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JR Hokkaido plans record safety investment in FY 2014

JIJI

Scandal-hit Hokkaido Railway Co. plans to spend ¥25 billion to improve the safety of its railway services in fiscal 2014, which starts in April, up about 30 percent from fiscal 2013, sources said.

The amount is the largest since JR Hokkaido was established in 1987 as the result of the breakup and privatization of the Japanese National Railways.

The company, which serves Hokkaido, also plans to spend ¥25 billion on repairs and maintenance for tracks and other equipment. The figure is up 14 percent from fiscal 2013 and the second-largest ever.

JR Hokkaido reported the spending plans to the transport ministry the same day in response to an improvement order it was issued late last November.

The company is under fire for a spate of safety problems, including the falsification of track inspection data and failure to promptly address irregular rail conditions.

To improve safety, JR Hokkaido will move up work to replace wooden railroad ties with concrete ties to prevent track distortion. It will also replace diesel engines for rail cars used as limited express trains, and aging train inspection equipment and track maintenance vehicles.

JR Hokkaido decided on the increase in repair and maintenance spending after track maintenance staff voiced frustration with the lack of funds in internal investigations carried out after the safety lapses were revealed.