• 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 AMoreira81
I hate to bear more bad news, but this morning, when I signed online, the death toll was raised to 50. I was unaware that the train had slammed into an apartment building. I wonder if the engineer will face charges though when all is said and done.

Update, as of 9 AM New York City time
  by Komachi
Here's a link for a map of Japan (same as in the Japan (Nippon)! Thread)


The wreck occoured in Osaka, almost dead-center in the middle of Honshu (the main island). I wish I could give some commentary on the line, but the farthest west I ever got was Kyoto and Nara.

As of right now (11:25am), the condition of the motorman is unknown, but if he survived the crash, odds are he'll be dismissed and charges may be brought against him (I can't say, because train crashes are that infrequent in Japan and the legal system is different than here in the US... lawsuits may be brought against JR West, but I don't know if they'll charge the motorman specifically).

  by AMoreira81
At last check, the motorman is still alive, but considering the gravity of the accident, he will need a very good lawyer to save his job and then deal with possible criminal proceedings. Someone here will have to be held accountable in the civil and criminal courts for so many lives being cut short.

This is shaping up to be on the proportions of the Genthin tragedy of 1939 (136 dead), or the Modane, France tragedy of 1917 (800+ dead).
  by Komachi
Well, as of 8:45pm CDT the death toll is 71, and there are probably more to come.

Here's the blurb from Yahoo News...

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&e ... n_derailed

When I first saw images from the accident, the angle they had of the site and the way the cars (carriages) were sitting, I thought that the train had derailed on a viaduct (like some of the lines in Tokyo and Kyoto) and fallen into the apartment building, however, the shots in the above article shows the train on a ground level grade. Also, they list the motorman as being unaccounted for at the moment. Hopefully the fatalities will remain below 100.
  by Komachi
From the Japanese Press...

The Japan Times (I read this one on an almost daily basis while I lived in Japan)

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/get ... 0426a1.htm

The Asahi Shimbun

On the Derailment - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 60136.html
First hand reports (passengers) - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 60158.html

The Yomiuri Shimbun (a few articles on the subject

Accident Info. - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
Rescue (may be graphic to some) - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
An article regarding competition - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
Eyewitness reports - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm

The Mainichi Daily News

http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20050426 ... 2001c.html

Interestingly enough, if you go to Hisakyu's Railway Guide (Link below) you can see stations along the F u k u c h i y a m a line, but the stations listed in the articles regarding the accident are not named. They are, however, listed on the stations for the Takarazuka line. (Although the Asahi Shimbun article on the derailment states that the Takarazuka line is also sometimes referred to as the F u k u c h i y a m a line.) Go to the menu on the left side of the window and you will see listings for JR West (just scroll up and down the menu to find the two lines mentioned) as well as links to information on the Hankyu and Hanshin Electric Railways. (I tried to direct link to all of the above, but apparently the links all take you to the home page, sorry.) Here's the link to Hisakyu's site...


According to the Mainichi Daily News, The train was doing 100 k/ph on the 70 k/ph restricted curve. They believe they've pulled the body of the motorman from the wreckage of the lead EMU car, but that hasn't been confirmed by any of the other news services. Also, police have raided the JR West offices to seize records and investigate officials to see if there's any negligence on the railway's part. Also, in Japanese fashion, the head of JR West has resigned (to save face for the company).

More info. as the story develops.

  by AMoreira81
Just checked the NHK website. Something more disturbing in that the motorman (who may in fact be dead---unconfirmed) overshot the previous station by more than two full carlengths (about 135 feet).

Not sure about anyone else, but if one knows how fast the train ought to be going, is it right to yank the emergency brake cord or handle in the name of safety?

On a sidenote, the conductor has admitted to not telling the whole truth regarding the overrun. As a result, I hope that conductors are trained to recognize how fast they SHOULD be going, and that if they feel safety is not being followed, that they can immediately yank the cord.

  by Irish Chieftain
What kind of signaling is on this line that would permit a driver to overrun stations and operate in the manner that the driver of this train did?

This was on the narrow-gauge as well, correct? Probably not a factor, but still...

  by Lirr168
This particular branch of the railroad is one of the few that does not have an ASC control system, so the engineer alone regulates the speed of the train. However, this would have happened even with ASC b/c that only controls the block speed, it would not automatically activate the brakes to compensate for a sharp curve in the block.

