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Bullet-Train Operator Cuts 4,000 Jobs as Covid Deters Commuters

  • JR East started shift away from rail operations before Covid
  • Demand for rail travel stuck below pre-virus levels in Japan
A passenger onboard an East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) Shinkansen bullet train on a platform at the Tokyo Station.

A passenger onboard an East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) Shinkansen bullet train on a platform at the Tokyo Station.

Photographer: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

East Japan Railway Co., which runs train lines in and around Tokyo and high-speed services to northern Japan, is cutting its rail workforce by about 10% due to declining traffic, a trend that was accelerated by Covid-19 keeping commuters at home. 

The company, which has 34,000 employees in the rail business, will cut about 4,000 jobs by not replacing all retirees, using driver-only operations with no attendants on trains, and relocating staff to non-rail services, spokesman Tsugunori Kondo said in a phone interview. The timing of the plan hasn’t been set yet, he said.