JR East bans cell phones on trains during rush hour

East Japan Railways Co. (JR East) will ban the use of cellular phones from Monday on commuter trains operating in the metropolitan area during rush hours.

JR East, which currently requests that passengers not use cellular phones, will institute a total ban during rush hours as the phones’ electric waves could cause medical equipment such as pacemakers to malfunction and as complaints about the phones have been increasing, railway officials said.

Although subway lines operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have already imposed bans on the use of cellular phones, JR East is the first JR company to do so, the officials said.

JR East will carry out a campaign against cellular phone use until late May, putting up posters and making announcements in trains telling passengers to turn their phones off during rush hours, the officials said.

The railway company will also increase the number of announcements requesting that passengers refrain from using cellular phones outside of rush-hour periods as well, according to the officials.

The company began asking passengers to avoid using cellular phones in 1997 in trains operating in Tokyo and its vicinity.

However, it decided to impose the rush-hour ban after the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry pointed out that pacemakers and other medical equipment could be affected by electric waves from phones.

The decision was also prompted by the approximately 200 complaints about the phones received in fiscal 1999, double the fiscal 1998 figure, the officials said.

JR East officials said they are confident the ban will be effective.

They said they also plan to impose a cell phone ban on medium- and long-distance trains such as bullet trains and special expresses in the future.