Also, i don't think it is narrow gauge, but i am not anywhere near certain about that.

  by David Benton
Most Japanese lines except the bullet train lines are narrow gauge .
  by Komachi

As David said before, the line is Japanese standard gauge of 3'6" (although the bullet trains are at 4'8.5") and as David and the articles also pointed out, the line in which the accident occoured has an antiquated ATS (Automatic Train Stop) system on it that was not designed to handle trains operating at that speed.

As for passengers having a cord to pull, or a button to push in the event of an emergency, for as many times as I rode the trains over there, I can't recall (it's been 5 years) if there is such a system on board or not. One would think so, however.

As for the motorman overshooting the station, I don't know if signaling would have been a factor or not. Those guys are trained to stop on a dime and most motormen are fairly percise in bringing their train to a stop at the platforms. During one of my travels between Kyoto and Tokyo, I had the pleasure of being in the lead car and standing right behind the motorman (as I often did, great view of the scenery ahead, as well as watching the motorman operate the train), who happened to be a trainee. Although he was "green" and had an instructor guiding him, he handled the train very well.

But I digress...

It will be interesting to see what the government investigation finds out, whether it was speed (which is more than likely), bad track (the police raided the head offices of JR West, the line's operator) an object on the track (they talk about stones on the tracks), or other negligence on the part of JR West. Maybe a combination of all of the above?
  by Komachi
The latest from the Japanese Press...

The Japan Times

Rescue recovery over - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/get ... 0429a1.htm
More first-hand reports - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/get ... 0428f1.htm

The Asahi Shimbun
Article on how most victims were 20-somethings - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 90202.html
Motorman pulled from wreckage - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 90198.html
Editorial I - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 90173.html
Editorial II - http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asa ... 70120.html

Mainichi Daily News

Recovery efforts ended - http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20050429 ... 1001c.html

Daily Yomiuri Shimbun

Preliminary finding: Train could derail at 120 kph - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
Hyogo/Osaka Police question rush-hour schedule - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
Wreck was unprecedented - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
Recovery efforts end - http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm

From what the different papers are reporting the train tilted to the left when it hit the curve, causing the wheels on the right side to come up off the rails, then the application of the emergency brake and physics caused the train to topple over and skid into the apartment building. The question of crushed rock on the rails has been found to be from the ballast. Also, one of the papers (I think it was the Asahi Daily News) mentioned that JR West calculated the handling charicteristics of the trainset based on an empty train operating under ideal conditions (whereas a fully loaded train has a higher center of gravity), so that's a contributing factor. The Daily Yomiuri mentioned that when a new station was built a few years ago, the alignment of the curve was sharpened and train frequency increased. The paper also pointed out that the police are questioning the tight schedule that the JR West trains operate on and that the train was already two minutes behind schedule when the 23 year-old motorman took over.

So, that's the latest so far.
  by Komachi
Well, it appears that the Daily Yomiuri links go back to the index page instead of the articles, so I'll post them here in an edited format to comply with the railroad.net policy on posting articles on the site. I have rearranged some bits and edited other bits out. Original text from the articles appears in italics while my words, interjections, cultural notes, etc. are in regular font.

Note: All information from the articles below, copywright 2005 Daily Yomiuri Shinbun

Commission: Train could derail at 120 kph
- The Yomiuri Shimbun

An investigative commission says a train traveling at a speed of about 120 kph could derail on a bend like the one at the accident site in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, lower than the 133 kph that West Japan Railway Co. had estimated earlier.

The officials added that the derailed train was a 207-series model and designed to go no faster than 120 kph, indicating the accident could not have been caused by speeding. However, according to an analysis on JR West's calculations by the Construction and Transport Ministry's Aircraft and Railway Accident Investigation Commission, a train would jump the tracks when traveling at 133 kph.

The commission also found that the railway company calculated the figure on the weight of an empty train with no consideration for weather conditions, such as side winds and humidity, that could affect the tracks and train car performance. When the accident occurred Monday, the train was packed with passengers. According to the commission, the more passengers a train carries, the higher the train's center of gravity, making it more unstable.

A I’m not an engineer by any stretch of the imagination, be even I know that a fully loaded vehicle handles a lot differently than an empty one. Also, having a vehicle with a high center of gravity with a relatively small stance (3’6” is the standard gauge for Japan) is not a good combination. I can speak from personal experience of riding the train into Akita City (capitol city of Akita Prefecture), as the trains used to rock and sway a good deal as we went through the crossovers and turnouts leading into the terminal.

