Japanese bullet train driver faces punishment after leaving the controls for three minutes for a toilet break while express was travelling at 93mph with 160 on board

 The driver of a speeding Japanese bullet train could face possible punishment after he exited the cockpit to go to the toilet, leaving an unqualified conductor in charge.

The driver, 36, had handed over the controls to the conductor, who was not qualified to drive the train, for around three minutes while he went to the toilet on Sunday.

The incident took place while the Hikari No 633 was travelling through the central Shizuoka prefecture, according to The Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central).


The impromptu toilet trip might have gone unnoticed but the train was reportedly one minute late, prompting an investigation in a country famous for punctuality.

The driver of a Japanese Hikari bullet train could face possible disciplinary action after he exited the cockpit to go to the toilet, leaving an unqualified conductor in charge (file image)

The driver of a Japanese Hikari bullet train could face possible disciplinary action after he exited the cockpit to go to the toilet, leaving an unqualified conductor in charge (file image)

The driver, who has not been named, confessed that he left the cockpit after experiencing abdominal pain, and turned over the controls of the train, which had 160 passengers on board, to a conductor.

He was away from his post for around three minutes while he used the toilet in a passenger cabin, as the speeding bullet train travelled at 150 kilometres (93 miles) an hour, JR Central said.

Bullet trains are tightly controlled by computerised central command systems, but human drivers are required to stay in place to deal with any unexpected situations, a spokesman said.


Drivers are also needed to manually brake or accelerate when necessary to keep the train on schedule and to ensure safety.

The driver's brief absence reportedly resulted in the minute delay which flagged the toilet trip to his superiors. JR Central reported the incident to authorities and apologised.

Drivers who experience an emergency while operating a train are supposed to coordinate with the command centre to turn over the controls to a qualified conductor, or stop on the tracks or at the nearest station.

The driver, 36, gave the controls to a conductor, who was not qualified to drive the train, for three minutes while he went to the toilet on Sunday in central Shizuoka (file image)

The driver, 36, gave the controls to a conductor, who was not qualified to drive the train, for three minutes while he went to the toilet on Sunday in central Shizuoka (file image)

JR Central executives apologised for the incident during a news conference on Thursday and said that the driver would be dealt with 'appropriately'.

Senior official Masahiro Hayatsu said: 'It was an extremely inappropriate act. We apologise.'

The rail company also added that the driver and the conductor both face possible disciplinary action after the incident. 

Meanwhile, the driver explained that he 'didn't want to cause a delay by stopping the train' and didn't report the incident because 'it was embarrassing'.    

Japan's railways are famously known for their high safety standards and reliability, while rail accidents are extremely rare. 

The last major incident took place back in 2005 in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, when a seven-car commuter train came off the tracks on West Japan Railway Company's Fukuchiyama Line and killed 106 passengers and the driver. 

Meanwhile, the Shinkansen, Japan's high-speed rail line, has never had a fatal crash or derailment in its 57-year history, since it began operations in 1964.

Japanese bullet train driver faces punishment after leaving the controls for three minutes for a toilet break while express was travelling at 93mph with 160 on board Japanese bullet train driver faces punishment after leaving the controls for three minutes for a toilet break while express was travelling at 93mph with 160 on board Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 10:37 Rating: 5

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