National

Two years to go: Transport providers gearing up for Tokyo Games

JIJI

Transport operators are busy preparing for an influx of visitors from overseas during the 2020 Tokyo Games, with some accelerating the installation of equipment to show information in multiple languages and others hiring new staff to better welcome foreign tourists.

East Japan Railway Co. and Keisei Electric Railway Co., both of which operate trains linking central Tokyo and Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture, have replaced signboards that notify passengers of train delays and other information in Japanese and English with signs that also can display information in Chinese and Korean.

Keikyu Corp., which offers train services to and from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), has given staffers at all stations tablet computers that can provide information about transfers and more in the same four languages.

Narita International Airport Corp., the operator of one of the country’s main gateways, plans to mobilize an army of volunteers to guide Olympians and Paralympians when they arrive and depart.

Providing foreign visitors with essential information in the event of emergencies is also an important task for public transportation firms. JR East has put an onboard system into use to give passengers messages in English when something unexpected happens, with 4,700 alerts and other messages prepared for broadcast.

Tokyo Metro Co. has started to distribute to its facilities a megaphone that translates spoken Japanese into several languages.

Transport providers are also facing the challenge of offering sufficient services, especially late at night, for spectators getting back from competition venues.

“We’ve begun to study how we should operate our services after midnight,” JR East President Yuji Fukasawa has said.

Tokyo-based taxi operator Hinomaru Kotsu Co. is trying to hire more non-Japanese drivers to improve service for visitors from abroad and boost demand. The company, which has 25 foreign drivers from countries including China, South Korea and Brazil, aims to increase that number to 100 by the start of the Olympics.

“Our foreign drivers are well received,” a Hinomaru Kotsu official said. “Foreign customers have told us that they felt at ease as they were served by drivers from their home countries.”

The games will also provide a good business opportunity for airlines.

ANA Holdings Inc. is set to merge its two affiliated low-cost carriers, Peach Aviation and Vanilla Air, in order to expand its flight network.

“We hope to lure foreigners who will visit Japan to both watch the games and enjoy sightseeing,” said an official at one of the two carriers.

Japan Airlines, which plans to set up a new low-cost carrier, is speeding up work to choose its destinations, with Southeast Asian nations such as Singapore and Thailand among the candidates.