• train crash in Japan

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by Komachi
Now the 3rd installment...

(Note: Article edited by Co-Moderator Komachi to comply with railroad.net policy on posting articles. Original text is in italics while my comments are in "regular" font)

Train crash toll rises to 106 / Body of train driver found in lead car as rescue efforts end
- The Yomiuri Shimbun

The death toll from Monday's train derailment on the JR * Line in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, rose to 106 Thursday, with the end of rescue operations at about 7:20 p.m..

Nine bodies, including the remains of the train's 23-year-old driver, Ryujiro Takami, were recovered from the mangled lead car that crashed into an apartment building along the line.

The train accident is the sixth since World War II in which more than 100 passengers have been killed, and is the worst since 161 people died when a commuter train collided with a derailed freight train on the Yokosuka Line in Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, in 1963, during the Japanese National Railways era.

A five-meter section between the driver's compartment of the train and one of the passenger doors in the front car was crushed like an accordion, and the section had been reduced to about three meters in length. Automobiles were trapped between the train and a parking garage wall on the first floor of the apartment building, obstructing rescue efforts.

Using heavy machinery, rescue workers on Thursday morning supported and secured the automobiles and created space by pulling the lead car out several meters. They then entered the lead car and recovered the remains of four victims. The bodies were carried from the accident scene at 10 a.m., about 73 hours after the accident. The rescuers later recovered five more victims.

Experts have expressed surprise at the high death toll. Transportation expert Ryohei Kakumoto said it was very unusual for a railway accident to kill more than 100 people as safety measures have improved since the 1963 train accident in Yokohama. Kakumoto said, "Even if a train is considered safer than a car or an airplane, accidents can't be eliminated, although they can be reduced." He also added that Monday's accident resulted from JR West's failure to invest enough money on safety.

Prof. Shigeru Haga of Rikkyo University, a former researcher of Railway Technical Research Institute, said Japanese society had relied on an efficient railway system and congested train schedules, adding that priority therefore had been given to efficiency and services. He said Japanese firms had recently attempted to reduce necessary safety expenses, as passengers have continued to demand efficiency and added services.

Cost cutting and a priority on profit instead of sensibility on safety?

Curve became sharper
- The Yomiuri Shinbun

The curve in the train track where the train went off the rails was made sharper when the JR Tozai Line was opened in 1997, it was learned Thursday.

According to JR West, when the Tozai Line was opened to connect Kyobashi Station to Amagasaki Station, the tracks on the * Line leading to Amagasaki Station were moved. As a result, the 600-meter-radius curve on the former up track was changed to the current 300-meter-radius curve, where Monday's accident occurred.

The number of daily local and rapid train services on the * Line stood at 93 when it was run by the Japanese National Railways. But as the number of passengers increased due to residential developments along the line, the services increased to 370 daily when the Tozai Line opened. Currently there are 360, an unusually busy line.

So, a sharpened curve and increased train frequency may have also been contributing factors.
Last edited by Komachi on Fri May 06, 2005 1:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  by Komachi
More from the staff at the Asahi Shinbun...

Charges to be brought against JR West Managers - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 00136.html
Draconian re-education for motormen - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 00131.html

OK, so, it looks like charges may be filed against the managers of JR West, for their obscession of wanting the trains to run on time and also for the "draconian" (as the article put it) re-education for their motormen (possibly conductors as well) when they commit errors on the job. The motorman's pressure to remain on schedule and fear of having to be "re-educated" may have caused him to speed. Also, apparently, speeding is a regular occourance on JR West, as many motormen have confessed to doing it to remain on schedule.

So, the managers may be brought up on charges of professional neglegence resulting in death and injuries.

  by AMoreira81
At least it is relieving to see that the right people believe that this goes all the way to the top. However, had the operator survived, I imagine he may have been the fall guy, sadly.

  by Komachi
Actually, given the seriousness of the accident, I would think that even if the motorman had survived, they still would be going after the responsible parties higher up.

  by AMoreira81
Reading about this on other boards, I am led to also believe that maybe the only way to end this would be to criminally convict the corporation, and bring in any othe railroad, where it appears that safety overrules punctuality, not the other way around. I will take a reasonable lateness because of a problem that forces the train to sit, rather than operate unsafely to make up time.

Perhaps a "culture change" must be instituted from outside.
  by Komachi
More from the land of the "rising sun."

Japan Times
Preliminary findings - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/get ... 0503a2.htm

Asahi Daily News

Alert driver of express train averts second accident - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 30122.html

Mainichi Daily News

Crash Investigators Point Fingers at JR West - http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20050502 ... 6000c.html

Daily Yomiuri

Good article on how the application of the emergency brakes may have contributed to the accident - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm

The article also notes how JR West opted for a profit over safety policy for the current fiscal year. It also talks about how the Construction and Transport Minister won't allow JR West to resume operations over the line until the latest ATS-P system was installed on the line.
  by Komachi
Hey guys,

Been busy the last couple of days, so I haven't been able to post anything on the accident so far, but here's an update...

