This is news that may get you to crack a smile. Here in the UK, the National Rail is infamously horrible to use, as public transports go. But in Japan, timeliness is serious business. Very serious business. So when one of its high-speed trains from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka arrived just one minute late, JR Central immediately launched an investigation. This is what they discovered.
Derailed by a stomach bug
The events date back to 16 May. Hikari train No. 633 was travelling at 150 km/h towards Mishima station. Unfortunately for him, the driver was experiencing severe abdominal pain, as reported by the Japan Times. Finally, the 36-year-old man couldn't take it anymore and left for three minutes to go to the toilet at around 8.15am.
This means he handed over the controls of the train to the train officer, who did not have the required authorisations. The officer never actually touched the controls, but the two men still did not respect the company's rules. The sick driver should have only relinquished control to an authorised driver, or stopped the train at the nearest station.
The leadership to get things back on track
As you may recall, high-speed trains are renowned for their punctuality. So when questioned, the train driver initially denied the incident. Then, when shown images from a CCTV camera, he explained himself:
I wanted to avoid delaying the train by stopping it.
Faced with this unprecedented situation, the company reported the offence to the Ministry of Lands, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. JR Central also apologised. Masahiro Hayatsu, a senior official at JR Central, said at a press conference:
It was an extremely inappropriate act. We apologise for it.
Both the driver and the officer face penalties.