JR Hokkaido admits manipulating track data at accident site


Hokkaido Railway Co. says inspection data for the tracks involved in a train derailment in September had been falsified.

The accident led to revelations of sloppy management at JR Hokkaido, including leaving problems on some rail tracks unresolved for almost a year and other data falsifications.

At least three employees are responsible for data tampering, Managing Director Makoto Toyota said Thursday at a news conference at the railroad’s headquarters in Sapporo.

“It is an extremely serious incident. Once again, I apologize,” Toyota said.

A freight train derailed on a siding at Onuma Station on the Hakodate Line in the town of Nanae on Sept. 19.

JR Hokkaido had previously said the track gauge was 25 mm wider than the standard 1,067 mm when measured with a simple device on June 7.

But an official from the head office found after checking the computer at the company’s Onuma control office on Dec. 2 that the original data showed the gauge was 39 mm wider. The official had gone there at the request of the Japan Transport Safety Board.

Under company rules, a gauge that is 19 mm or more wider than the standard is considered a problem and must be fixed within 15 days. If the deviation reaches 43 mm or more, there is a risk of derailment.

Toyota explained that two staff members at the Onuma office deliberately changed the gauge data about two hours after the accident and rewrote that the deviation was 25 mim. Data for other sidings were also found to have been falsified, he said.

Later, another official at the Hakodate office, which oversees the Onuma office, ordered the two to manipulate other data to retain consistency.

“After thoroughly investigating the facts, motives and background factors, the company will take strict measures against the three,” Toyota said.