I recently spent a month in Japan and was blown away by their rail system. Despite Perth being considered a best practice model in Australia, Transperth could take a tip or two from the Land Of The Rising Sun. Here’s why Nippon’s Yamanote Line is better than our Mandurah Line:

  1. Inner-city trains (particularly in Tokyo) are often painted in the colour of line that they run on, making it easy to identify which line you want to catch.
  2. Door closing announcements are played from the platform, not on the train, allowing late commuters to hear the announcement easier while rushing for the train.
  3. All inner-city trains have longitudinal seating allowing for more standing room during rush hour.
  4. All inner-city trains have at least four sets of doors per car allowing for quicker embarking/disembarking and shorter dwell times. Some trains have up to 6 doors per car in addition to fold-up seating allowing for maximum use of space during rush hour.
  5. The Yamanote Line (a loopline in Tokyo and one of the busiest and most important lines in the city) runs trains as close as 2.5 minutes apart during busy periods and a frequency of around 4-5 minutes all other times.
  6. The Yamanote Line trains have two LCD passenger information screens above each door. One screen shows (in both English and Japanese) the next stations, the estimated travel time to each station, a route map of the line, a diagram displaying which car you are in, a diagram showing where the exits are from the platform at the next station, which side the doors will open at the next station and other information about riding the train such as priority seats and prohibition of using mobile phones and smoking. The adjacent second screen shows live disruptions on the rail system, weather, news and adverts (the latter three in Japanese only).
  7. Many stations have their own personalised melody which is played as a train is arriving or departing. The tunes range from whimsical Disney style tunes through to 80s-esque synth figures. Departing train melodies are arranged to invoke a calming feeling, while arriving train melodies are designed to cause alertness.
  8. Almost all trains have luggage racks above the seats.
  9. Station name signs on platforms not only show the name of the station, but also the next station as well as the previous station.
  10. Most stations have accurate markings on the platform showing where the doors will open for every type of train that stops there.
  11. Many innercity trains have women only carriages for use during rush hour to prevent men groping them while being crushed up against each other.
  12. Pre-recorded station announcements in major stations are provided in Japanese and English, as well as Chinese and Korean.
  13. All pre-recorded announcements on trains are provided in both English and Japanese.
  14. A single rechargeable contactless smart card provided by JR East (known as a Suica card) allows travel on virtually every form of public transport (train, tram, bus, monorail) in the greater Tokyo area. Agreements between other transport providers also allows the card to be used in the Sapporo, Greater Nagoya, Greater Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Oita areas. Smart cards can also be used for purchases at vending machines, kiosks, convenience stores and department stores in and around station areas.
  15. Some lines, particularly in Tokyo, have dedicated tracks allowing express services to overtake slower all-stations services.
  16. Many lines, predominantly inner-city and Shinkansen lines, are elevated which increases safety by avoiding at-grade crossings.
  17. All international and major first-class domestic airports have direct rail links.
  18. Shinkansens are f#*%ing fast! (Shinkansens are amazing in general, but that could fill a whole other post.)
  19. Level crossings have directional arrow lights showing the direction of travel of the train(s) approaching the crossing.
  20. All stations have segregated bins for different categories of rubbish, usually plastic containers, aluminium containers, paper and general rubbish.
  21. Talking on mobiles phones is generally not permitted on public transport and must be entirely turned off near priority seats.
  22. Japanese passengers know how to move down the train and make use of all the space on the train. Passengers also form orderly lines adjacent to the doors while waiting for the train and always keep left on escalators (except in Osaka where it is polite to keep right).

While Perth and Tokyo are not comparable by network size, public transport demand or population density, Japan's respect for its public transport system is second to none. The Japanese are extremely proud of their rail system, which can be seen in the presentation, preservation and general love of trains around the country.