• Kyodo

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Ahead of the changes in departing times of the last trains in the Tokyo area on Wednesday, staff at East Japan Railway Co. called on the people at JR Shinjuku Station on Tuesday to be aware that the last trains will be leaving early.

The governors of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures, as well as the transport ministry, have asked railway operators to bring forward the departure times of final trains to reduce late-night passenger number amid the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting Wednesday, JR East will suspend a total of 42 trains on weekdays and 40 trains on Saturdays and holidays on the 11 lines, bringing forward the departure times of the last trains by 8 to 32 minutes. The 11 include the Yamanote, Chuo, Keihin Tohoku and Keiyo lines.

At the Shinjuku Station, staff holding signs repeatedly announced that the last trains would leave early and there would be no substitute services.

A 55-year-old man who was at the station said the changes would not affect him. “Before the pandemic, I used to catch the last trains sometimes after drinking, but I go home at around 7 p.m. now, so it doesn’t affect me,” he said. Bars and restaurants in the Tokyo area are requested to close by 8 p.m.

Other major railway companies in the capital region also decided to follow suit from the same day.

The suspension is expected to last at least until Feb. 7, the end date of the virus emergency currently declared in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, according to JR East.

But the company said it will decide when to end the measure in light of whether the emergency declaration is extended.

Railway operators initially planned to bring forward last train departures in the Tokyo area from this spring. In addition to responding to fewer passengers traveling late at night, they aimed to improve conditions for maintenance staff who work overnight after train services conclude.

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