Nozomi bullet train services will no longer offer nonreserved seats during peak holidays periods, operators JR Central and JR West have said, in an effort to respond to congestion and long waits on platforms.
The move, which applies to the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines that connects Tokyo Station and Hakata Station in Fukuoka Prefecture, will apply between Dec. 28 this year and Jan. 4, with the policy also set to be in effect during the Golden Week and Bon holiday periods.
The plan to make the trains require seat reservations comes in response to the heavy passenger traffic during the busy holiday periods.
The railway operators say the policy will allow them to increase the amount of reservable seats by 20% per train.
It will also allow passengers to avoid long waits on platforms in an effort to get a nonreserved seat, making the boarding process much smoother and preventing delays.
The busy periods have often seen situations where reserved seats quickly sell out, and passengers boarding the train at stations beyond the first stop are sometimes unable to find seats.
Combined with the new Nozomi schedule unveiled in 2020, which can see the operation of up to 12 shinkansen in each direction per hour, the railway operators hope to carry as many passengers as possible during peak periods.
Users who have an express ticket for nonreserved seats — which is included in shinkansen commuter passes FREX and FREX Pal, for example — will be allowed to board trains but will be unable to take a seat during the periods. To secure a seat, they will have to purchase an express ticket for reserved seats.
The Nozomi shinkansen made its debut in 1992, initially with all-reserved seats across the 16 carriages. It switched to including three carriages with nonreserved seats in 2003.