Japanese high-speed train driver controls high-speed toilet dashboard on left, East Asia

TOKYO (AFP) – The driver of a Japanese high-speed train handed over the controls to an unqualified driver so he could respond to an urgent call … from nature, a train operator has revealed.

The hapless driver’s trip to the bathroom may have gone unnoticed, except that his train was subsequently a minute late, which sparked an investigation in a country known for its punctuality.

The driver confessed that he left his post after experiencing abdominal pain and handed over control of the train with 160 passengers on board to a driver so he could run to the toilet.

He was absent for three minutes while the train was traveling 150 km / h.

High-speed trains are tightly controlled by computerized centralized control systems, but human drivers are required to stay put to deal with any unexpected situation, a spokesperson told AFP.

They must also brake or accelerate manually as necessary to ensure safety and keep trains on schedule.

The driver’s brief absence apparently resulted in a minimal delay that reported his secret to superiors.

Drivers who experience an emergency while operating a train are expected to coordinate with the command center to hand over orders to a trained conductor, or stop on the tracks or at the nearest station.

At a press conference Thursday, company executives apologized for the incident and said the red-faced driver would be treated “appropriately.”

The driver explained that he “did not want to cause a delay by stopping the train”.

“I didn’t report it because it was embarrassing,” he added.

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