A Comparative Study of Railway Planning, Operations and Delays in Japan and Sweden

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

89 Downloads (Pure)


Japan is well-renowned in the international community for its expertise in high-capacity, punctual railway operations. Particularly the high-speed trains, the Shinkansen, are very well known and respected internationally, but the knowledge outside Japan is more limited regarding more conventional lines, commuter trains, and the metro. Despite this, during rush hours trains in the Tokyo area can be delayed by several minutes, sometimes more. This issue is very reminiscent of the case in Sweden, which the authors have studied extensively. This paper presents the findings of the author’s research visit to Japan, focusing on delays and timetabling. The paper analyzes the performance of Japanese railway companies with regards to delays and punctuality, and compares this to railway operations in Sweden. This entails looking at how delays and punctuality vary by train type, railway line, and time, the interactions between trains and their influence on delays, delay distributions, the proportion of delays which occur at stations or on the line, and more. For instance, in Sweden delays are more severe the longer trains travel, and arise mainly at scheduled stops: almost 25 % of stops take at least a minute longer than scheduled, while only 1 % of movements between stations take more time than scheduled. By extending the authors’ work on Swedish railways to those in Japan, using large amounts of detailed data from three railway companies in the Tokyo region, we make comparisons, provide perspective, and draw lessons for both sides. The paper also studies the timetable planning at Japanese railways in detail, using calculations of the minimum required run- and headway times in combination with traffic logs to determine the size and location of margins. These are then analyzed to describe the strategies used by the planners, their effectiveness with regards to punctuality and delays, and compared to the case in Sweden. There the size of margins typically varies from around 10 % of added run time for long-distance, high-speed trains, to around 25 % for local commuter trains. This research is particularly novel and interesting because it studies the conventional railway traffic in Japan, which is quite comparable to that found in Sweden and the rest of Europe. This is often ignored by international researchers studying Japanese railways, who typically focus on the Shinkansen, even though that system often lacks good analogues outside of East Asia. By focusing on more relatable cases, such as the conventional and commuter railways, the exchange of knowledge becomes more productive and beneficial for both parties. This contributes to more punctual trains, more attractive public transportation systems, and considerable environmental benefits.
Original languageSwedish
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jun 10
EventUITP Global Public Transport Summit 2019 - Stockholmsmässan, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 2019 Jun 92019 Jun 12


ConferenceUITP Global Public Transport Summit 2019
Abbreviated titleUITP Summit
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Transport Systems and Logistics

Cite this