JR East freezes plan to mothball more station ticket offices in Japan amid visitor surge

JR East’s decision to pause ticket office closures reflects the challenges posed by a surge in overseas visitors and slower-than-expected adoption of online ticketing. The railway operator emphasizes a renewed commitment to addressing passenger concerns and reevaluating its approach.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) has announced a pause in its ambitious plan to slash the number of ticket offices, a move primarily aimed at reducing congestion and promoting online ticket sales. The decision comes amidst a significant surge in overseas visitors to Japan, which has highlighted the continued importance of physical ticketing services.

Initially, JR East had set out to close approximately 70% of its Midori-no-madoguchi ticket offices by 2025. However, the influx of international tourists has led to overcrowding at these offices, prompting complaints from customers. Currently, 209 stations host these ticket offices, and JR East has planned to scale down this number significantly.

In response to customer feedback and the unexpected challenges posed by the rise in overseas visitors, JR East has decided to temporarily halt the closure of additional ticket offices. This decision underscores the railway operator’s commitment to addressing passenger concerns and adapting to evolving travel patterns.

One of the key factors influencing this change in strategy is the slower-than-anticipated uptake of online ticket purchases. Despite efforts to promote digital transactions, traditional ticketing remains popular among both domestic and international travellers. JR East President Yoichi Kise acknowledged this reality during a recent press conference, highlighting the need to reassess the company’s approach in light of shifting consumer behaviours.

This development marks a significant shift from JR East’s earlier stance, which was driven by the desire to streamline operations and encourage the adoption of digital ticketing platforms. In May 2021, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced plans to drastically reduce the number of stations with Midori-no-madoguchi offices, aiming to promote online ticket sales and minimize in-person interactions.

JR East plans to reevaluate its ticketing strategy, with a focus on striking a balance between convenience, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.