy to Munich, Germany. It was a long distance, overnight train with sleeping cars. That train got to Munich exactly on time. No doubt run by an efficient German crew. On the way back to Italy, a few days later, the train was over an hour late. An Italian crew, perhaps?

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