What to do when a train delay and suspension

I had a trip to Japan in this past October. I had lots of train troubles in this trip. The train operation is usually very stable and reliable in Japan. But a train suspension and/or a train delay may happen on your trip.

I will explain how to deal with these problems, with my experience.

Train delay

A train may be delayed due to various reasons, weather, failure of train fleet and equipment. The biggest problem caused by the delay will be transit. What if you cannot connect to the original connection train due to the train delay?

  1. Please contact to the conductor and tell your situation. If the train to be transferred is the last train, or if there are many other passengers connecting to the same train, the connection train may wait for you.
  2. If you cannot connect, you can change the ticket of the following train without any handling fee. Ticket type will be the same. If you have a reserved seat ticket, you will get a reserved seat. If you have a green seat ticket, you will get a green seat. Please go to “Midori no Madoguchi” (JR ticket window) at the connecting station and make the change procedure for the following train. If you skip this procedures, you cannot use a same type of seat. You will be using a non reserved seat and you will not be able to refund. Please be careful.
    When the seat grade goes down, it may be eligible for refund. Details will be described later in the chapter of “Refund”.
  3. If the delay is for a long period of time and there is a substitutable transportation, transfer services will be provided. Details will be explained in the next item “Suspension of train operation”.

Suspension of train operation

Train operation may be discontinued for the same reason as delay. There are different ways of dealing with the issues, depending on the location and reasons for the interruption.

Train breakdown

Simply you may transfer to the following train. In this case, you can get a refund of limited express fee if you are on limited express train. But if there is no later trains, there are some options. I will explain some cases.

Transfer to other railway companies
Kintetsu railway limited express ticket, transfer ride ticket and JR pass

If it is a failure of a railroad or facility, all the trains, including the train that you are on, will be suspended. Transfer to other railway may be done in such cases. If other railway company runs in parallel, a “transfer ride ticket” will be issued and it will be a ticket that can ride a train of other company line. Since the station staff will distribute the transit ride voucher in a platform, a walkway, and/or a ticket gate, you can show your own ticket and receive it. In principle, a base fare is covered only by transfer ride ticket. However if you take a train which requires separated fare, such as limited express seat fee, transfer ride ticket sometimes not valid for this train ride. This depends on the railroad company to the transfer transit.

In my past experience, there were the following cases.

Case 1, All JR trains between Narita Airport and Tokyo suspension
Transfer ride ticket to Keisei railroad was issued.
When I tried to get on the limited express train “Skyliner”, the transfer ticket was not valid. A station staff said that transfer ride ticket is valid for the train which requires only a base fare. Limited express seat fee required to take Skyliner. As a result, I did not use transfer ride ticket and I paid the full fare to ride Skyliner

Case 2, Limited Express train “Nanki” stopped operation at Tsu station due to a signal failure
Transfer ride ticket from Tsu to Nagoya is issued to Kintetsu.
I jump onto the train which just came in Tsu station. I showed transfer ride ticket to conductor and paid only limited express charges on board. However the conductor could not designate the seat in the train and the conductor told me to find the vacant seat. But as the train was full, I went to Nagoya by standing.

If you are on a train that requires an extra charge besides a regular fare such as a limited express fee, you may get the refund of a limited express fee. I will explain later.

Transfer transport outside the railway

If there are no other railroads that can be transferred, you may be transferred to a bus or a taxi. This is provided by railway company. If you use other means of transportation by yourself, there is no refund of that fee. Please follow instructions from a station staff and a conductor.

In my past experience, there were the following cases.

Case 1, All trains (JR and Keisei Railway) between Narita Airport and Tokyo suspension
I had JR pass and was recommended to take a limousine bus to get Tokyo because another railway, Keisei railway was also suspended. JR did not offer any other transfer. But even if JR issued a transfer ride to the limousine bus, I could not ride on it. Because it was a long line up to the ticket counter of the limousine bus.

The line up was too long to wait. This photo was taken in the middle of the line up.

I waited to start a train operation at Narita airport. I had no choices.

Change of boarding route

When a train stops operating, you may take another alternative route. You can take same type of train on the changed route as long as it is available. However, since it depends on the case, you have to ask a station staff and/or a conductor what kind of route and what kind of train can be taken.

Free ride to the original departure place

If there is no transports at all, you can return to the starting place without any additional fares and all fares are refundable. I will explain later.

Natural disasters such as heavy snowfall, heavy rain, high wind

In the case of natural disasters, other transportation is also suspended. I will explain how to deal with this case.

Scheduled suspension

When a typhoon approaches, a passing route and time can be predicted. A railway company may announce a train suspension plan in the area where a typhoon will pass for a passenger’s convenience. This is called “scheduled suspension”. Once a railway company carries out scheduled suspension and if you are in the area of this suspension plan, you cannot travel anywhere. You have to start your travel before the scheduled suspension or after that. You should check a weather forecast and prepare for the subsequent movements. Especially a typhoon hits Japan in August, September and October. In 2018, some scheduled suspension carried out in these months.

Most hotels will be exempt from a cancellation fee if you cannot reach your destination due to natural disasters. However, be sure to contact them in advance.

Train Hotel

A train may be canceled due to sudden weather change during a train operation. In such a case, you cannot expect the transfer to other transports. There is a case that a railway company leave a train at the station and open for the passengers. It is called “train hotel”. Because you spend the night on the seat in the train, it is not comfortable at all. But it is better than getting down to an unfamiliar place without a place to stay.

Advance Preparation

It is very important to have a device to contact. In case that you cannot reach the destination due to a sudden train suspension, you have to cancel the hotel. As I mentioned above, a hotel cancellation charge is usually waived in such cases if you contact. It may not be accepted if you contact after your check in date. Also the spread of mobile phones in Japan has drastically reduced the number of public phones. You have to prepare some kind of communication means, such as keeping mobile used in your country available in Japan, renting Japanese mobile phone, or inserting a SIM card that can be used in Japan and data can be used .

It is also a good idea to some water and snacks in your bag. Because in these days, a train does not have a dining car and an on-board cart service. You cannot get food and drink on board.

Fare refund

First of all, if you use an unlimited ride pass such as JR pass, there is no refund at all. Here I will explain the reimbursement of a regular ticket. The rules on refunds are in accordance with the conditions and contents stipulated in the “Passenger Sales Regulations” and these are very complicated. I will explain only the general case here. Also depending on the situation, the following rules may not apply. In addition, the rules may be changed without notice.

1. If you are on an express train and you are canceled on the way, the express charge will be refunded in full. And you can get on to the following train without any additional fee. In this case, you can get on the same type or lower seating. Base fare is not eligible for a refund as long as you get the original destination.

i.e.
If you use an ordinary car reserved seat, you will have an ordinary car reserved seat or a regular car free seat. For a green car seat, a green car seat is provided as long as a seat is available.

2. If the express train on board is delayed and the arrival at the destination is delayed by more than 2 hours than a scheduled arrival time, the express charge will be refunded in full. Base fare is not eligible for a refund.

3. When you travel by train and it is canceled due to some circumstances, and you can no longer proceed further, the fare from the place where the train stops to the destination will be refunded. In the case of a limited train that was on board, the limited express charge will be refunded in full.

4. You can return to your original departure place for free if the train you are on will be canceled and you return to the first departure of the ticket in use. Also the ticket you used which include a base fare ticket and an express surcharge if you were riding on the express train will be refunded in full.

If you travel without any issues, that is a perfect. But if you face some issues, please make a good decision and minimize to change on your trip plan. If this post may help you to solve your problem, I am very glad.

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