JR East eyeing introduction of discount commuter passes for off-peak hours

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A woman passes through a ticket gate at JR Yurakucho Station in Tokyo. 

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) aims to introduce discount commuter passes in the spring of 2023 for people who avoid traveling during morning and evening rush hours.

The introduction is intended to help reduce close contact as part of coronavirus measures, as well as to ease commuting hour congestion. As the introduction of the system requires legal revisions, JR East is seeking the government’s early and exceptional approval.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Commuters and others are seen near the ticket gates of JR Tamachi Station in Tokyo in June 2020.

JR East plans to use Suica train fare cards as the off-peak commuter passes. The company expects to raise the price of the passes for use during rush hours by about 2%, and reduce it by about 10% for use during other times of the day. The commuter passes for off-peak hours are for those commuting to work but not to school. The details of the system have yet to be established.

For JR East, the overall revenue from fares will remain the same, but it can place fewer staff at the station and reduce costs if there is less congestion during rush hours.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry established a panel of experts in February tasked with studying the introduction of the fare system in response to requests from the railroad industry, whose business performance has been deteriorating amid the pandemic. Some passengers are cautious about the system, however, saying it may increase burdens on them.

The panel will finalize the direction for the fare system around this summer.