Driver in Trouble After Bullet Train Arrives 1 Minute Late

He admitted abandoning cab for unauthorized bathroom break
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2021 7:29 AM CDT

(Newser) – A driver on one of Japan's famously punctual bullet trains took an unauthorized bathroom break, leaving a conductor alone in the cab—and if the train had been on time, he might have gotten away with it. But the bullet train ended up a minute behind schedule, prompting an investigation that found the driver had asked the conductor, who wasn't qualified to drive the train, to sit in the driver's seat while he went to the bathroom, the Guardian reports. The conductor did not touch the controls during the three minutes the driver was away. The train, traveling from Tokyo to Osaka, was going at 93mph and had around 160 passengers aboard.

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The driver told the company he had been experiencing abdominal pain and he did not want to delay the train by informing the operations center and stopping at the next station, as drivers experiencing a medical issue are supposed to do. The Central Japan Railway Co. apologized for the "extremely inappropriate act" and said it is considering punitive measures against the driver and conductor, who are both 36 years old, the Japan Times reports. This is the first known case of a driver abandoning the cab of a moving passenger train during the 57 years bullet trains have been operating in Japan. During that time, there has not been a single passenger fatality from a derailment or collision. (Read more Japan stories.)

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