8 Japan Rail Firms to Switch to QR Code Tickets from End of Fiscal 2026

Courtesy of Seibu Railway Co., etc.
An example image of a train ticket printed with a QR code

Eight railway operators in the Tokyo metropolitan area plan to switch from the current magnetic paper train tickets to those printed with a QR code from around the end of fiscal 2026, the companies announced.

The new tickets will be printed with the name of the station where a passenger is boarding, the date, and the fare, along with a QR code that contains such information.

The current magnetic paper train tickets must be inserted into devices at the gates, but the QR tickets will be scanned over code readers at the gates, which is intended to reduce the maintenance burden and cut the costs of automatic gates.

The ticket gates require manual intervention when a ticket becomes jammed, however the new system will allow tickets to pass through the gates without contact, reducing the number of problems. Magnetic paper tickets, which contain metal components, are also time-consuming to recycle.

The eight railway firms include East Japan Railway (JR East), Seibu Railway, Keisei Electric Railway, Keikyu and Tobu Railway. The eight firms will manage the servers, but they are also considering collaboration with other companies.

The use of magnetic paper tickets is declining among railroad companies. In 2007, the usage rate of IC cards issued by transport operators was 65%, but now it has reached 90% to 95%, while the use of magnetic paper tickets is 5% to 10%.

However, there are both pros and cons among the companies as to whether magnetic paper tickets should be abolished immediately. Tobu Railway plans to abolish all magnetic tickets in the future, while JR East will do so for short-distance routes, but is expected to leave them in place for Shinkansen and limited express trains. There are issues such as the costs of introducing new ticket gates and compatibility with railroads that transfer to other lines.