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JR Kyushu to reduce train service due to plummeting demand amid pandemic

This photo shows a sign for Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu) headquarters in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward. (Mainichi/Munehisa Ishida)

FUKUOKA -- Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu) President Toshihiko Aoyagi said at an Aug. 26 press conference that the company plans to reduce the number of train services on conventional lines when revising its timetable next spring.

    The move comes as passenger numbers have been falling due to the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic has had an enormous impact on the railway sector, and Aoyagi said, "We will downsize the business as if making a fresh start, to reduce costs."

    JR Kyushu is struggling as revenue from ticket sales from April 1 to Aug. 24 have slumped 65% from the same period last year, to 31.1 billion yen (about $293.5 million). Passenger numbers have declined for reasons including the uptake of telework, and figures have remained low even after the government lifted the pandemic state of emergency in late May. The company will consider a timetable to match actual demand.

    The railway will mull reducing the number of train services primarily in the area around the city of Fukuoka in southwestern Japan, where passenger numbers have fallen the most, though in a way that does not affect work and school commutes. Meanwhile, passenger figures have been trending back up on conventionally unprofitable local lines in regional areas, and no timetable changes are expected for these lines.

    Aoyagi emphasized, "Demand will not bounce back easily, and even if it does, it could level off at 70% to 80%. We will change our work style to improve our profitability."

    (Japanese original by Munehisa Ishida, Kyushu Business News Department)

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