East Japan Railway Co. started a trial run Monday of a plan to convert a car on certain shinkansen bullet trains into office space for passengers, as interest in remote work grows in Japan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Passengers would be able to move to the designated car from their seats freely and without extra charge on some Tohoku shinkansen trains between Tokyo and northern cities, according to JR East.
They would be permitted to speak on the phone, which is discouraged on the rest of the train, and hold online meetings.
“I think it’s a good initiative because I’m careful about not making a noise while hitting the keyboard in a normal car,” Shinya Ogata, a 43-year-old company executive who travels to Iwate Prefecture, said, aboard the special car.
JR East plans to study demand and what equipment is necessary during the trial, eyeing a communication environment comparable to that of a workplace.
It will run office cars on eight to 10 of its Tohoku shinkansen trains a day during the trial, which will last until Feb. 26.
The car has a sound-masking system to ensure privacy, and telecommunication equipment such as remote routers will be made available, the company said. To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, it will require mask-wearing and will provide alcohol wipes.
On a bullet train that departed from Tokyo Station on Monday morning, an announcement called for participation in the trial and several passengers moved to the designated car with their laptops and started work.
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