Business

Shinkansen and express train users hit record low in Golden Week

JIJI, KYODO

The number of passengers on shinkansen and other express trains during the recent Golden Week holiday in Japan plummeted to a record low amid the coronavirus crisis, traffic data showed Thursday.

The six passenger service companies of the Japan Railways Group — East Japan Railway Co., West Japan Railway Co., Central Japan Railway Co., Hokkaido Railway Co., Shikoku Railway Co. and Kyushu Railway Co. — said that a total of 916,000 people used shinkansen and other express train services between April 24 and Wednesday, down 95 percent from a year earlier.

The figure hit a record low for the holiday period since data collection started in 1990, as authorities across the country requested people to stay at home to contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. People usually return to their hometowns or take trips during the long holiday period from late April to early May.

Passenger numbers dropped 97 percent for the Akita and Yamagata shinkansen lines, 95 percent for the Tohoku and Sanyo shinkansen lines and 94 percent for the Tokaido Shinkansen line.

The number of passengers on the Narita express linking Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture and the metropolitan area plunged 99 percent due to fewer travelers amid tightened border controls.

The outlook for passenger numbers on the trains looks grim after the government decided Monday to extend the nationwide state of emergency until the end of May, from its previously scheduled expiration on Wednesday, to reduce infection rates.

The operators of the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu shinkansen lines, which connect popular tourist destinations such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka, will cut services by 20 to 30 percent starting Monday.

Meanwhile, tourist destinations in the country saw reduced visitor numbers on the last day of the holiday period, according to foot traffic information provided by mobile carrier KDDI Corp., which was obtained mainly from smartphone location information analysis.

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, foot traffic was down 95.8 percent from the average for last year's Golden Week at the Grand Shrines of Ise in Mie Prefecture.

Pedestrian numbers dropped 94.6 percent at Karuizawa Station in Nagano Prefecture, 89.2 percent at Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Hyogo Prefecture, 74.8 percent at the Kaminarimon entrance gate of Sensoji temple in Tokyo, 70.1 percent at areas in front of Hakodate Station in Hokkaido and 65.2 percent at the hot spring resort of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture.

As for road traffic, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said traffic on expressways between April 25 and May 6 dropped 70 percent from the holiday period last year.

Traffic jams of 10 kilometers or longer were not seen on major expressways, according to four expressway operating companies.

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