As for the rocks supposedly left on the tracks…

The railway firm also announced that white powder resembling crushed stones had been found on the tracks near the accident site, implying stones left on the tracks might have caused the derailment. The commission, however, shrugged off such a possibility, saying the white powder was from crushed ballast stones, and not objects deliberately left on the tracks.

So, it appears that rocks on the tracks were not the cause of the accident at this point in time.

Police scrutinize rush hour schedule
- The Yomiuri Shimbun

Police suspect an overloaded rush hour schedule on the JR F u k u c h i y a m a Line played a part in Monday's fatal train crash in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Friday. A survey by West Japan Railway Co. in early April showed the F u k u c h i y a m a Line's four eastbound trains were behind schedule every day during the morning rush hour by 40 to 71 seconds. The Hyogo prefectural police believe the line's trains were regularly behind schedule during the morning rush hour, putting drivers under intense pressure from JR West management to keep the trains on time. The police plan to investigate JR West's management of traffic on the line.

According to a survey on the F u k u c h i y a m a Line, rapid trains that left Shin Sanda Station at 7:21 a.m., on average arrived at Osaka 71 seconds behind schedule. Local trains leaving Shin Sanda Station at 7:15 a.m. and bound for Shijonawate Station were an average of 40 seconds behind schedule when they passed through Amagasaki Station.

Ryujiro Takami, the driver of Monday's train who died when it crashed, drove the local train from Kyobashi Station to Shijonawate Station on April 11. When Takami took control of the train at Kyobashi Station, the train was already two minutes behind schedule and it arrived at Shijonawate Station two minutes late.

So, Takami wasn’t the only motorman who was behind schedule, and running late is a common occourance on that particular line, if not JR West in general.
Last edited by Komachi on Fri May 06, 2005 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Komachi
(I decided to split these up, as I wasn't sure what the limit was on posting space...)

Train accident 'unprecedented'
- The Yomiuri Shimbun

The seven-car train that derailed Monday morning along the JR F u k u c h i y a m a Line in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, likely overturned when its right wheels came off the tracks while it was traveling around a right curve, the Construction and Transport Ministry's Aircraft and Railway Accident Investigation Commission said Thursday.

Past derailments, excluding those caused by driving errors and crossing accidents, were caused by increased friction between the tracks and wheels. In such cases, the wheels gradually rose off the tracks and derailed.

The fatal subway derailment in March 2000 along the Hibiya Line, operated by the then Teito Rapid Transit Authority, is said to have been partially caused by this phenomenon.

In this type of derailment, evidence that the wheels crossed over the right and left rails as well as the crossties is usually discovered. However, the investigation commission discovered no similar marks on the inner rail of the right curve, the ballast and crossties. Nor were there marks indicating the left wheels ran over the left rail.

As a result, the commission speculated that the right wheels of the rapid train came off the tracks as it rounded the curve, and the train leaned to the left before the lead car overturned.

… the recent F u k u c h i y a m a Line accident is believed to have been triggered by excessive speed and sudden braking, leading the commission to regard it as different from the other accidents.

The commission intends to verify the cause of the accident by further examining the conditions of the tracks and the train cars.

This article echoes a few others that have mentioned the train tilting to it’s left (some reports say by about forty five degrees) before jumping the tracks.

The Yomiuri Shimbun staff also reported on the question of rocks on the tracks as being the cause of the derailment.

Stones on tracks said unlikely
- The Yomiuri Shinbun

The police concluded Thursday that it was unlikely that stones had been placed on the tracks, based on several eyewitness reports.

Kikuo Haiyama, 65, who operates a steel mill near the accident site, was standing near the rails and had been talking on his mobile phone since 9:05 a.m. Monday. He reportedly saw the train approach at a high speed and jump the tracks shortly after a limited express Kitakinki train passed through the area. He said, "Nobody went on the tracks after the limited express passed through." Similar remarks were volunteered by a woman watching a train with her grandson from the second floor of an apartment building about 100 meters west of the accident scene and a man standing near a crossing about 100 meters south of the scene.

West Japan Railway Co. had raised the possibility that someone might have placed stones on the tracks, causing the derailment. The firm claimed that crushed stones were found on the tracks to support the theory. However, the investigation commission said it was unlikely that stones were placed on the tracks.

Other articles have pointed out that the dust that was found earlier on the tracks was from the ballast between the ties (crossties/sleepers). So it looks like speed and basic physics were the main causes of this derailment.
Last edited by Komachi on Fri May 06, 2005 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.