SAPPORO – A limited express train operated by Hokkaido Railway Co. blazed around a bend at nearly double the speed limit as the track was undergoing maintenance, company officials admitted Saturday.
The Super Hokuto No. 6, carrying 285 passengers, on Tuesday drove through the curve on the JR Hakodate Main Line at 80 kph, nearly twice the 45 kph speed limit when repairs are in progress, the officials said.
The train departed Sapporo Station around 8:35 a.m. Tuesday bound for Hakodate Station, and reached the 60-meter-long stretch around three minutes later.
The operator, better known as JR Hokkaido, posts workplace notices about sections where trains must slow down. All drivers are required to check these notices before operating trains, and supervisors are obliged to ensure that the information is shared by all drivers.
Both of these rules were broken in this incident, the officials conceded.
The driver, who is in his 30s and whose name was withheld, apparently failed to notice a signal 600 meters before the bend alerting trains to slow down to 45 kph.
He did spot a similar warning installed just ahead of the curve but didn’t slow down and blew through the section at 80 kph anyway, according to the officials.
The driver later reported the incident to the company. The normal speed limit for limited express trains at the bend is 100 kph, providing no maintenance work is in progress.
JR Hokkaido alerted the transport ministry’s Hokkaido District Transport Bureau but decided against publicly disclosing the matter.
Officials contacted at JR Hokkaido’s public relations department said the operator will try to ensure that all requisite steps are followed to prevent a recurrence.
JR Hokkaido was already under fire for a series of recent problems, among them the revelation that it has left unrepaired a number of faults on its network, some of them dating back years.