The Japan Times

Investigation looks at height of outside rail on the curve - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/get ... 0505a3.htm

Asahi Shinbun

JR West apologizes for motormen who left the scene - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 50117.html

Mainichi Daily

People outraged by JR West's handling of the situation - http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20050506 ... 6000c.html
  by Komachi
The Yomiuri Shimbun had a couple of articles, one dealt with the issue of JR West not upgrading the Automatic Train Stop on the line and also outrage over the fact that a couple JR West motormen were on the scene and wanted to assist, but were told by their managers to come to work instead.

(Note: Articles have been edited by Co-Moderator Komachi to comply with the railroad.net policy on posting articles. The whole articles can be read at the Yomiuri Shimbun at http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm (at least for a short while). The text from the original articles are italicized while my interjections and other commentary are in “normal” font.)

JR West failed to upgrade curve fail-safes
-The Yomiuri Shimbun

Sources at West Japan Railway Co. said Tuesday the firm had not installed upgraded automatic train stop safety systems along 14 of 19 sharp curves on its lines where trains are required to slow down by up to 50 kph.

Firm sources said there were 19 sharp curves on six JR West lines, like the one where the April 25 derailment on the JR F u k u c h i y a m a Line in Amagasaki occurred. The advanced safety system (ATS-P) was not installed on the curve where the derailment's occurred and is considered to be a factor in causing the accident.

The ATS-P warns train operators when they exceed the speed limit for that part of the tracks and automatically applies the brakes if the driver does not react appropriately.

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), on the other hand, has already installed the advanced version of the automatic safety system at all such sharp curves on its lines. East Japan Railway Co. also has completed its replacement of the old version of its safety systems on all the curves in Tokyo and its outlying areas.

Drivers told to leave accident site
- The Yomiuri Shinbun

Two JR West drivers who escaped the derailment uninjured left the scene of the accident without attempting to aid other passengers because they were told to report for work as usual by JR West officials, it was learned Wednesday. Both drivers called in from the accident site to their offices, they were not told by company officials to stay on scene and render assistance to passengers, but to come into work on time.

"The officials failed to carry out their duty as employees or human beings. We're extremely sorry," a JR West spokesman said. The two officials are expected to be severely reprimanded.

According to JR West, the 59-year-old driver, who was in the fourth car, called three times--between two to 10 minutes after the accident--describing the accident and saying that many passengers were hurt and he would not make it to work on time. The official listened to the driver, but did not instruct him to help rescue passengers. The official reportedly said he did not think the accident was so serious. The 27-year-old driver, who was in the sixth car, was knocked unconscious during the accident. Upon coming to, he called into work and was told to come into work on time.

"All four of them failed as railway company employees. Our crisis-management policy had not been imparted fully to them. We intend to educate them thoroughly," Tsunemi Murakami, director of JR West's safety department said.

“We intend to educate them thoroughly,” sounds like they’re going to be subjected to the infamous “re-education” program that has been referenced in previous articles. Although, it is quite disturbing to see that the managers were inflexible about the drivers rendering aid and assistance in the accident.

There was also an article about the Japanese government wanting to implement new, stringent safety standards in the construction of railway equipment…

Ministry demands new train safety steps
- The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Construction and Transport Ministry said Monday it would require the nation's railway operators and train car manufacturers to meet certain impact safety standards in the wake of last week's accident on the JR F u k u c h i y a m a Line in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, in which 107 people were killed.

The ministry is expected to detail its policy in the near future, and likely will demand that train carriages incorporate so-called safety zones to protect passengers in the event of a major collision. The plan also will include a heavy focus on side impacts, an area of particular concern in the April 25 derailment.

Unlike carmakers, which are required under the Road Vehicles Law to meet certain impact safety standards, railway operators are only required to ensure that important parts are of a specific strength and that fixtures, such as carriage seats, use inflammable materials. Until now, there has not been a benchmark for impact safety.

The article mentions how the car builders set their own standards for design and pretty much focused on head on and rear end collisions, as side-impact crashes are so infrequent. It also raises questions about stainless steel construction.

The train's second car, which slid sideways into an apartment building, was about three meters wide before the accident. The impact crushed the carriage down to 50 centimeters, killing about 70 people inside and bringing to light the vulnerability of trains to a side impact.

It also mentions that Japan doesn’t do crash tests on trains as we do here in the U.S., but that the Japanese government wants to begin doing so.

However, there have never been train collision tests in Japan using actual trains like those performed in the United States, and despite the panel's proposal, only basic research was conducted, leaving the carriage reinforcement measures effectively untouched. Following the Amagasaki accident, the ministry plans to adopt side-impact measures and to ensure that U.S. data are taken into account when designing train carriages. The ministry also will demand that train cars be able to change shape to absorb the impact in the event of an accident, while ensuring passenger safety.

  by AMoreira81
Hopefully, the successor to JRWest takes the appropriate steps, as I believe that the appropriate ministry should revoke JR West's operating authority.