Our illustrious Infrastructure Manager and Engineering Manager returned this week from their visit to Shinagawa, Tokyo, where they met with TATA.
Below is a tale of their adventure of travelling to the meeting in Toyohashi.
“It is Friday morning rush hour in Tokyo’s Shinagawa. We are overcome with fulfillment and excitement as we are about to embark on a 1.5 hour journey on the ‘Shinkansen Bullet Train’ (pictured).
The concept of a train which moves at a speed of up to 250kmph, which arrives and leaves within 40 seconds of its scheduled departure time, otherwise it’s considered late, is unbelievable and truly amazing and not dissimilar as cave man discovering fire.
Little did I appreciate that as a consequence of his boyhood dreams being realised, I was about to presented with a classic situation of “stunned like schoolboy foolishness” developing within my colleague. Like the early cave man, we were both about to get burnt!
When we entered the Shinagawa station we were taken aback from the strange orderly chaos of tens of thousands of commuters going about their daily journey to their place of employment. In many cities it’s a dog eat dog world when traversing a station concourse. Here in Tokyo, it’s the world of a marching army of people and in comparison, silence prevails.
We were both standing on the platform approximately 10 minutes before our departure time, in our designated location (no random queues allowed here). The sound of the platform air raid like siren began to wail signifying the silent arrival of the somewhat stealthy bullet train. Camera’s are out! Both of us are snapping away. As soon as the train halts and the doors open we downed our tourist tools, picked up our bags and boarded the train.
I take the lead through the cabin to find our reserved seats. In doing so, we discover the seats are occupied. The train is now pulling off and we are getting up to speed. We try to work out how we are going to tell the occupiers of our seats to shift or alternatively explain to the ticket inspector we are happy to sit elsewhere. Either way it’s going to be grief and involve a lot of pointing & shoulder shrugging.
Alarm bells are ringing in our heads. Something is not right. The culture here is attention to detail and respect. There is no way our seats should be occupied. The penny begins to drop, we are doing 150kmph+, and there is no getting off the train, and its two minutes before our departure time. Dazzled with the shock and awe of the bullet, my mate has walked onto the wrong train and I too have been hustled into doing the same. ARRRRRH!
So now we realise our bigger problem. There is a TATA representative due to meet us in Toyohashi (some 300km away), we are on the wrong train with no idea where we are going and in the belief we will have traveled 100km+ before we can disembark the train. It’s too early to beer it up, so we are going to have to deal with the situation in a professional manner.
Suddenly, the train begins to slow, a Japanese announcement is made and we hope we are presented with the opportunity of getting off the Bullet. Matt now realising things couldn’t get any worse, and me blaming him for the mess we are in, finally clues into the fact. We agree to gamble with the idea of pointing & shoulder shrugging on the forthcoming station platform in the hope we didn’t get busted for non compliant tickets.
We bail out of the train with our bags, the immediate affect of the humidity becoming apparent immediately. And yes we had our cameras out again! Soaking wet, we began to figure out our location and by fortune it turned out we had got on a train which shared a common starting route with our intended train. All we had to do was wait on the platform for 2 minutes.
The rest is Pipe History…..”