Out of Control Policy Blog

Japan Bullet Train Ridership Down

A little noticed trend in ridership on the Japanese bullet trains: down. Central Japan Railways, the largest operator of bullet trains in Japan, is reporting steadily dropping ridership (as is the East Japan Railway Company). The economic recession and the swine flu are getting the blame.

"April 21 (Bloomberg) -- Central Japan Railway Co., the country’s largest operator of bullet trains, posted a fifth straight monthly drop in high-speed train passengers in March as companies slashed travel amid the deepest recession in over three decades.

"The railway operator, dependent on bullet train travel for about 70 percent of its sales, had 6 percent fewer high-speed rail passengers last month, spokeswoman Michiko Ishizu said in a telephone interview in Tokyo today. It had an 11 percent drop for high-speed train passengers from April 1 to April 20, she said."

Despite the glitz, bullet trains are not immune to larger market forces.

The economic recession will eventually turn around, but swin flu? Hopefully, but many riders may be longing for less public forms of transportation (or less travel overall).

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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